A semester off is often synonymous with dropping out of college. You move home, live rent free, and are "making bank" working at that coffee shop. When I told my friends that I was taking a semester off I could see the fear in their eyes. The assumptions of that semester turning into an eternity were all to apparent in their faces. I could hear their voices shaking as they said "this will be good for you" or "take time to figure out who you are" and all other cliché lines that you tell people who are on the path to ruining their future. My mother begged me to stay, just finish the year and think about it this summer. But I was miserable. Being a generally happy person, there was no other explanation for my change in attitude and overall state of misery than it was where I was living and who I surrounded myself with that were making me this way. I had to leave, it was the only way to feel better.
I packed my bags in a hurry and loaded the truck with all that I owned. There is nothing like a thirty five hour drive in a box truck with your older brother to make you question your decisions. As we drove silently through Kansas in all of its emptiness I couldn't help but want to turn back. I looked at old pictures of my friends from home. Sitting at a café in Bostons' Faneuil Hall, knee deep in the waters of the Atlantic. My happiness was not in the mountains of Colorado, It was back in Massachusetts with my family and friends, so I thought.
A few weeks at home living with my parents, two brothers, two foster children, and old blind dog and a new untrained puppy were not exactly the safe haven that I had envisioned. That college a few towns over did not look as glorious as I had hoped and the beach was covered in seaweed. It did not take long to realize that it was not my surroundings but myself that needed to be changed. I went to my doctor and told her my story, saying that I decided on Tuesday and was gone by Friday didn't sound so sane anymore. I broke down in front of a woman I barely knew. I was diagnosed with depression and put on medication, I had a follow-up appointment to be retested for ADHD. Even just being told that this feeling was chemical was freeing. I was going to get better.
Weeks went by before I started feeling like myself and suddenly I spoke of Colorado in a new light. It wasn't this desert town in the middle of the Rockies but a beautiful place surrounded by the rocky mountains. The small town went from seeming cramped to quaint and as if a switch had been flipped I missed being at school. My parents thought it was too quick of a decision, I was making the same mistake I had made in coming home. My friends told me to take time to think about it, but I knew.
My plans to transfer had changed and I was looking for houses with my best friend back in Colorado. I registered for classes and rented the truck. I was going back. Things will be different this time. The best years of my life were spent in Colorado, before the depression. I met some of my best friends, had the most amazing experiences and feel that I found the truest form of myself in the mountains. I was back to my old self, happy and up for anything. My bed no longer begged me to stay and Netflix was no longer my favorite hobby, I was ready for adventure.
Looking back I cannot imagine what state I would be in if I stayed, if I had "sucked it up" for one more semester. I discovered my old self by taking time off and gained a new appreciation for my opportunities at school. I am prepared to go back and strive to do better, work harder and put the past behind me. I may have depression, and the bad days will still linger but I am stronger now and I can handle it. If nothing else my time at home taught me to ask for help if I need it and offer help whenever possible. My semester off may have added time in school but it added years to my life and life to my years as well and for that I will be forever thankful.