I have grown so much, but still have so much room to grow.
Every once in awhile, I take out my FredCard and just stare at it. I look at the 18-year-old version of myself that is depicted, and I can’t help but feel both disappointment and pride in what I see.
The image is a version of me that is approximately fifty pounds lighter. That version of me walked into Gregory Hall on move-in day stoned out his mind and sporting a Justin Bieber haircut and broken glasses. He put on a real big fake smile for the camera.
It sums up everything I was at the time. I was a perceivably happy kid that hid his numerous problems behind an infectious smile that only took five years of wearing braces to achieve. It took years of addiction and mental health issues for me to help myself the way I needed to, but eventually I would get there.
That 18-year-old kid struggled. He was inconsistent in class, inconsistent with his friends, inconsistent with his health and inconsistent with his family. The only constants were depression and drugs, and that seemed to fuel every other aspect of my life being blown up in grand fashion.
It wasn’t until I had gotten better that I fully understood how bad I was. It took me years to recover from everything I lost because of my addiction, and some things I will never get back. I lost thousands of dollars in financial aid because of a low GPA. I lost time because of lacking the motivation to take 15 credits each semester, resulting in my current maintained presence as an undergrad here. Wasted money and time aside, I blew apart a ton of friendships that I will never get back.
It hasn’t all been bad, though. Two weeks from now I will be the first guy on either side of my family to have finished a bachelor’s degree. Seven weeks from now I will be the first guy on either side to attend grad school. I have worked damn hard to achieve status at this paper as the sports editor and on campus as a resident assistant. I am currently doing things that 18-year-old me could have never dreamed of.
Because of these things, I am pretty damn proud of myself. I have accomplished a great deal, and I would be foolish to not see the good that has come in my life.
However, that pride does not surface without a great deal of shame. I am among the most self-destructive people you will ever encounter. Although I have grown substantially in the last five years of my life, it is now more apparent than ever that I have significant room to grow as a person.
My entire adult life has been spent sabotaging my own personal relationships and damaging those around me. This has largely been a by-product of my cycles of depression. As I get torn down inside, I have an incredibly unhealthy tendency to tear those who are close to me down with me.
That being said, one can and should never blame their failures and shortcomings solely on mental illnesses. Using mental illnesses as a crutch to excuse unacceptable behavior is not tolerable. At a certain point it is necessary to own up to your own mistakes and shortcomings.
This is an area that I have experienced tremendous growth in since I arrived at this campus. Recently, I have been much more competent in holding and sustaining interpersonal relationships. However, this semester it became evident to me that I still have a specialty in burning bridges with those who are closest to me for a multitude of reasons.
Erratic behavior is never healthy for anyone involved, and to those whose mine has afflicted this semester and at any point during the past: I am truly sorry. I will never deny responsibility for my actions, and I will never stop trying to better myself. I have plenty of strides to continue making.
The Leader has provided me a purpose over the past four years that I was previously lacking. I’ve been able to identify and pursue my passions in writing and sports. It has done more for me than anything else in my entire existence with regard to finding my true identity as a person. This is very likely to be my final writing for this publication, and I have nothing but good things to say about each and every person that I have worked with here throughout my undergraduate experience.
My biggest fear with leaving The Leader was that next semester I would lose my sense of purpose. I was fearful of losing motivation and passion. Recent events have proven to me that I am still so far from the person I strive to be and that I am still more than capable of embodying everything that I hate.
This has helped me identify a new purpose: me. I am twenty-two years old. I will be twenty-three in June. There is no longer time to burn bridges. There is no longer time to harm those who are important to me. There is no longer time to be a hypocrite.
I am leaving The Leader and am doing as well as perhaps I ever have. Leaving behind one purpose creates room for another. With my departure here, there is only one purpose now for me.
I have yet to drop uncensored profanity in any of my work in the last five years, but now seems to be as good a time as ever.
My time here is done, but it is time for me to be better. I am capable of being better, and I am going to fucking be better. I would encourage everyone to do the same.