Colgate After A Gap Year

I struggled with mental illness long before I ever knew what the word anxiety meant, or that being completely unable to focus was abnormal. In high school, I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect and take everything—from a bad paper grade to a college rejection—as a reflection of my worth and intelligence as an individual.

I thought being done with the stress of high school would immediately make me back to “normal.” I realized, however, that anxiety is so much deeper than being overly stressed or putting pressure on yourself.

By mid-July, before my first semester at college, I had a feeling that a summer break was not going fix my mental health, and I decided to defer from Colgate.

While I had a lot of great experiences during my gap year, from skating in professional ice shows to interning at a women’s nonprofit, it was really difficult to watch everyone else experience college. I thought that I was less intelligent, less capable and less worthy as a individual because I was the only one not in school.

Taking a gap year was not something I ever thought that I would do, and I probably would not have done so if I were more excited about where I was going to school. While things didn’t work out how I thought or wanted them to, I was forced to think about what was best for me. Having a year with free time and new experiences allowed me to grow so much as an individual and learn more about myself than I ever thought I could. I came to Colgate this fall very confident in my ability to be successful and balanced. Most importantly, I was excited to come to campus, which is something I couldn’t say a year ago.

I thought that coming here after my gap year would make my transition and experience faultless, but while there were some aspects that were easier, there have also been many challenges I didn’t expect. The maturity I gained over the last year undoubtedly benefited me in my transition, but I often feel out of place being older than most of my friends. I came here really confident in my ability to succeed academically, but the struggles I had in high school with stress still exist. Finding my place on this campus is an ongoing process as a first-year, but like any transition, it will take time.

The excitement of coming to college blinded me to how hard these last two months would really be. While my excitement made me think everything was perfect at first, the newness has worn off, and I realized there are things about this campus that are far from perfect. I don’t like the patriarchal sexual assault culture that largely exists in Colgate’s social scene, among other problems with xenophobia on this campus. Coming from a highly middle class, racially, religiously and socioeconomically diverse public school system in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Colgate is a really new and different place for me.

While many of the negative stereotypes of Colgate are true in my experience thus far, so are many of the positive ones. There are a lot of people here who are like me and who are genuinely passionate about change, and that makes me glad to be here.

Contact Kirby Goodman at [email protected].