After our brief study session and dinner together at Arrillaga, I hugged my friend goodbye and rushed back to my room. I had to finish an application that was due the next day. Scrolling down the basic demographic info lines, I stumbled upon the section that asked, “why do you want to go to our university?” Should I just be honest and say, “Because I just want to get out of Stanford”?
Having lacked my parents’ presence during a substantial amount of my childhood, I grew up learning that I can depend on no one. Building a sense of total control in life naturally became my defense mechanism at an early age. At Stanford, however, every bit of that sense of self-control was challenged—I no longer am the best in class, I no longer get all perfect grades, I no longer can control what goes on in my surroundings.
Freshman year, I managed to bury these thoughts from all the people around me, even the ones back home. I mean, I go to Stanford; it’s sunny, and everyone is always smiling and having fun; shouldn’t I be also? Studying, friends, student groups, church—these occupied my time, but the blue feelings, the anxieties and the insecurities, they were still all there. The worst part was, I felt like the only one going through it.
At some point, I could not take it anymore and started opening up to a few of my friends vaguely about these feelings. I even talked to my advisor about it, and of course, with teary eyes. To my surprise, I was not the only one experiencing this, but many of my peers, even upperclassmen, were too. But that was not as important to me as realizing that hiding my feelings was not at all a way to solve the problem. I needed to talk about it, to seek help, and by talking to others, maybe I can also help them realize the same.
My sophomore year, I became the iLive coordinator for the A3C. iLive is a series of workshops with small group discussions dedicated to normalizing conversations about mental health issues relevant to Asian Americans. It’s been such a privilege to be able reach out to my peers and more importantly, to connect them to the abundant amount of resources available on campus—CAPS, campus centers, student groups. With every event I coordinate, I learn some valuable lessons myself. I truly believe that our state of mind is equally as important as our physical health, and that the cost of a successful college career is NOT constant anxiety and stress. Everyone deserves to be happy, and a supportive community does exist for him or her.
I still struggle in my classes. I still have a hard time managing my time. Things still do not always turn out the way I want them to. But I learned that it is okay to let loose. And it is okay to seek help.
By the way, I am still at Stanford, and enjoying every bit of it!