I took a semester off on a Personal Leave of Absence.
The longer version:
I went home on my semester off and primarily did two things.
1. I underwent trauma therapy and got diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). I spent a lot of time having conversations with my therapist, my family, and myself about my wellness and mental health at school. I learned a ton about myself, processed a lot of stuff about being a student and feeling inadequate and finally made some sense out of that and reached a certain place of acceptance with all of it. I learned a ton of coping mechanisms and overall got the help I needed. More importantly, I learned how to take care of myself and be comfortable being me, with all that that entails, and am ready to return to class and campus this Fall.
2. While being home and going to therapy, I worked as an assistant in the school system I grew up in. I am not a first generation student, nor do I think I technically qualify as a low-income student, but I was raised by a single mother who was a public school teacher in a post-industrial urban city, and my home and my experiences reflect that of someone resting on the working/middle class divide. I confronted a lot of my personal history in my job role, thinking critically about my upbringing and my privilege as a white woman growing up in the inner city (and how that privilege worked to get me to Oberlin), and at the same time about how I struggle to be in this space when everyone I relate to, everyone where I come from, is not represented at this institution. I don't want to pursue a career in Education, but I gained so much from the experience and wouldn't trade it for the world. And I have the utmost respect and admiration for people like Alex who are pursuing Education and making discoveries and addressing realities in that field. I will never not be from Lansing, MI, and I will never be exempt from all that resides within that fact, but I am here now and worked hard hard to be here, and I should not let others make me feel like I deserve to be here any less than them. So that was one big lesson I took away with me from working at the school. There were a bunch more, those kids taught me a lot, so I'll save that for another day and another blog post.
For today, I am happy to be back in Oberlin. And I look forward to engaging in conversations with my fellow students and my Administration about who gets to be back in Oberlin. Who is deemed worthy of this incredible education? Who is making those decisions? How are we making our students who don't feel worthy (be it for mental/emotional health reasons, from carrying identities that are not historically granted this degree of academic privilege, or for a combination of these or other reasons), how are we making them feel appreciated and cared about on this campus? These are conversations I feel deserve to be had critically on this campus and in the comments below.
Take care of yourselves, the first week of classes is upon us.