Now that I am in my final semester of undergraduate education (where did the last 4 years go??), I have been thinking a lot about my future. Specifically, I have been thinking about how I am going to take charge of my life.
Over the last 4 years I’ve become extremely comfortable in my college environment. I’ve always been overly-introverted and I had a lot of trouble making friends when I was younger. I also don’t deal with change very well because of my anxiety. But here, at Ithaca College, I have found friends who are truly wonderful people. I have my favorite restaurants, and my favorite spots to sit and think or read when I need to calm down (such as a beautiful little pond by our school’s chapel). I’m really happy here! And thinking about leaving this life that I’ve not only become adjusted to, but enjoy, can feel so overwhelming to me!
I’m not the kind of girl who seems like a leader when you first meet me. Or maybe even after you know me pretty well, for that matter. I keep to myself, and I’m passive… I can come off as a “follower” for sure. So with all of this swirling around in my head, I’ve been thinking that I’m not ready for the real world! But you know what I’ve realized? I may not be the best at giving charismatic speeches that will move the masses, and I may not be the person who jumps up and takes charge of plans on my own, but I have my own way of leading.
I’ve found within the last few years that one of my biggest passions in life is mental health, and I have become involved in this field through classes and extracurricular activities. I’ve joined IC’s chapter of Active Minds, which is a national organization that fights the stigma against mental illness. This is something that I’m passionate about. I am on the executive board for this chapter, and my co-chair and I setup panels for classrooms in which we and other panelists discuss our experiences with mental illness. We open up a conversation that often goes untouched in classrooms. We let the students ask us questions at the end. I’ve talked about my history of sexual abuse and subsequent mental illness in intimate settings, in front of only 10 other people, as well as lecture halls full of well over a hundred students. And the responses that we get are overwhelming. People tell us that these panels have changed the way they think, and that’s the most amazing feeling. Just knowing that you’re changing something—even if it’s only one person at a time—is unlike anything else.
I’ve also used this passion for mental health to help some of my close friends when they are struggling. I’ve had to talk several friends down from suicidal thoughts in the past few years, and those experiences will never be forgotten by myself or those friends.
I have a goal that someday the world won’t look down on mental illness with such a negative stigma. No one will be ashamed to seek help, and likewise no one will be ashamed to say that they suffer from a mental illness. I realize how farfetched this dream seems, and I also realize that I could never accomplish this by myself. But every step that every person makes matters.
Even if this looks minuscule in the grand scheme of things, I’m changing something; I’m making my own contributions, tiny as they may seem, and helping to lead something in a new direction. So I am going to grad school for Mental Health Counseling in the fall, and I’m trying not to think “I’m not good enough for this,” or “I’m not strong enough to make a difference,” because EVERYBODY is good enough; everybody is strong enough to change something.
You may not think of yourself as a leader, but you ARE. All of us have passions and as human beings, we naturally work toward them! What do you do that leads people in one way or another?
Whether you’re the “typical” leader or not doesn’t matter—you can always make a difference.
LeadHer™ Intern, Campus Calm™
Learn more about Allie here.