Years ago a mentor of mine told me that your college years are a time to be selfish. Similar to the instructions given to every plane passenger before take off, in the event of an emergency you must put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping other passengers secure theirs.
At the time I found it a little disturbing that my life was being compared to a plane crash, but after recent events sent my grades and health into a nosedive the bleak metaphor took on a whole new meaning.
As one of Fresno State’s numerous off-campus transfer students, college has always felt like a part-time job. I attend my classes and study in the library but at the end of the day I return to an apartment on the other side of town, and a weekend job waiting tables to afford rent and bills.
My experience is not unusual and although I wish I could live on campus and worry only about school, the struggle to support myself while earning my degree has also been a source of pride for me.
Which is why, a few weeks ago when I found myself moving out of my apartment and in with my brother and sister-in-law and their three boys, I was terrified that I had somehow failed.
I’ll spare you the details of why my living situation fell apart, only that I had begun to focus on the person I was living with while neglecting my own well-being in the process.
So I decided that in order to help those around me I needed to focus on helping myself.
This is where I tell you about the beauty of letting go. About the immense burden that lifted as soon as I reached for my oxygen mask, and the clarity that comes with finally being able to breath.
As a person who battles a bad habit of self-sacrifice, the feeling of selfishness is strange and challenging.
Yet for me, the most difficult part of walking away from a toxic living situation was realizing that you can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no.
I decided to prioritize my education and my sanity because self-care is not a form of self-indulgence but instead a form of self-respect.
Living with family has been an amazing change. My nephews are a constant source of joy and laughter. And although they wake up at 5 a.m. and begin their day playing loudly with trucks and practicing their ninja moves, their energy is infectious.
My brother and sister-in-law are incredibly supportive and caring, turning their music room into a bedroom for me on such short notice.
My grades have improved. I no longer feel like my life resembles a plane crash. The changes in my life has given new meaning to the phrase “Sometimes things fall apart, so that better things can fall together.”
And as an added bonus, each morning I am sent off to school with a chorus of hugs and cheers from my sweet nephews, and greeted each night with the same.