Opinion: Invest in your future self

I graduated from a Blue Ribbon private high school with a GPA above 3.5. I went on to a four-year university, under the guidance that it was my only option for a chance towards a successful future. My family and I immigrated to the United States when I was four years old. We were forced to flee a 30-year-long civil war in Sudan. When we immigrated in November of 2003, my whole world changed forever. For generations, my family had suffered and survived colonial and post-colonial Africa. Though I was not born in the U.S., I was amongst a unique group known as first-generation immigrants. That meant my education and success weren’t just for me alone, but to uplift an entire village. 

My sophomore year of college I made the tough decision to leave school. It broke my family’s hearts. I had gotten to a place in my life where I truly started to question life — “Why do we do what we do?” 

It led me to realize I was not living my life for myself. I was living it for others- to which I feel like most of us can relate. That led me to question my purpose, which then decreased my drive and motivation to keep pursuing anything, especially college. Did I even want to study what I was studying?  I hope you see where I am going, I realized I was unhappy. Life is one big domino effect; one area will always affect another. 

Coming to my conclusion wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was something that took time, cause and effect. My freshman year of college I ended with a 2.7 GPA, and that was only because I made a deal with a family member. As long as I maintained a 2.5 GPA, I would get $500 a semester. I earned my $500, but I only did the bare minimum. 

Again, I was not truly doing it for myself. My mental health severely deteriorated as well, but ignorantly I paid no mind to my mind. With a cluster of many changes happening in my life, the only ways I knew how to cope were very unhealthy. All the while trying to fit into societal standards and maintaining the image that everything was okay. Instead of addressing my struggles head-on, I chose to keep myself distracted, which only dug a deeper hole.

 When I chose to leave school, I decided I was going to unlearn everything I thought I knew and learn myself all over again. I decided I knew nothing and life was going to be my next and greatest teacher. I was going to find my purpose, but most importantly I was going to take care of my mental health. 

I started going to therapy. Therapy helped me unpack the generational trauma that I carried around every day. There are always roots to the problems we deal with. I finally accepted and understood that I was hurting and needed to heal, and absolutely nothing was wrong with me.

It’s been about five years, and the results emanate real growth, maturity, and progress. I’m now back on my educational journey, however this time I am better. I have regained confidence in myself, I know who I am outside of what I do. I have a moral foundation that keeps me grounded and pulls me back whenever I feel lost. Knowing your purpose and believing in yourself is the root of success. The world will always sway you. Adversity is no stranger to anyone, and when it comes to you, being prepared; by having a healthy state of mind, a good support system, and belief in yourself is the best way to get through it. 

If you have chosen to pursue higher education, whether you are a first-year or a non-traditional student, have faith in your journey and do it for you. Do it for the future version of yourself, but take care of the version of you right now who is going through it. So when you look back, you’ll be proud of that version of you that was brave and determined. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor. I truly believe that life is full of lessons and that everything is designed to build us into the people we are meant to be.

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