Dearest Darlings of Various Ages,
Gather round with your quilts and cocoa (I guess spring is cancelled for this year?) because Mama Z is about to tell one hell of a story. Firstly, younglings (and parentlings?), I would like to apologize for my long absence. Believe me when I say I have missed your cyber-faces and curious inquiries about life at this teeny-tiny college in the bluffs.
College is scary.
Yeah, I know, I can hear you rolling your eyes all the way from here - but wait. It’s true. Once you get over the fluttery feeling in your knees/stomach/heart region, something starts to crack in you. It’s like accidentally stepping on a piece of chalk when you feel its feeble resistance under your shoe and your little sister is yelling at you because your mom is definitely not going to buy you another pack of sidewalk chalk, especially since the last time you drew on the driveway, you chose some less than savoury words - but it’s too late.
College makes you feel sick to your stomach and scared in a way that makes you want to curl into your mama’s chest until you feel better.
And that’s normal. Now, I know you think this won’t happen to you, but if (when) it does, remember that you are wonderful and smart and your family is proud to know you.
But yeah, the first months are like an awkwardly long stay at sleep-away camp. You want to make new friends, but not really. You want to try new activities, but not really. You want to talk to cuties, but not really. You want a shoulder to cry on and you want a hug and you don’t want to get those things from someone who’s only known you for a few weeks, but not really.
First semester was a challenge and I’m not going to sugar coat it. When you add some undesirably complicated situations at home and a hefty amount of pride that doesn’t make asking for help easy, it gets hard to find good things to write about being here. I don’t want to lie to you, internet-listeners, because genuine truth is what you deserve.
So here it is:
1. Being a young person of color on this campus will put you in no small amount of situations where the ignorance of your peers (and a few of your professors) will send you reeling. Find someone in the Diversity Center when that happens. They understand.
2. There are days that going to the cafeteria just might be too much for you because no one is ever quiet and it sucks being alone at a table just because you’re too afraid to ask some girl you vaguely recognize from one of you classes if you can sit with her.
3. If you do not come from money, you may grow to resent your peers who do. (Be gentle with them; they don’t know any better. Also, name brands don’t determine shit about your character or intellect or status as a beloved member of the class of 20-whatever)
4. You will put off calling home because the pain in the back of your throat when you realize how ungrateful you were for little things (notes in your lunch, goodbye kisses on the cheek, not having to buy your own food) isn’t eclipsed by the fun you’re having on the weekends.
5. One night (or a few nights) you’ll get an email from home and it’ll contain a photo of your puppy or an indication that life is continuing without you, and you’ll cry. You’ll sit in the caf and cry your eyes out.
6. You will find yourself stopping on campus at the walkway between Farwell and The Union, just to look at the stars. You might think they’re laughing at you.
7. Some mornings you will wake up tired to your bones and hell, how are you supposed to go to class if you’re not even 100% sure you can get dressed?
8. You might want to die.
And, my loves, number eight is what I want to talk to you about. I know it’s heavy for a family/community-centric platform, but I need you to know what happened.
As I explained earlier, first semester wasn’t all roses for me, and the holidays didn’t exactly grant me everlasting fortitude. I was, thankfully, connected to the amazing Marty Steele in Health Services, but I was (and am) suffering from a depression that just wouldn't go away. I kept waiting until I felt better to write to you all, because I want you to smile and laugh and be excited about your glorious futures, but I kept not feeling better.
In fact, I felt worse.
This February I had the amazing opportunity to be in The Vagina Monologues (Which I expect to see you at next Valentine’s weekend) and I performed a monologue about a young woman who was raped during war time. Now, I won’t go into gory details, but my ability to compartmentalize traumas disintegrated while I was onstage during the second show. I broke character while not breaking character - I began to cry while delivering my monologue.
That weekend hit me like a hurricane - it’s all a blur now, the immense highs of post-performance adrenaline contrasting the deep pain and aloneness that gnawed at me whenever I was alone.
The following Monday, I took thirty seven Zoloft and crossed my fingers.
Now this, boys and girls, is where I’ll skip to the (relatively) happy ending. If you’re terribly concerned about what transpired during The Thing, you can ask. I just don’t want to overload you.
When I came back to campus, I felt like everyone knew. I thought everyone who looked at me (the professors I’ve been lucky enough to have, the people I’ve met during my months here, the kind women in the Student Post Office) could smell the cowardice on me.
And that’s the thing about being depressed - it swallows you while leaving you exposed. It puts its boot to your throat on a crowded street and people just think you’re stargazing at three in the afternoon.
Children (and this time, I address all of you - we are all someone’s child, really.), you are not alone. I can testify to you that while you might see no possible end to your agony, there are so many people here who will fight to keep you alive until you reach bluer skies.
Your professors will not hate you.
Your roommate will not hate you.
Your family will not hate you.
I will not hate you.
So, my loves, I will leave you with this: If you, or you know on campus (this applies to all you prospies, too) struggles with depression or anxiety, seek help. Your R.A., your Hall Director, and the whole crew at Health and Counseling Services would rather see light in your eyes than attend a memorial service for someone as interesting, captivating, and vital as you.
Julie Chamberlain-Torkelson and the other student bloggers in Admissions, please accept my apology. There is no way I can turn back time and be what you needed (and what I wanted) me to be.
To Diane and Janet and Mary and everyone in the back half of Larsen Hall, you are lights in my life. Thank you.
Stay strong, my brothers and sisters, for your help draws nigh.
All my love,
Zora B. Hurst
(If you would like to contact me for more information about any part of my journey, or if you just need an ear; call or text me: 319.359.9304)