I remember sitting in my 10th grade honors English class–where many Mercy students now go to record music in the studios–passing around the short stories we had written for homework. Mrs. Whelan, our bubbly, and somewhat eccentric teacher was always gushing with praise and admiration for my work.
Mrs. Whelan was like me; she had a thing for vocabulary. Two years of high school English classes were spent religiously studying our pocket-sized workbooks drilling vocab words into our brains for weekly tests. Interspersed between reading Shakespearian plays and memorizing vocabulary, we would submit short creative writing assignments to showcase our skills and flaunt those fancy new words.
This was always my favorite part of English class. I loved writing, and I loved having the freedom to create a story from scratch with little to no guidelines. When it came time for everyone to share their work, I never hesitated. Our class was close and supportive. You could feel that everyone was genuinely rooting for one another. Mrs. Whelan and my classmates’ kind words encouraged me to take risks, push the limits of my creativity and feel confident in using sophisticated language. I knew I was already a good writer, so I pushed myself to be even better.
When the news came that Our Lady of Victory Academy would be closing at the conclusion of my sophomore year, we were all devastated. Teachers and students alike were shocked and deeply upset by the news and the realization that we would have to move on from a school we had grown to love so deeply. The realization hit me like a brick wall. Scrambling to enroll in another school before the few other Catholic girls high schools in the area filled up, my mother and I hastily enrolled me into Maria Regina High School.
It was so upsetting. Thoughts swirled in my head, “Will they accept me? I never wanted to go there to begin with. Will the teachers be as friendly as they were at Victory? Why is this happening? Am I good enough?”
Fast-forward to 11th grade. To make a long story short, in transitioning to Maria Regina, I had developed a severe, debilitating anxiety issue and found it extremely difficult just to sit through class each day. Just going to school became a mental battle. My insecurities and feelings of self-doubt clouded my mind, drowning out anything else. It was genuinely exhausting.
As you can imagine, my grades took quite a dramatic plunge between the first and last two years of my high school career. This, paired with a new high school environment where teachers were far from as encouraging as they were at Victory, and a clique-y (all girl) student body that was noticeably more divided than my first school, really took a toll on my self-confidence.
Aside from all that, I had lost all my energy and motivation to write and create. I was forced to spend so much of my time making up classwork, studying for SAT’s, and going to dance rehearsals that I was too tired to write for myself.
Unfortunately, this trend continued for quite some time. My anxiety did become much more manageable at the tail end of my senior year of high school, but I still had such overwhelming feelings of mental exhaustion that I felt my creativity had been drained out of me.
This story may seem quite grim, and truthfully, it was for a long time. However, there was a silver lining I wasn’t be able to see until I had lived the experience. I used to roll my eyes at people who’d casually exclaim, “Everything happens for a reason!” whenever distressing situations came about. After high school, my opinion began to change.
I had just gone through the hardest two years of my life, and made it out–bruised, but still breathing. Through all the stress and anxiety and feelings of inadequacy at why I couldn’t just be “good enough” to go to class like a normal kid, I realized how much stronger I had become. I didn’t crumble and give up. I didn’t drop out of high school. I pushed myself to keep going and work through my anxieties. The light at the end of the tunnel became the feeling of empowerment I gained.
Anxiety is still an issue I deal with frequently, but now I have the proper insight and tools to deal with it. My experience in high school became a mental tool I could use to deal with stressful situations in the future. (And there would be plenty of them still to come!)
Fast-forward once more, at 21-years-old, after attending three separate colleges (okay, one was only for like two months) I am beginning to appreciate my past experiences for what their outcomes have given me. My college career has been rocky, but bundled with some of the greatest times of my life. I’ve learned more and experienced more personal growth than I ever thought possible. My passion for writing has been reignited, I’m working as an intern for my dream job at Complex, and my hard work is beginning to pay off. All because I pushed through, and remembered that I am good enough.
Believe me, I am definitely not trying to put on some “holier than thou” persona for the purpose of this anecdote. I regularly use expressions like, “put me in the trash,” and, “I’m dead inside,” on practically a daily basis… However, I think it is worth sharing that even in our darkest moments when we think we’re just not good enough to handle whatever life is throwing at us, we will soon be able to use this experience to our advantage. All we have to do is remember: we are good enough.