If you're new here, hi, my name is Ari and my mental illnesses caused me to get kicked out of my university. What a way to start, huh? However, it's the truth and I've come a long way since then. It was even the topic for my very first article over a year ago. It's not something I'm ashamed of because I grew from that and became stronger from that. With being as open as I am about the topic, I get met with a lot of questions like "When will you graduate?" I have no clue when I'll graduate. All I know is that I will be graduating and that's enough for me, so it should be enough for you.

When one first starts college, most have the mindset that it'll take four short years like high school took. Typically, that isn't what happens. Over 1,170 students have dropped out of college due to mental issues that prevented them from getting the education they desired. The second it doesn't look like you'll graduate in the allotted four years, you wouldn't believe the number of people who tell you to just drop out and do something else. It isn't always about failing mental health either.

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Some people take the bare minimum classes so that they can have a part-time job while still being classified as a full-time student so they can afford to eat and put gas in their car without risking bad grades. Others will do the opposite. They'll be a part-time student while having a full-time job so they can just afford to get a higher education. Some people may have had a sudden change in their family that caused them to take a break and come back, such as a death in the family or something to do with the military. Maybe someone just couldn't afford to go anymore and had to take time off to save up. It really doesn't matter what the reason is. The main point is that they're in college pursuing what they love on their time.

Just because one person graduates in four years doesn't give you the right to push the same agenda on a different person. Not everyone's situations are the same. Not everyone has a four-year mindset. Some want to explore their options before they settle on one major. How is that harming anyone?

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't disheartening, though. I get to watch so many people that I attended freshman orientation with prepare to graduate this coming spring. It hurts me emotionally, knowing that I should be walking across that stage with them. But on the other hand, I have to remind myself that I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity at all. Some people desperately want to attend college and can't. Just because I'm taking it slower doesn't mean I'm not as smart or as dedicated to my education. I'm just taking a different path than most.

For example, I'm currently taking a class with a woman who is well into her 80's. She doesn't have a college degree, but now she's at a place where she wants to pursue it. She's 80 years old and someone is going to tell me that I should be graduating in four years? No way. Everyone takes it at their own pace. There is no right way.

By taking longer, I've met really interesting people and switched majors and learned new things about the world and about myself. I don't regret taking longer. Yes, I'll have more debt, but that's fine. Whatever I need to do to make the best of my situation and to make the best experience for myself.