I know that I come off as the person on campus who always has something to laugh about, but Grinnell has never been an easy place for me to exist. If I had to sum up these past four years in brief, I would say it has been a winning battle. Not the kind that makes you pump your fist in triumph, but the kind that drains all of your energy so that by the time you’re done all you want to do is sleep for a month.
In my first year I was plagued constantly with the idea that I was a burden to my friends, that I wasn’t capable of developing and maintaining meaningful friendships, that I would always be alone. These obsessive thoughts, which were later identified as OCD, drove me into a consistent state of near-panic, to the point that I was crying several times a day and began to feel that there was no escape.
My privilege, ultimately, saved me: I was able to gain access to mental health resources back home (and more importantly, outside of SHACS) that provided me with the tools I needed to endure the rest of the year.
Since then, things have improved, but new challenges have always sprung up. On top of the lingering ghosts of my obsessions about friendship, which flare up occasionally to remind me that my mind does not function normally, I have also endured the mental health crises of friends, my own sexual and gender identity crises, several bizarre and painful romantic entanglements, the loss of a friend, and on top of it all, the expectations that come with being a full-time student.
Let me be clear, I am not trying to contribute to the culture of competitive suffering here at Grinnell. I am just trying to share as candidly as possible the fact that this is a fucking hard place to be, and that hopefully by putting all of my struggles out in the open, I can put a familiar face on the shitstorm that so many of us experience here. (And I acknowledge that I am coming from a position where I have had access to many resources that others lack. This is just my story.)
And it definitely hasn’t all been negative. Going through tough stuff has, somewhat ironically, helped me to develop some incredibly close relationships built on mutual trust and understanding. I’ve learned that I am capable of overcoming much more than I ever could have imagined was possible. I’ve learned how good communication can make all the difference in a hairy situation. And then there have been the experiences that were genuinely good for me, like writing for the B&S, being part of an improv troupe, and getting drunk for “religious purposes”.
So was it worth it? Probably…? A lot of the struggles that I’ve had have been either internal or a result of being a young person learning to be independent for the first time, rather than Grinnell-specific, so no matter what I’d done after high school, I would have learned many of the same lessons. (That’s not to say that Grinnell has done everything right, of course.) But there’s something unique about this place that allows it to simultaneously be a simmering cesspool of stress and also an oasis of creative self-expression. And for the latter, I am grateful.