Changing Yourself: It's Hard But Never Impossible
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Changing Yourself: It's Hard But Never Impossible

It's never impossible to change who you are or who you can become.

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Changing Yourself: It's Hard But Never Impossible
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In the spring semester of my first year at college, I tried to kill myself. Or rather, I tried to try to kill myself, but luckily my sister and my boyfriend at the time intervened, and instead, I was sent to the hospital for eleven days. The night I went in was the night before my first final was due, and I missed the deadline along with all my other exams. To put it bluntly, for the second semester of my college career, I had all Fs, five of them, stacked in a column on the grade sheet that was sent to my home in the summer. By that time, I was in the summer sun and on antidepressants that made my head feel like a fly's nest and the light hurt. My cumulative GPA had been reduced to around a 1.2, and though my therapist swore she saw growth in me, and though I took my meds every day , all I could do was sink lower into my hole. By the end of my first semester of sophomore year, I had made all new friends, and smoked weed like I was paid to do it. I didn't go to my classes, or care about how my actions influenced my future. There was no cause and effect, only the hours I spent awake and the concrete, self-effacing darkness of my sleep. I had fashioned a shallow brand of depression marked by substance abuse, self-resentment, and irresponsibility. Some times, I could barely recognize myself, but the winter chill frosted over any thoughts I might have had of changing who I had become. Gone was the girl who declared she'd never even smoke cigarettes because she wanted to protect her voice. Here instead was a new Maiasia, similar to Yeats' rough beast in the way I slouched across my campus, a sphinx caught in its own riddles. Later that semester, after I stopped taking my antidepressants and replaced them with daily doses and redoses of marijuana, I showed up to a midterm drunk, passed it (I actually aced it), then promptly never returned to the class.

You see, I had accomplished what I needed to. I had proven myself to myself. I didn't have to try. I could actually try my damnedest to fail, and everything would be the same. I don't know where that notion first came from, but somewhere between the summer and the first snow fall of the winter, I stopped caring about myself more than I cared about what I wanted, and what I wanted was to disappear. Almost as if to remind me of the weight of life, I received two more Fs that semester from the two classes I had stopped attending. I remember one professor sent me an email around the time his final came up. I hadn't been to class in weeks, and he wanted to discuss my absences. He was confused. How could I aced his midterm only to skip every meeting since then. He asked if I was alright, and the best I could muster was “My life is turbulent.” It was crap, and he knew it and never responded, but I had no shame. I was actually a little proud, and even that semester's grade sheet didn't touch the swell in my chest. I had successfully shown that I didn't matter, my life didn't matter, and least of all my future didn't matter.

At the beginning of the spring semester, all I wanted was to see how far I could push everything until it broke. It was melodramatic, and I knew it at the time, but I wanted to self-destruct bit by bit until I could justify trying (actually trying this time) at suicide once more. I was put on extended academic probation, and only took writing and literature courses. Somehow, even though I was hell-bent on screwing up every part of my life, my writing managed to retain value to me, and I passed those classes as best as I could, so at the end of my sophomore year, when I attended the annual Creative Writing major advising meeting, it never occurred to me that I had done irreparable damage. All of the major's students were funneled into the Orangerie, a large room with window walls where the school holds many academic events, and I positioned myself near the back. Then, when the professors began explaining which classes to take and when and why, it hit me. I wasn't going to graduate.

I remember the panic. My favorite professor was up at the podium describing the graduation requirements for creative writing majors, and one of the classes I had failed my freshman year was a major requirement, but also the prerequisite for almost every fiction class the school offered, including another major requirement, Advanced Fiction. By the end of his speech, his voice was muffled in my ears, and all I could think about was what I had done to myself. I had finally screwed up so bad that I couldn't laugh and smoke and sleep my way through it to the other side. Back in my room that night, I tried to ignore it. I tried for nearly a week, then I tried hanging myself with a noose made of Christmas lights. It was tied to pipe that fed the sprinkler in my dorm room, and when I kicked the chair away and hung for one, two, three seconds, and the noose didn't break, I knew I wanted to live. I kicked and thrashed until my foot reached my roommate's dresser and then then other foot, and then I was standing and gasping and alive. I had marks on my neck where the lights had dug in, but I was alive. The next day I searched out my professor. Ironically enough, it was him who had failed me my freshman year, and I didn't know what to expect. I had never turned in my coursework for that class after I got out of the hospital, and I didn't know what to say to him to make him believe that I didn't want my life to be over, but I didn't care. In the end, I didn't have to do anything. When I told him about the class and the graduation requirements, he told me he could change my grade if handed in everything that was due. He also told me I needed to work now. No more screwing around.

Almost two years have passed since then, and I'm all set to graduate on time with a 3.1 GPA , and I'm applying to graduate school for the coming fall. The professor who made it possible is in charge of my senior thesis, and some times I wonder if he remembers that day when I wore an ill fitting choker, and he told me he believed in me. It probably wasn't that big of a deal to him; in his eyes, he was just helping out a student whose work he liked, but in my eyes, I was given something. Socrates said “An unexamined life is not worth living,” and that's what I had felt that made me want to die my freshman year and later again, my sophomore year. I hadn't known it though. All I knew was that I was despondent and convinced that nothing could change. I didn't realize that I was depressed because I couldn't change myself. When I tried again at death, it wasn't because I was finally freed to die however I wanted, but because I couldn't go back to tell myself everything had always mattered, even me.

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