To the people who judged me for going to college out-of state:
Finals are slowly beginning to creep up on us now that the last few weeks of our first term are starting to roll by. Some of us have even finished our first terms, and are enjoying a nice, long break before the second term begins. While my finals are just around the corner, there's one thing that's been in the back of my mind lately: doubt.
Not doubt in myself, or doubt in how I will manage to succeed. None of this doubt comes from me, but rather everyone else. I'm near the end of my first term and all I can think about are the people who doubted I would get this far.
Ever since I was in middle school, guidance counselors would drill the idea of staying in South Carolina for college into my brain, and without fail each counselor I met continued to drill that hole deeper and deeper until my time in school was up. No matter where I suggested or what I wanted to study, I was always told it was far too expensive for me to leave the Carolinas; no matter what I said I wanted to major in or how old I was, in the eyes of the counselors it made more sense to put off my plans, study at the technical college for a while, and think it over. If I absolutely had to leave, I should try Wilmington. No matter what I wanted, it seemed that the cold, dead embrace of South Carolina and the plans for me.
It always came down to convenience. It was convenient to put off my college plans for two years and get my associates degree at the technical college nearby, in a field unrelated to what I want to major in. It was convenient to go to USC- "no, not the California one that you've been looking at, how would you cope so far from home?!"- that way I could study something I didn't entirely hate and be in a community I knew fairly well. It was convenient that my transcripts were sent to the South Carolina USC rather than the California one, and my transcript to Drexel took months to arrive, and I had to go out of my way multiple times to make sure the issue was corrected.
I can't do convenience. Anyone who knows me knows that if I'm being lazy, convenience might be the key, but nine times out of ten I will make things far more difficult than they need to be.
No, I can't stay and study cosmetology at the technical school when that degree won't help me in the future when it comes to my career. No, I won't go to USC to major in film so that I can study something only half of my heart is in, when I can study something I enjoy somewhere else, making money on the side by doing odd jobs editing videos. No, I won't move to Charleston with the other 90% of my graduating class, so I can get an associates in something I may or may not enjoy while also getting a feel for being away from home without really being gone.
The field I intend to go into wasn't something I had my heart set on from day one, but had I noticed the option was there, I think I would have pursued it early on. I've played videos games for as long as I can remember; one of my earliest memories is of sitting on a couch at my home in New Jersey, looking at GameBoy Advance systems in some store's ad. My best friend told me she could see me designing characters for games, and in that moment I knew that was what I wanted to do for a living. If I could bring some happiness to a player by including a character that reminds them of themself in their favorite game series, then why wouldn't I want to? Why would I want to stay behind in South Carolina, studying something I can't put my heart in?
I regularly got in arguments with the people in my life over whether or not I would be staying in South Carolina or going out-of-state. No school in South Carolina offered what I wanted to study, so I made the decision to apply to only three schools that did. The decision was stupid, I'll happily admit it, but I still stand by the fact that staying behind in Myrtle Beach would have been an even worse idea.
The stress that came with deciding whether or not I would stay in South Carolina regularly found its way into my life when it had no business being there.
One of my best friends at the time came up to me in the school parking lot one morning to hang out in my car before class began, like we always had. I had spent the night prior stressing over scholarships and the choices I had to make, and didn't feel like talking. Our friendship had been on thin ice for several weeks for a million different reasons, but it seemed that my not wanting to talk about it that morning was the final straw that led to us not speaking for several months.
I had an incredibly rough senior year, and it was hard to know that I would be losing the friends I had made all throughout high school if I wanted to go somewhere else to study video game design. In my eyes at the time, losing a friend while I was stressing over my college choice was only a glimpse into what I inevitably had to go through.
A lot of my friendships started to break on my end under the stress of whether or not they'd continue if we weren't within visiting distance of each other. My sociology teacher referred to this as "dirtying the nest", meaning that if these friendships were going to end at some point, it would be under my terms, which would make it easier for me to leave; the fewer ties keeping me back, the easier it was to move. Looking back, I call this "me being an asshole to myself and everyone else, and only making things harder for everybody", but like I said, I don't do convenience.
In my Government and Economics class one day, we were discussing college plans. I mentioned I would be going out-of-state for school, and a girl responded with "wish I had the money for that". It felt like a slap across the face. By this point I had already chosen to enroll in Drexel, and the only reason I was able to go at all was because of the scholarships and grants I had received. I spent every week applying for as many scholarships as I could find, and people assumed I was going out of state because it was easy on my wallet? I still have student loans, location doesn't change that.
Upon graduating, South Carolina offered me a scholarship to any in-state school; as great as this was, it didn't change the fact that South Carolina didn't have what I was wanting to study. Some would think that having a dream-major instead of a dream-school would make the process of deciding on a school so much easier, but that's not the case when what you want to study is only offered by schools states away.
All of this being said, I find that the doubt from others that crawls into my mind from time to time is just another reason for me to succeed.
There will always be friends who wish I had gone to school with them. There will always be people who tell me how beautiful Charleston is, and how they wish I was with them. There will always be the people who say they don't think I would go through with this major, this school, and this location.
There will always be doubters, and I have to remember that. I've had low points upon moving, and times where I have doubted whether or not I should have stayed; all I can tell myself is that the people who didn't think I would get this far do not matter.
That being said, to the people who say I should have stayed in South Carolina:
You were wrong, and are a prime example of why I left. I will use the doubt you bestowed upon me as reason to continue going. I will surround myself with people who support me and encourage me, and the toxicity I left behind in South Carolina won't be something I allow to hold me back.
If the beauty of a location really matters as much as you act like it does, Philadelphia is beautiful too, and it has plenty of colorful houses, just like the ones in Charleston.
South Carolina is exactly what some people need, and for others it can be an obstacle in their path. Just because it works for you, doesn't mean it works for everyone, and just because it didn't work for me, doesn't mean it won't work for you.
I cannot help what majors are and aren't offered in certain places, but I am so happy to be in a new environment that stimulates growth artistically, intellectually, and individually. I've never been in a place that encourages people to exceed their potential as much as Philadelphia does, but I am excited for whatever the city and Drexel hold for me, and I wish you nothing but the best.