The, quite eventful, year of 2016 and my first semester at Gustavus both ended around the same time. This proved to be an apt time to reflect on the many ways the year and my new beginning have shaped me and made me who I am today.
I am not typically one to call a year as a whole a bad year. Typically I end years pretty optimistic about what I’ve done and where I’m going. 2016 was a little different. To me, 2016 was the year of possibilities. I was graduating high school (finally, but boy I did not know what was coming). I became an “adult”. I got to embark on the adventure that we call college. And I had the opportunity to flex my ultimate political muscle and vote in my first presidential election. There were so many opportunities, and none of them went even remarkably close to what I had planned.
Around the time I turned 18 and was graduating high school I underwent what I have come to consider the hardest thing I have ever endured. I began the month of May in a fog, with no motivation, and void of any emotion. I had no idea what was going on and eventually I got to the point where I knew something had to be done. Fast forward a couple weeks and I got the diagnosis: I have General Anxiety Disorder and Depression. Not only did I deal with that around what was supposed to be the most exciting time of my young adult life, but I also contracted Mono. To this day we have no idea where it came from, but there it was. Confining me to the couch and forcing me to sleep for more than 14 hours a day while my friends were enjoying the last few weeks of high school and going from grad party to grad party. I learned to deal with both of these things in time, but had I not gone through this “double-diagnosis” I would not be the strong person I am today.
When it came to college I threw myself into a tizzy trying to decide where to go. I didn’t want to follow the path I felt my parents set out for me (Gustavus) in fear of being to normal (justification to me, I suppose). I wanted to be different in my decision, to stick out. For a while I was set on going to Chicago and living my ultimate urban life. It has always been a dream of mine to live in Chicago and I thought “why not now?” I visited both colleges back to back and ultimately felt a connection to Gustavus I could not find anywhere else and, so far, it has been the best decision, albeit “normal”, I have ever made. I feel at home. I am surrounded by a multitude of friendly, caring people and professors who genuinely want to know how I’m doing. And I’m not 8 hours away from my family and hometown.
And the election, oh the election. I don’t think any of us really saw that outcome coming. I respect everyone’s opinions, but I found myself scared for the future waking up the day after the election knowing what our seemingly great country faces. In this time of uncertainty I am learning to be stronger and use my voice and platforms to try and encourage positive change for everyone. Because at the end of the day, we’re all humans. We all deserve a chance to live a life that isn’t full of hatred and bias. And maybe one day, we will achieve that. But for now we have to keep hoping and fighting that 2017 will bring a different change than we expect.