Thrive on Campus//

Reframing How I Saw Friendship Drastically Improved My Well-Being

For your own well-being, look for loyalty, loyalty, loyalty.

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Shutterstock

Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.

I always imagined this piece to be an “I proved you wrong” to all my nonexistent haters. After listing out all that I’ve been through over the past five years — where are all my super seniors at? — I would say “I did it.” I overcame! Of course, that sentiment is there, and it’s always one to rely on when you just can’t see the light. In that type of reflection, what I would omit is the fact that I have to give a presentation in Spanish that will make or break whether I pass the course or not — whether I graduate or not. God knows I’m not coming back if I don’t. However, I do feel a rare surge of confidence. Things will be alright. Even if the best possible outcome isn’t what happens.

I am a Cornell student. Hopefully soon I will be an alumnus. As much as I front an insecure image of being someone that doesn’t care about what others think of me, the truth is I am deeply influenced by what I’ve heard countless times from my fellow Cornellians. In spite of  X, I overcame — copy and paste that to each graduate school application. There is nothing wrong with crafting a life story, it is a human thing to seek meaning. But I’ve learned that intense pressure to overcome our struggles is not healthy. It’s not. In a theatrical production, the rising action consists of the events that lead to the climax. For a lot of us, that rising action is getting accepted to Cornell, and once we’re here, we are told there is nowhere to go but up. We received a ticket to being the brightest, most passionate leaders of America and the world. Read the fine print: Your days of screwing up stop here. But they don’t. Somehow, despite our refined abilities to analyze oppression in society, we fail to recognize that we are members of that society too, struggling to get by.

It has been about seven months since I escaped from an abusive boyfriend — my first one. The aftermath led to this year being one of, if not the hardest, year at Cornell for me. That’s saying something. I am still hesitant to speak on the myriad forms of abuse I sustained from him, but I can say that I moved dorms because of it and a few more things. Since the relationship ended, I feel a part of me was wrenched away and I’ll never get it back. The part taken from me could never have been filled by a healthy support system. In fact, I feel the perception of helping me deal with my trauma drew people away from me because they didn’t have the time. Mix in the fact of how intimate relationship abuse is even more silenced within the queer community and you get a recipe for deep estrangement, which I am no stranger to. I believe that this situation is a pure example of how we repress reality, in our own lives and others. “Allyship” doesn’t mean much if you can’t be there when we need you.

You do not need many people that make up your support system, but they all must be genuine. I have my person, and she has pushed me through this year despite the fact that our only interactions were digital. We were both suicidal when we met, and now that bond is truly what helps me realize life is worth it when I really need to. Cornell is a cold place, literally and figuratively, but if you find your person here, you will survive.

What I wanted to leave with is the advice that we should sacrifice personal gain for stronger relationships. But that is too radical since the forces that push us into blinding individuality are beyond our control, especially at a university like this. But there are certainly some things in our control, like who we choose as our friends. For your own well-being, look for loyalty, loyalty, loyalty. Seek out relationships that will be strengthened, as opposed to strained, in times of hardship. You cannot repress your humanity forever, and you need someone there when that becomes crystal clear. That’s all I have to say. Goodbye Cornell, it’s been real.

Originally published in The Cornell Daily Sun.

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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