Back On My Shit

Hey y'all. What a turbulent, exhaustive few months it has been. My last post was a happy, witchy one that I snuck in right before my Winter term started. And boy, did last term knock me down about eighteen pegs! I am the type of person who feels like 12 credits isn't actually full-time school. I tend to sign myself up for 16 credits as my baseline. I also tend to underestimate the way non-academic things can derail my academic things. These two lesser qualities of mine coincided in an amazing shitstorm this last term, and I'm hardly recovered. But I am here! Buckle up, buttercups. It's a long read. My ten-year life plan for 2008-2018 hinged pretty heavily on my expectation that I would successfully be accepted to Marylhurst University, attend courses there for my undergraduate and my graduate program, and then be able to pursue additional courses in an exchange program. I fell off my plan and spent a few years floundering in the typical young-twenties "what even is life" hot mess stage. After I got through that, I ducked my head down and finished my Associates, made some contacts, and got accepted to Marylhurst. I'd even had an art piece shown there, and really felt like I was this incredible and solitary bird who had suddenly discovered it had a nest to, well, nestle in. It felt like a literal homecoming, and I legitimately cried when I got accepted. My Dad cried when I told him I got accepted. I was over the moon. I had achieved this goal a decade in the making, I was accomplishing my shit, I was successful. And then Marylhurst closed.  It's been nearly a year since the heartbreaking, angering, emotionally overwhelming announcement that MU would close. I feel silly for mourning the loss, but I have to be honest: I am still actively grieving. Most of the time, my initial reaction to hearing someone talk about Marylhurst is to be angry. I feel that my opportunities and my future were stolen from me, in a sense. And occasionally, that anger is directed inward. If I hadn't dicked around after high school and actually stuck to my plan, I would have gotten to attend my dream school. I feel robbed, and slightly dumb. I feel it deeply. But sometimes, I'm just really fucking sad. I'm sad right now. I'm sad when I look at pictures of the campus. I'm sad when I look at the art piece of mine that had lived there for a short time. And I was the most angry and the most sad when I realized I needed to find a new nest, and quickly. 

I managed to take my high regard for MU and distill it to distinct features I could look for elsewhere: small non-urban campus, small class sizes, excellent psychology department, active art community, affordable tuition. I took these bits and compared them to every university in a 60 mile radius. I came up with a short list, and took a stab at my first choice. I was accepted to Linfield College, only to discover that the tuition quoted to me during in-person meetings was incorrect - already at the top of my budget, they now wanted $10k more per year. In addition to this, they also claimed to accept my AAOT, but in transferring the quarter credits to their semester credits, shorted me a partial credit for every undergraduate class, thereby rendering me required to retake every class I'd brought with me. This was salt in the wound that MU's closure had inflicted, and I tactfully requested withdrawal. They graciously refunded my matriculation fee and left me a little worse for the wear, but intact. 

I then set my sights on Western Oregon University. I was accepted, but I also moved to Tigard, which meant my acceptance letter went to the wrong address, was redirected via USPS and arrived a few days after Fall Term had begun. I made the executive decision to postpone attending until Winter Term, so that I could properly file paperwork and get better prepared. Waiting a term to begin my Bachelor's coursework was an imperfect solution, but the best available solution.

Now, I have anxiety and depression. I'm not secretive about these two things, because they're not things to be ashamed of, and knowledge of their existence is my best tool to combat their sneaky attempts to take over my life. These disorders tend to crop up the worst during the dark months of Winter, particularly after the Christmas hype has waned. The older I get, the rougher my Winter seems to be. This year was no different. Starting my first term at a new college that is 58 miles from my home while battling my comorbid disorders was a challenge I thought I was prepared for. Pro tip: Don't do it.

I underestimated how my life would change just with my commute alone. I went from commuting 3 hours a week to commuting 12. I spend long periods of time alone in my car, which gives me a lot of time to think. I generally enjoy this time, but when I'm battling anxiety and depression, that loooong time alone in my brain is daunting. I've found myself increasingly becoming panicky at the prospect of having to leave my house, and I think it's directly related to how many hours I now have to spend away from home. 

I underestimated how much I was going to miss my friends. CCC brought me together with a genuine, loving, thoughtful community of artists and mentors that my heartstrings are all wrapped up in. I really feel like a part of my soul is rooted to the CCC campus. I was gifted with a wonderful group of people who cared, who challenged, who created and supported and shared and inspired. And then I began my term at WOU and realized I wasn't going to school with any of my friends anymore. I spent quite a few drives sobbing because I missed my group. And then I had to turn around and wipe the tears and make myself not be the anxious-depressive version of Catherine, so that I could begin building a new group. It was EXHAUSTING. Rewarding in the end, but E X H A U S T I N G. 

I underestimated how much was going to be required of me academically at the upper division level. I launched into my 16 credits with plans, and those plans disintegrated by week 4. I barely scraped a passing grade in two of my courses and was incredibly disappointed in myself. I had spent two years cultivating a nearly perfect track record in order to help repair my GPA. Those habits should have carried me to a better term cumulative GPA than I achieved, and my self-esteem really took a hit. The worst part? I am the only one to blame. The worser worst part? Aaron TOTALLY warned me, and I ignored him because I hate when he's right. I'm the worsest worst part of the whole equation! (I definitely apologized to him after the fact. He was very gracious and only quipped a mild told-ya-so. I'm really blessed with the best husband.)

So, that was my shitstorm. BUT WAIT! There's light at the end of this tunnel. It's hella dim, but it's there...

WOU is the nest I was looking for. The drive is hellish, but stepping onto campus makes the anxiety wane a little. The buildings are beautiful, there are trees, the road is quiet, things are in walking distance. I love it there. I found a place that had the features I loved about MU. It comes at the cost of my commute, but I'm slowly discovering ways to temper the drive. 

WOU also has a group of people who are meant for me. I've made friends. Real, genuine friends who care, who challenge, who create and support and share and inspire. People who contact me when I miss class to check on me. People I look forward to seeing. People I share my innermost thoughts with. I've been gifted again with a community. It's small, but I have one. (Kyle, Naomi, Kat, Sabrina - if you're reading this, thank you. Really sappy gooey squishy thank you.) You're a wonderful group of genuine, loving, thoughtful artists.

Finally, WOU is a university that places a significant amount of importance on student support. Counseling is free with the required health fee every term. Disability accommodations are staggeringly vast. There's an entire team devoted to Student Success who will reach out when they notice you're struggling and ask how to help. It's a campus where I feel seen and valued, and that is really motivating. 

To cap this off, I was able to spend my Spring Break in Seattle with the WOU Art and Design club. I spent a lot of time mulling over my intentions for this college, for my future, and what I wanted out of my education. This helped me really focus my new goals; after all, I'm on my NEW ten-year life plan for 2019-2029! I've made changes to my work schedule, my homework schedule, and my social calendar. I'm still figuring out my sleep schedule (anxiety and depression wreak havoc on it) but I am doing much better than I was. I have my plans. I have accountability partners. I am BACK ON MY SHIT! 

So, this long-winded post was to update those of you who might have noticed my unintended four-month absence. Thanks for riding along! I've been remiss in renewing my Etsy listings and posting content. I've also been unable to devote time to painting, as my coursework had me constantly busy. That said, I'd like to offer you guys a unique deal. Have you seen a piece on my Etsy or in my Instagram feed that you vibed with, but couldn't afford? Shoot me a DM with a price you're able to comfortably pay, and we'll hammer out shipping details. If it's a piece that's no longer available, we'll figure something else out. It's a direct through Facebook or Instagram deal - you gotta talk to me if you want a piece. Don't feel ashamed if your price is 'low' - I'm interested in providing art that's affordable. Affordable looks different for everyone. :) I'll hope to hear from you! xo,  Cate

#accomplishment #depression #anxiety #college

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