“Florida State University
College of Arts and Sciences
has conferred upon
Kiara Leanne Touros
the degree of
Bachelor of Science
with all rights, honors and privileges blah, blah, blah, etc., etc.”
It hangs in my sister’s room, which looks more like a storage closet than anything at this point. Little red FSU insignia at the bottom, deans’ signatures and whatnot, I’ve always thought it looked rather unimpressive for a college diploma. Now? I don’t know. Anyone who walks in this room will see it and say, “Wow, this person graduated college.” She’s wrapping up her last exams this week, and within the month, another frame will adorn the lavender walls: master’s degree. My sister is moving back home for a while, starting her job search, with no more safety cushions of education to hide behind. Only the real world left in front of her to face.
As I see it, I can’t help but wonder if a college diploma will ever grace the walls of my room. At my high school graduation, there were many repeated “congratulations.” Each time, I wanted to stop and ask, “For what?” Graduating high school wasn’t hard. Sure, IB classes were a lot of work, but I didn’t have to earn my IB diploma — I could have just shown up and taken the lowest level classes available, breezed on through and been on my merry way.
When my sister graduated college, my feelings were more or less on par with my previous sentiment. In my eyes, college was all about showing up. You don’t even have to attend, but if you do, you’ve fought 80 percent of the battle. I have to tell you, my first year of university has proven this judgment massively true for me. As long as I had the energy to get out of bed and go to class, I was going to do fine.
But what about those people who don’t have the energy to get out of bed?
One of “those people” was me. Sometimes, I’d wake up and lie there for hours. Sometimes all day. Sometimes for days at a time. I didn’t feel like showering, or going to class, or seeing anyone, or even eating. Looking back, it’s alarming, but at the time, it just felt normal. It felt like the people who could get out of bed and walk around and go to class and do their work and smile and laugh were the abnormal ones.
I used to think I was pulling this massive social experiment, with myself as the lab rat. After spending my whole life trying to be perfect and obsessing too much over grades and equating assigned merit value with personal value, I thought I wanted to see what would happen if I put the brakes on and stopped trying to be infallible. I thought I was finally chilling out after working so hard to get to this point. I thought I was rebelling against the Georgetown culture by being that person who didn’t care about grades and didn’t always go to class or do her work.
I think I always knew those thoughts were nothing but the thinly veiled lies I told myself to justify my behavior. They were my safety net against scrutiny and an excuse for not living up to my potential. Of course, I think it’s just universally hard to admit to yourself that you might be dealing with a mental illness.
I haven’t been diagnosed or anything (mostly because I haven’t seen a doctor or specialist), but for the sake of ease, I describe my situation as dealing with depression. I’m doing better now. Being out of class helps. Being in the sun helps. Having a job with strict report times helps. Writing helps. But the worst part about trying to recover is though the steps forward seem miniscule, steps back seem achingly large. I know that’s all part of the process, but it’s scary to look toward the future and know that’s it’s so easy to go spiraling back. For now, I’m avoiding negativity, focusing on finding what makes me happy, and trying my hardest to pick out the good in all the bad.
Cyrena Touros is a rising sophomore in the College. The Outsider appears every other Wednesday.