Okay, no. Misleading title.
But also true.
I applied to college (uni, however you want to call it) at the end of my senior year (Cuarto Medio in Chile) and got in!
Yay for me!
Now, I had never really known what I wanted to do with my life or what I was good at. When I was younger I didn’t try really hard to get good grades or make a ton of friends (sad story about that later… maybe) and then in high school I couldn’t really think of what to do with my life. I was good at humanities, and that was it.
My best subject had always been English (foreign languages) and I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing. I couldn’t really think of something I wanted to do that involved those, so I always figured I’d end up being an English Teacher… I wasn’t passionate about it but it seemed like the only option.
Flash forward to my junior year of high school.
Our History teacher (he deserves a million kudos and brownie points, really) organized a trip to Santiago where we would go to different fairs to help us choose a University and a major.
None of us really thought it would be all that interesting, and were mostly excited about the break in routine.
(3 hours trapped in a bus with your classmates loses its appeal really, really fast)
So we got there.
Our first stop was the university in which I studied. My friends and I moved quickly to check out the stands and all the paraphernalia they were giving away (yay free stuff!). That’s when I first encountered the major I ended up studying.
I always thought that the only thing I could do with my skill set and interests would be to become a teacher (which… not my thing) but! In this particular university I found a major in English Language and Literature which in no way involved teacher kids (good for me, right?). So I decided this would be what I’d study, and I’d do it in this university.
Okay, a moment to talk about this decision. This particular major is offered in two universities, and I chose this particular one over the other because of the program.
In this university, the program is more centered around the literary part of the course (they will lie to you and tell you it’s balanced… it’s not. Trust me) rather than the linguistic side. We still had to take linguistic courses but they weren’t 60% or 70% of the program. In the other university the program was clearly intended for people who enjoyed the logical part better. I mean they had to take Latin. Latin! While I had to take more than five different literature classes. I think I made the right choice.
So it’s all sunshine, rainbows and lollipops, right?
I had finally figured out what I wanted to do with my life, so I could get my shit together and actually try to do something with my life.
Sure! I graduated high school and went through the not-so-long-but-really-tiring process of applying to college (scholarships, picking programs, the PSU test, ugh) and got in my first choice!
I really enjoyed my time there.
You know, when people tell you that you’ll meet really cool people in college and you don’t really believe them? Well, you do! But only if you pick something that you really, really like.
I didn’t meet people that were exactly like me in there, but I did meet people that were funny and caring, and who had similar interests to mine. We were all different and sometimes liked really different things, but we still became really good friends with each other.
(That again, is a story for another time)
So my life is perfect, right?
Yeah, not so much.
My major doesn’t actually make you a professional (is that how you say it? is my Chilean showing? probably) so once I finished my major I didn’t really have a field where I could work. They do tell you that this program is a “hands on” kind of thing, were you get to create your own profession. Sounds daunting, I know.
Because of this, the university offers certain programs you can apply to to compliment your major (ie. Translation or Interpretation, Teaching Spanish to foreigners, a program to become a high school English teacher, etc.).
Now remember what I’ve said, I don’t really like teaching, but it always felt like the only option until I found my major… And now we were back at square one.
So I applied.
Never do things you DON’T WANT TO DO. Honestly, I always give this advice to people, specially when you’re choosing what to study. It should never please anyone but yourself.
I am terrible at following my own advice.
To be able to go through with this I had to do a couple of things:
1.- Pretend That I Was Way More Excited Than I Actually Was About the Prospect of Teaching: Easy. I’m a horrible actress but I am one hell of a liar. I had this one down.
2.- Convince Others That I Was Equally Excited About the Prospect of Teaching: Not that easy, but not extremely complicated either. I had to find the right people, say the right words to my friends and then the word would spread in such a way that they wouldn’t need me to act excited to believe me.
3.- Convince the People that Grant Scholarships that I Really, Really Wanted This and They Should Definitely Pay my Year in the Program: I honestly thought I’d fail this one but I didn’t. I got the scholarship…. For a while I was begging not to get it because it would have been the perfect excuse not to go through with this plan.
4.- Apply to the program: Easy.
5.- Procure Recommendation Letters: If the previous steps were done, this one was easy.
6.- Convince People From the Program This is What I Want: To this day I’m sure I failed this one and that’s why what happened happened.
7.- Get Your Head in the Game and Finish this Shit: I totally failed this. Really.
So when I said that I quit college, I mean I quit this program after suffering through it for a semester.
Now, I know life is not a commercial break of happiness or like what you see in the movies. College sucks. You’re going to love it, but it’s going to suck spectacularly at many, many points. That’s just how life works. It can be the major you adore, the best thing in the universe, but there will still be times when you’ll be so tired, so frustrated, so angry or so scared that you are going to cry and ask yourself if this is what you really want to do for the rest of your life.
Sometimes the answer is yes.
In my first major, the answer was always yes. Do I want to keep doing this even though I know I am a horrible person who writes all her essays at the very last minute listening to BBC Radio One through an app on her phone because it’s the only thing that keeps her going at 4 AM? Yes. I’m the horrible person, the major has nothing to do with that. Is it really worth it to feel stupid whenever I have to remember linguistic theory about the English Language and my brain fails me? Yup. The literature classes more than make up for all that.
Even when I was tired, angry (at myself) or terrified that I’d fail, I still found reasons and ways to keep going. I still loved what I was doing and had hopes for the future.
The Teaching Program was not like that. At all.
It started fine.
I! Could! Do! this!
I had taken five courses beforehand because I knew it was a very demanding program and it was very easy to wear yourself out during the first semester, and because of that my academic load was considerably easier to bear than my classmates’. I wasn’t tired at all! I attended all my lectures (my only two classes had 100% attendance requirement) and payed attention to what was being said.
Now, the next part is my fault really. I am a cynic at heart, which is why when we saw certain theories and the teachers talked about a certain way of teaching English (in classrooms where the students could not speak English) I became very skeptic… and I made it known.
Strike number one!
Holy shit. If you’re in a small program (ie. 14 students) DON’T ANTAGONIZE THE TEACHERS BY GOING AGAINST SOMETHING THEY ALL CLEARLY LIKE AND BELIEVE IN. Clearly there were people before you who may have thought the same, but the teachers haven’t changed their ways for a reason.
Just, don’t do it. Please.
After that, I started to become tired and anxious.
Because the program was really, really short, we had to start attending classes in school from the beginning of the program as Student Teachers. I went to mine, I had fun, I liked the kids, I liked the environment. Everything was fine.
But the pressure started building.
Because I had to defend my seminar (a short thesis) from my other major in May (for my birthday no less) I was a little (a lot) behind on one of my assignments for one of my classes. The teachers understood that because the programs were too close to each other we would not have the time to hand in everything in time. Naturally, there shouldn’t have been any problems, right?
I had antagonized the teachers. I was called to a private meeting with the teacher that had interviewed me for the application process (remember how I said I didn’t do that well?) and another teacher that was supposed to be my support (? I think, they’re the teacher that was helping me become a teacher???? I don’t know how to say that… I honestly don’t even remember what I call them in Spanish so…. sucks). In that meeting I was told that I had to remember that I was a professional now, that what I did affected the lives of others and I simply could not be irresponsible. Then I was told that because of some of my personal traits (Oops) I may not have been suited for the major.
And they were right. But still, I was trying my hardest just to be there, so I felt attacked and alone, and worthless.
Strike number two!
My compulsive thoughts came back! I was useless, I was stupid, I was everything that was wrong in the world. And I knew it.
I think, it wouldn’t have bothered me that much if it hadn’t been so much a thing against me. I knew from several sources that people were behind on their projects as well and they were not called “to be an example” like I was. And that sucked.
By this point I was a mess. Going to classes and to the school made me very anxious and I always felt like I was falling behind. Everyone else was coping but I just couldn’t. And it wasn’t fair, because I only had two classes. Why was I so bad at everything?
It kept going like that for a while. Me trying and failing to stay afloat. There were more nights of me crying than not.
Whenever I went home I cried the entire way to and from (I traveled every other weekend back to my hometown that is 3-4 hours away), and I just couldn’t think about living my entire life like this.
It wasn’t that I hated teaching, because I honestly didn’t. But that everything piled on top of me and made me feel very inadequate.
That was the point where I began asking myself if it was all really worth it. I wasn’t working at the very last moment because I was terrified of that first meeting (all the while everything said there kept going around in circles in my head) but I was being both careful and careless in a way I didn’t have to be in a while. Everything triggered me. Everything made me want to commit self-harm. I couldn’t look at the trains coming and going from the subway because I’d get that stupid feeling that made me wonder if jumping wouldn’t be better than boarding it.
And it was an empty pain.
I was suffering for something that wasn’t my passion. I liked it, sure, but I didn’t love it.
And all the reasons I could think of to keep on going had nothing to do with me.
I couldn’t quit because of my parents… what would they think?
I couldn’t quit because of the money… how could I pay that money back?
I couldn’t quit because of the school… I had already said I’d be there, I was committed.
On and on the list went, just one item after the other making me feel anxious. I didn’t want to get up in the morning but my anxiety made me do it. I wanted to pretend everything was fine, but it wasn’t. I was cracking up, and everyone could see it.
I don’t know exactly which was strike three I just know that by the end of the semester (think of the second half of June) I was done.
One of our last assignments was to plan three classes that were connected with each other in some level. We had to hand in these lesson plans one week (work days) before we had to execute them to two teachers. (I had a lot of problems with my guiding teacher (Still don’t know how to call it) during the semester because we couldn’t see eye to eye and they kept treating me like I was stupid and telling me that I was pretty in a ‘it doesn’t matter that you don’t know, the kids will still respect you because you’re pretty’ kind of way… they did that the entire semester. And okay, I may not be the smartest person in the room but I studied English for a loooong time so I know I’m not a complete idiot).
Because the task was very demanding, I tried my very, very best in finishing it in time. And I did! Yay for the me of the past that was on the verge of a breakdown and wanted to kill herself but ultimately managed to plan three classes. Woohoo!
I got my feedback from one of the teachers and corrected everything they asked me to correct. And then, one day prior to the execution of my class my other teacher (the one I didn’t see eye to eye with) sent me all their corrections… All of them…. they were a lot.
I obviously did the logical thing and burst out crying while I corrected everything and cursed myself for being so stupid that I couldn’t do anything right.
Oh, I was at my parents’ place so they saw all that… Great.
That weekend I went back to uni feeling even more like a failure than usual and after having a long talk with my cousin (who lived with me at the time) I decided that quitting would be the best option.
I e-mailed my guide teacher and told them that I was thinking of quitting but that I’d still go to the school to do my classes. They answered immediately and told me to reconsider, to meet them the next day after class, that I was smart and had done my very best the entire semester… and it was true… but it was too late. They were probably only saying that because they felt guilty, and because they couldn’t afford to lose students when the class was already that small.
The next day I didn’t show up to the school (I did tell my teacher though) because I woke up with a panic attack and then I cried for like an hour. My cousin got really worried and took me to uni so I could go through the very short but very satisfactory process of quitting college.
I was so relieved that I didn’t think about any of the reasons I had to stay.
I was through… and in the nick of time because self-harm didn’t feel like a relief anymore and I was starting to get really, really bad.
I e-mailed all of my teachers, and they told me it was so sad that I’d left, that I had so much potential, that I was smart, so smart, but they understood that my health came first. That same day I talked to some of my classmates from the program and some jokingly told me that they were behind on their plannings and were told it was okay because it was the end of the semester so they understood. And that made me very mad, because I was sure that if it had been me, I would’ve been told a million and one things about how I did wrong and was being very irresponsible.
But thankfully I was done. I had quit. I didn’t have to dwell on what ifs and whys. Everything would be better now.
One thing I noticed during my hellish time there is that when I said I was tired, or anxious, everyone acted like it was normal, like it didn’t matter, but when my symptoms started to become psychosomatic and my heart would race, I would become breathless and dizzy, everyone was worried and told me to quit because “it was affecting my health”. It had been affecting my health since the beginning! My mental health! But no one cared until my heart went bananas because of the stress.
(Playing “is it a panic attack or an arrhythmia?” is not fun at all, especially when the answer was panic attack.)
And that is the story of why I quit college… or well, the program I was studying after I had finished my first major.
I hope someone can get something out of this…
If you’re reading this and you’ve felt like this. Please don’t stay there! if you’re doing something that makes you feel like nothing is worth it, like you’d be better off dead, please try to get out of there! If you need to talk to someone about it, you can always talk to me, because I know and I understand.