by Ardhys De Leon, alumni contributing reporter
I had a plan; graduate high school, attend Adelphi University, complete a bachelor’s in psychology and go on to graduate school. Only one of those goals were accomplished. For a while it felt like all was lost, as the future I worked so hard to build crumbled. This plan has changed multiple times and it may even continue to change. What matters is not the plan, it is how we adapt to changes and continue to pursue our goals despite all the roadblocks.
The summer before senior year my family had to move to Florida because of economic issues. My determination to attend college in New York, led me to stay behind to finish high school. Underestimating how difficult accomplishing this would be created a lot of hardships along the way. The pressure to maintain a straight A average, work part-time, support myself and ensure my acceptance into a good college, took me down a dark path.
After graduating, it was difficult to attend college because it was a financial burden, which led to a forced gap year. Refusing to let go of the past was detrimental; as all the focus was on the mistakes and the circumstances that were out of my control. This ultimately damaged my already fragile mental health.
While battling with internal issues, attending college as soon as possible become the only priority. The fact that nothing was happening as anticipated made me feel out of control. Despite attempting to attend different schools, it always came down to financials. My world was a gray area and not being able to commit to either black or white, left me struggling in the gray.
Due to my progressively unstable mental health, I decided to let my goals sit for a while and help myself. It began with walking into an emergency room and asking for help. Although this was completely off from my plan, it was the decision that shaped my future; as severe anxiety and mild depression became a reality.
Realizing that these were real problems, allowed me to put my life on pause, as I began to focus on myself. Through both individual and group therapy, I realized that my perception of life was completely wrong; thus setting me up for failure. Life is not linear, it will have bumps, loops and even small stops.
Understanding this was the only way to move forward, the decision was made to move to Florida and live with my family. Although a year late, I am now attending the University of South Florida. This gap year, was not a failure but instead a necessary step in my life.
My past has made me more prepared for the unexpected as well as more determined to continue my academic road as a psychology major. Experiencing depression first-hand and witnessing how difficult it is to overcome, has inspired me to become a clinical therapist to help others who are struggling with their mental health.
In the future, the plan is to volunteer at the Crisis Center as well as at hospitals and take part in a long-term research project. However, my biggest goal is to remind myself that no one else is the author of my story and sometimes it’s okay to take a break in order to figure out the rest.