What has college taught you? Honestly, I don’t know if I will ever have a concise answer, and I am okay with that. I owe thanks to so many individuals who have helped me develop into a confident Black man. Four years definitely go by fast and before you know it, you are starting another chapter in your life. I remember my first day on campus: anxious to know where I would be in the next four years. With joy, I admit I was wrong about how I thought my college experience would go. All I can do is smile as I reflect on what I was able to accomplish, but it was not easy in the beginning.
I was battle-tested every step of the way. I was a college freshman excited to be away from home and turn to myself when making adult decisions. A faulty self-identity, horrible study habits and the organizational skills of an absolute novice. Seemingly, this was a recipe for disaster. I was shy, modest and lacked confidence in myself that anytime I did something great, in fact it was not good enough. I questioned who I was. As my psychology courses became more advanced, more often than not, I was the only African American male. No matter how much I wanted to deny that influence had on my comfortability, I had no choice but to acknowledge it within myself. Rather than seeing a barrier between myself and peers, I chose to identify that I was there for a reason. I wasn’t the first African American male studying psychology, and I know I would not be the last, but for a moment, how could I create a platform? I challenged myself to explore the ‘why’ questions. Why was I unaware of the careers Psychology could produce, yet I knew about every STEM field? Why, when I tell people I’m studying psychology, they answer, “oh, you want to study crazy people?” Why do African Americans, like other minorities, have a tough time emotionally expressing themselves? These why questions drove me insane. Yet there I was obsessed with wanting to know the answers to these questions. I found beauty in the madness. Passion in the chaos and when that lightbulb finally clicked for me, I was determined to learn more about community well-being research and mental health awareness.
Studying Psychology has expanded my knowledge of practical life and nourished my thoughts such that I felt no ideas were too large. Every day I find myself applying theories and phenomena to my daily life. Psychology somehow gifted me with a sense of purpose, belief and curiosity about how others felt. I became more in-tuned with my emotions and allowed myself to express my true inner being to those around me. I did not have to fit a certain mold of masculinity or whatever social media deemed appropriate.
When push came to shove, I stood true in adversity and transcended my previous limitations. I suppose college made me more of who I already was. An introspective thinker ready to implement innovative ideas about mental health awareness. Subconsciously, I knew I deserved a seat at the table. However, I had to take the mantle and stand firm in my capabilities as a student, mental health awareness advocate and aspiring researcher. I had the opportunity to be a Mcnair Scholar, Opinion Editor for a student publication and an undergraduate researcher. Furthermore, I was a student panelist for a few mental health organizations, featured in several national news outlets and even on television. Damn, it feels good to take a step back and submerge myself in what I accomplished in four years. I feel validated that I, in fact, was good enough and capable.
I do believe in fairytales and throughout all the trials and tribulations, I feel complete as I write this to you. While a good conclusion is an important ingredient for a story, I know this is not the end. You may see me on your television screen, book, or who knows where else. However, just know you will identify me at the frontlines standing for what I believe in. Four years is a lot of time for something to go wrong, and yet a lot went right.