Delayed graduation shame

I tend to push away anything that’s uncomfortable and makes me think about the hard things. I’ll completely “forget” about it, only for whatever emotions to bubble up due to some trigger. Today, that happened in regards to schooling. I wanted to share my processing of this and what I’ve come to.

I graduated in 2014. In the perfect world, you spend exactly four years in undergrad and come out with your degree and all is well. With how competitive my high school can be, this plan usually includes amazing opportunities, scholarships, honors societies, and varsity athletics. Just like high school, it isn’t enough to simply graduate. If you would have asked me sophomore or even my 6th grade year, my plan would be exactly like everyone else’s. The expectation in our school was to go above and beyond if you wanted to prove yourself as one of the “smart ones.” By junior year I had a new, more prestigious and impressive plan. I was part of early college which meant taking half college and half high school classes junior/senior year, then doing one more year at community college to get my associates degree a whole year early. I clung to that idea and goal, right up until it wasn’t possible anymore.

Switching to nursing was absolutely the best decision I have EVER made in regards to academics, but this meant having to accept that I was no longer above and beyond. It meant having to do lots of prerequisites and instead getting my degree on time. I learned to be okay with this, considering I was on track still.

I am no longer on track to graduate with my class. I haven’t been for over 2 years now. I’ve been shoving those feelings of disappointment, shame, frustration, and inadequacy down ever since then. I’m able to forget about it most days. Today was not one of those. I logged into Facebook (which is an absolutely terrible place if you want to feel proud of your own accomplishments and not play the comparison game). A friend from high school posted a status update about his events today, including the last meeting with his advisor and trying on cap and gown. It brought up everything all over again.

I immediately went to all of the reasons I’m not enough. How could I be smart if I did really poorly in classes, couldn’t even handle my first college semester away, and am not in the honors program? The only conclusions coming from this line of thought put all of my worth in school, and since I “failed” there, I must be a complete failure of a person. I sat here for a while. I wallowed. I cried. I felt super shitty about it all. Then, I really started thinking.

Besides my eating disorder in itself as a barrier to my education, quitting halfway through my first fall semester is the reason why I had to take an extra year. I could do a few things with this information, but today I chose to explore why things are how they are from a lens of understanding and compassion.

I can’t deny the facts that I dropped a semester or had a terribly low GPA last spring. I can pretend all I want that I was this perfect student who never missed class, gave 110% in all work, turned in everything, and didn’t even need to study. I could sit there and lie to everyone about how amazing school has gone, but I don’t want to now.

I hate the idea of ever using my eating disorder as some crutch or excuse for my behaviors, but it truly did/does impact my schooling. Not a single moment of the past 3 years have been easy from an academic standpoint. Instead of the normal college experience, I got constant ED thoughts and behaviors that took over my life. I look back at this time and wonder how I even got through it.

The fact that I’ve gotten this far isn’t a miracle, but a culmination of a lot of hard work. I overcame every battle to get to where I am today. This isn’t the route I would have chosen, not even close. No one wants to actively seek out the most difficult path, but it’s what I was given.

I choose to stop the comparison game and look towards my future. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, no one is going to care what my college GPA was or how many years it took me to finish.  What truly will matter is what kind of nurse I have become, who I am as a person, how I treat others. School is important and will allow me to pursue my dreams, but it’s only a stepping stone. In 5 or 10 or 20 years, I don’t want to be able to brag about what I did in college. Instead, I will speak about the roller coaster of a journey it took to get there.

6 thoughts on “Delayed graduation shame

  1. You’re going to be a better nurse because of your illness journey, and trust me, once you’re practicing no one is going to know or pay attention to how things went for you in school. I’m looking forward to having you join me in the profession, whenever that may end up being 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, you are not alone.
    I have had to take time off school. I’m not graduating with my cohort. I would have had my full degree by now, like this month. But I don’t. I had to leave the program (I’m in teaching) in 2015 because if my eating disorder. I went back last semester, only to take this semester off, again because of my eating disorder. If things go according to plan I’ll finally graduate by 2020/2021. A full 6 or 7 years since I started school.

    I’m constantly upset by that. I constantly feel like a failure. And when I feel great- like when my GPA is good and my mind is good, and I’m thinking “you know what, I got this!”…I’m still also thinking “yeah, but for how long. When will I screw up and have to take time off again”

    Your battle is one I relate to so very well.

    But you know what?
    So what if it takes us 6,7,10, years to get a degree? Time in recovery is not time wasted. We’ll get through this. We’ll beat this. Your blogs are so recovery focused that I know you have your priorities in line. School, recovery, eating disorder- it’s all just part of our journey, and how ever long it takes us just how ever long it takes.

    Hang in there!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Girl, I get what youre saying. I had to take time off in college for treatment, too. It wasn’t as “planned”. But I work in my field now, I’m good at my job, and am even in a position of authority at work despite being young. No one has ever asked me how long it took to get through school or what my GPA was. Once you’re in the work field it truly doesn’t matter what school you went to, your grades, any of it. It just matters that you have the degree. You have the whole rest of your life to work! Nursing will still be waiting for you- no matter how long it takes. Since its something youre truly passionate about I think it’s more important to learn everything you can and soak up the education to be the best nurse you can than to meet any kind of arbitrary performance self imposed expectations. Your passion for the work will advance you so much more than any grades will.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so nice to hear that you’ve gotten through everything and are doing well, even with taking extra time. I think eventually I’ll be able to let go of the perfectionist view of school and focus on just being a nurse. I know it doesn’t truly matter in the end.

      Like

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