As I’m writing this, it’s my first Friday being officially done with college, and I’ve never felt more content. It’s technically no different than most Friday nights for me – I’m just hanging out with a face mask on, winding down with some candles, and blogging – but it is different. It still hasn’t completely hit me that I’m done with undergrad, and I don’t know how long it’ll take for that to truly sink in. I’ve been walking around the past few days feeling like I’m forgetting to do something, and feeling guilty that I’ve been letting myself “do whatever I want.” By that, I mean I’ve been sleeping in until 8 A.M., going to bed at 11:30, going on walks for pleasure, and watching entire episodes of TV shows at a time. Things have been crazy.
I’ve thought a lot about my educational experience this week. Finishing undergrad has been a moment I’ve been awaiting for a very very very long time. I am going back to “school” again in September to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, and I’ll start studying to get my personal training certification in a few weeks, but that feels completely different to me. Those are things I am choosing to study – things that I love, things that excite me, things that I would be “studying” whether or not I had to.
If you know me, you know I have a lot of resentment toward the education system. Awhile back, I wrote a post about why I resent the education system so much, which you can read here. I don’t have the best relationship with school. On paper, or to an outsider, I had a great relationship with it. I’ve always been an A+ student, gotten top scores on everything, been very involved in extracurriculars, did everything “right.” In spite of all that, school felt like a jail to me. Every day I felt like I was wasting time, learning about unimportant things that would never help me. All I could think about was all of the other things I could be doing that would be a good use of my time. I honestly don’t care about the geography of Mesopotamia, sorry, especially when I have so many passions and goals and hopes and dreams.
My point is, I’ve been desperate to get out of the education system for as long as I can remember. I’ve felt burnt out since the 6th grade, and I have finally reached the moment I was waiting for. Obviously, life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies from here on out. But being in school, in college, was something I genuinely hated, and releasing that from my life has already reduced my anxiety massively. My anxiety and depression throughout my life were always linked to school, and I’m just really ready to move on. So yes, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
A lot of people never really understood why I felt the way I felt while in school. Adults in my life would always say, “College is the best time!” Or, “Well, you just haven’t had the regular college experience! Maybe you should actually try it.”
It’s certainly true I didn’t have the “typical” college experience. Although, now that I think about it, I’m not really sure there is a typical college experience. There are so many incorrect assumptions about what college life is like. People assume that college students are half-assedly studying, but mostly partying and drinking…having “the time of their lives.” Well, not everyone is doing that. To me, partying my early twenties away sounds like the opposite of having “the time of my life.” Sorry. A lot of students go into college, and to be frank, they’re scared of what’s coming after. They want to stay in the bubble. Sometimes it’s because they genuinely don’t know what they want to do afterward, and other times it’s because they just don’t want to actually do it. I’m not like that, though. I know exactly what I want to do, and I want to do it now. Hence why I don’t usually click with other people my age.
Besides the partying, there are a lot of people who really don’t understand what college nowadays is actually like academically. Obviously, it is very different for everybody. It depends on the school you go to, the state you’re in, the subject you’re studying, the type of person you are… all of that. I just want to explain that there is a large majority of us who are working our asses off, hard. There are a lot of college students who are working just as many, if not more, hours in a week than a lot of graduated “adults,” and on top of that they are full-time students going to class, doing homework, involved in clubs (which are generally just as time-consuming as full-time jobs, BTW), trying to have a social life, and doing a million other things. Doing all of the other random crap that takes up time every single day. Cooking, cleaning, exercising, answering emails, SHOWERING… if we are lucky. Maybe it’s a walk in the park for some, but not for all. I know I will forever be a very busy person, but I will never be as busy as I was during my college years.
Going back to my “college experience,” I want to take this time to talk about it. That’s one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot – how atypical it truly was. Because while I don’t necessarily think there is anything that’s truly “typical,” I know that my college experience was very…unique. I didn’t start my blog until the latter half of my college career, and I never really started posting until the very end of it. Because of that, most people who read my blog really don’t know what I’ve been doing during my time at UCLA. Because I’m sure you’re just SO interested, I thought I’d give a recap here. Welcome to my life.
I entered my freshman year at UCLA with a case of chronic mono and a deep fear of my future roommate. I got a bad case of mono during my senior year of high school, and it ended up lasting about a year. I feel like this set me up for disaster from the start. Anyone who has had mono, especially a chronic case, knows that you’re just so damn tired. All. The. Time. Walking the UCLA hills to class felt like torture. All I wanted to do was lay in my bed, but I had to go to class, had to stay up late to do homework and write papers, had to try to keep up as best as I could. My days consisted of going to class, coming home to my top bunk, and burying myself in my work, which I despised. I was also trapped in a room with a nightmare of a roommate, which will I will now explain.
I could write an entire novel about my freshman year roommate, but long story short: my first email exchange with my two roommates immediately clued me in to the fact that one of my roommates was going to be a complete nightmare. Thankfully I had Meghana, my other roommate, to help me get through our torturous year with our third roommate, who I will call Tortilla. That is one of many names she told us we could call her.
I cannot go into my whole experience of living with Tortilla in this post. Please listen to Episode 4 of Actually Adultish for a longer explanation. Basically, anyone who complains about their roommate.. you honestly have nothing on us. I was legitimately scared for my life while living with her, and every day I became more and more depressed. She didn’t leave the room and was basically nocturnal. I was a hermit because of mono, and being in that room with her literally drove me crazy. She made up languages and talked to herself constantly, tried to basically perform an exorcism on me, stood over my roommate and watched her sleep, sat naked in the corner of the room rocking back and forth, kept a freakin’ machete on her desk, sang constantly in different accents, took showers in the dark, drew clocks on her face… do I need to go on? Everyone in our building was afraid of her. But I was the one trapped in the room with her!
Anyways, this girl drove me insane. I tried to do everything I could to get out of that room, but the people in charge of housing were not helpful. At all. It was at this point that I started to go to therapy. I had truly never felt so depressed in my life. I spent every weekend away from my room. My mother, god bless her, would drive to L.A. from the Bay and swoop me up into a hotel room so I could get away for two days. On weekends when she couldn’t come, my boyfriend at the time would come visit me and get me out of that room, or I would go visit him in Arizona. Without those weekend escapes, I would not have survived.
Because I was leaving so many weekends and still struggling with mono, I wasn’t “partying” very much. I also just didn’t really want to. I drank in high school, and I wasn’t that excited by it in college. We would go to frat parties on Thursday nights, but I didn’t like to drink, and I had no interest in boys because I had a boyfriend at another school. Because of that relationship and because I left most weekends, I probably didn’t really put myself out there as much as I could have in terms of friendships. I also barely wanted to leave my room because I was so tired from mono, and I lived in the least social dorm – most people were older than me. I had no interest in joining a sorority, and when people in class found out I wasn’t in a sorority, they usually didn’t want to talk to me ever again. Very strange. It was my experience that people at UCLA were not very friendly, in general, which also frustrated me.
My point of explaining this is that I never really made that many friends. I didn’t mind that much because I didn’t really even have time for friends, but I do think that would’ve made things easier for me, emotionally. My one roommate, Meghana, quickly became my best friend, and I do not know what I would’ve done without her, or to this day what I would do without her. She will always be like a sister to me. I hung out with her and her friends, but never really felt like I was part of the group, if ya know what I mean. Honestly, though, I was too tired to figure it out.
The day I moved out of that bedroom, I cried for about 3 days straight out of pure happiness. That year felt like a dark, depressing hole that I wanted to push out of my brain forever. There were all of the factors I just described, on top of my deep hatred for school in general. Writing papers, studying, I just didn’t want to do it.
Before my second year in college, my boyfriend and I broke up, and I felt like it was my chance to really try and put myself out there and have more of a “college experience.” I joined some more clubs that were much more social in an attempt to make more friends, and I went out a lot more than I did freshman year (still, though, I was never a party animal). I was drinking more, though, and I was using it as a way to avoid my emotions. I became good friends with the girls on my floor, but still never really felt like I had a “group.” Thankfully, I was rooming with Meghana, so my living situation was great. Despite all of this, I became extremely depressed. Every day felt purposeless to me. I couldn’t take one more day of studying what I felt was useless information, I was tired of never sleeping because I had so much work to do, I was being taken advantage of in the clubs I had joined, and I just really hated UCLA. I felt like nothing was giving me purpose. Why was I there?
I remember breaking down and asking my mom and my sister to come down and visit me again. They were still swooping me up into hotel rooms as often as they could because they knew how miserable I was. I remember sitting on the couch and just sobbing, telling them I had never felt so depressed in my life and I couldn’t understand why. I wanted to drop out, but I couldn’t. My parents told me I could. They hated seeing me miserable. But I would never give myself permission to do that. At the time, I saw that as failure. I saw it as weak. It was at this time that I applied to write for Her Campus at UCLA, an online magazine for women.
It was also at this time that I started binge eating. I would sit in my dorm room with bags of candy, pints of ice cream, boxes of cookies, and just binge and binge. I was trying to fill a void, to make myself feel better. It wasn’t working. After too long, I knew I needed to turn my life around. I was sick of feeling miserable and out of control. I started researching how to eat “healthy.” I decided I wanted to start exercising. I reached out to my cousin who taught me how to lift weights and gave me a gym routine that I loved. He taught me more about “clean eating.” I started reading blogs on the Internet, reading everything I could find, buying books, paying attention to magazines, etc., to learn more about health and fitness. I loved it. I had stopped binging, I was exercising regularly, I was eating “better” than I ever had, and I felt much better than I ever had before. I felt balanced.
I felt like things were finally falling into place. I had been writing for Her Campus, and it was making me feel like I had more of a purpose. I realized how much I loved to write, and I finally decided to start a blog. I had wanted to start a YouTube channel or a blog since high school, but never had the courage. At this point, I was like.. why not?! So I did it. I started this blog thinking it would be a beauty blog, but that slowly changed over time.
Right when everything felt like it was better than it ever was, I went on a trip to San Diego, ate some bad froyo, and my life completely changed. I had always had digestive issues, but that trip set something off. For about a week after, I was insanely sick. I will not go into the nitty gritty details, but I was scared, and I couldn’t leave my bedroom. I honestly was afraid I was never going to be a functioning human again. That weekend was my birthday, so my family came down and took me to the doctor. I had been to the doctor multiple times that week at UCLA, but they laughed at me and told me I was pregnant. Thanks. (Sidenote – NEVER go to Ashe Center at UCLA.)
Anyways, the doctor my parents took me to was actually helpful, and my mysterious sickness went away enough to the point that I could walk around outside and function as a human. The doctor told me to try going gluten-free and dairy-free, and to see how I felt. Two weeks of that, and I felt better than ever. There was no way I was ever eating gluten or dairy again. That being said, my stomach was still very…off. After the San Diego episode, it was like my body couldn’t function properly.
Long story short, I spent the rest of my sophomore year going to doctor after doctor, trying to balance doctors with school. No one could figure out what was wrong. Then someone diagnosed me with Candida overgrowth, and put me on the Candida diet. During this time, I was losing a lot of weight very quickly. I still don’t know exactly what it was. It was a combination of my stomach not digesting food, the Candida diet gone wrong, my new addiction to exercise, and a bunch of other things. My health was, excuse my French, in the shits. It felt like almost every food I ate was hurting me or giving me symptoms. I couldn’t eat at the dining halls anymore. I walked down to Whole Foods every day and bought food. I made a lot of things in my microwave and kept things in the mini fridge. I couldn’t eat out with friends. It was draining.
My sophomore year ended, and that summer, I kept losing weight. I was very scared. My family stopped talking to me, and so did most of my friends. I was working 2 internships and trying to go on with my life like everything was normal, when it certainly was not. Any spare time I had, I went to see doctors. I went to so many different specialists, I can’t even remember all of them. I also started to fear certain foods that were giving me reactions. That was the start of my orthorexia. I was also very depressed because I felt like I had no one to talk to. No one believed that I was eating, even though I was eating a lot of food. I started seeing a nutritionist and a therapist. I was misdiagnosed with a lot of things, they tried to send me to an anorexia treatment center..it was a whole mess. I felt crazy. I was sick of being embarrassed to walk down the street. I was sick of people talking behind my back. People from high school were spreading rumors that I was anorexic and sending photos of me to each other.
The doctors knew I had severe malabospriton issues, but they couldn’t figure out how to fix it. They knew I had had Epstein Bar virus and Candida overgrowth, but there were a million other things going on. Adrenal fatigue, possible hypothyroidism, did I have Celiac? Did I have another autoimmune condition? Hashimoto’s? Crohn’s? It was confusing. I felt like everything was out of control. When my nutritionist told me to be ready for a heart attack at any second, I honestly just wanted to give up.
I took off my fall quarter junior year to focus on my health. I felt like a failure, and I was embarrassed, but my doctors gave me no choice. I tried to wriggle my way out of it, tried to take just one class… wasn’t going to work. I eventually realized that not dying was much more important than going back to school. I spent that quarter going to different doctors 8 to 5 every day of the week.
I slowly started gaining weight after finding out some important information about my health, but it was slow, and still not enough. I just wanted to get back to my “normal” weight. That was the hardest time in my life. I did a lot of soul searching during that time, and I realized what was important to me. I had been blogging to get my mind off of things, and it saved me. I got into yoga and meditation. I read a lot. I realized my passion for nutrition – real nutrition. Not the stupid shit that I used to think was healthy but was really just dieting techniques that I didn’t realize was dieting. I didn’t want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. I realized my health, mental and physical, was far more important than school.
I went back to school winter quarter of my junior year with a different mindset. I was calmer and more at peace. I moved apartments because the roommate I lived with was causing me severe anxiety, and I was too fragile emotionally and physically to deal with that. I quit Her Campus after being severely bullied by a girl on the staff. I felt much better. However, being back in the swing of school started to catch up to me. I slowly fell back into my old ways of staying up too late, studying too hard, being too hard on myself. I didn’t like going out because I was embarrassed of the way people looked at me. I knew I looked sick.
I had read Breaking Vegan during my quarter off on a flight to Spain to visit one of my best friends. The book gave me hope that things could turn around. My spring quarter of junior year, I met a TA who had a very similar story to me, and she ended up being a great support for me. She had Celiac and colitis, and she connected me with a girl who also had similar health issues. I started to meet more people “like me,” and it made me feel less alone. I ended up going to a book signing to meet Jordan, and I asked her if I could be her intern, even though I had no need for an internship. At this point, I had decided that after college I would go to cosmetology school like I had always wanted, and potentially become a health coach as well. But I wanted to help Jordan help other people, the way she helped me.
Long story short, the next day I had a job. I started working for J my spring quarter of Junior year, and that was by far the best quarter of my college experience. Jordan introduced me to her doctor, and he was the first doctor who ever tested me accurately and actually helped me. He diagnosed me with SIBO amongst a million other things. I took a lot of tests, took a lot of pills, did some weird diets, but I finally felt so much better. As usual, no, I wasn’t having the typical college experience. I was trying to keep up with my health, my job, and school. But I finally felt hope for the future. Working for Jordan made me happy and excited. I finally met people who understand me and who I clicked with. When I was working for Jordan, I felt like the things I was doing actually mattered, which made it easier to get through the mundane assignments that plagued me at school.
All of my experiences up to that point really made me realize what I was passionate about. I realized what I was meant to do. I wanted to get real nutrition and health information out there. I wanted to show people how food can heal them and change their lives, the same way it changed mine. I wanted to support anyone who had ever felt the same way I did. I wanted people to know they were not alone. I wanted people to know they could get out of disordered eating. They could get out of their depression and anxiety. They could remedy their digestive issues. That I believed them and that they weren’t making it up.
I finally felt like I had a purpose. However, knowing that purpose while being stuck in school learning useless crap was pretty damn frustrating. How could I write a paper comparing Indiana Jones with Jaws when there was a girl out there with severe digestive distress and a doctor not taking her seriously?! How could I spend hours memorizing the dates that French films were released in the early 1900s when someone was out there with SIBO getting treated incorrectly by a western GI? Someone taking antibiotics unnecessarily to try and fix a problem, when it was actually causing more problems? Someone scared to eat food? Someone working out for hours every day, not eating enough, driving themselves to the ground? I really couldn’t stand it.
I did what I could. I started writing more on my blog, I started a podcast, and I just decided to push through until I could get out. I decided to keep talking about the issues that were important to me, even if everyone else was too scared to address the same things. I dropped friends that weren’t serving me. I made better friends with people who truly cared about me. I tried to separate myself from “college life” as much as I could. I went to class and did my work, but other than that, I barely felt like I was a student. And that made me happiest. I realized I get along much better with people who are older than me. I embraced that. I stopped trying to fit in, and I just accepted what made me happy, even if that wasn’t “typical.” It was a long time coming.
So I pushed through to the end. I finally made it out. I MADE IT. No, I didn’t have the typical college experience. I was too busy dealing with my health and trying to find my purpose in life to get drunk and go to frat parties and stress out about what bodycon dress to wear. Maybe that was some people’s experience, but it wasn’t mine. There isn’t a right way to do it… it’s just different for everyone.
I was a Psychology major and a Film minor, but none of that matters. I learned a lot in the last four years, but none of it was from school.
Now that I’m at the end of this, I don’t really know why I explained it. It might be hard to believe, but that was the short version. I’m sorry that was so long. If you made it to the end of this, I really love you. I didn’t have a typical college experience – that’s for sure. But my experiences brought me to where I am today, and right now? I couldn’t be happier.