I have had a plan since I was in kindergarten. The plan was simple: graduate from high school, go to college, become a teacher, buy a house, get married, and have a perfect family.
When I made this plan, I didn’t really know what mental illness was. I didn’t know that depression and anxiety run in my family. I didn’t know that I would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) twice by the age of 17. I didn’t know that by the age of 18 I would be on medication to help me deal with depression and anxiety.
These realities threw my plans into the air. For a while, I didn’t expect to finish 11th grade, let alone graduate.
With PTSD, you never know what is going to trigger it. It could be the sound of someone’s voice, a smell, a place, or even a word said a certain way. You can’t predict when you are going to be in a situation that will trigger you. Sometimes you end up having a flashback in the middle of Walmart.
My junior year of high school was a hard year for me. I was dealing with untreated depression and anxiety. It was no fault of my parents. I refused to tell anyone how bad I was feeling. I told myself, “It could be worse.”
During this period of unresolved issues, in school I was doing the bare minimum to get by. I was still passing everything with Cs or better, because that is what I expected from myself. I struggle with being a perfectionist and overachiever.
My entire senior year of high school was spent online due to COVID. In September, I finally told my parents that I was having issues with my mental health. I was put into therapy and on medication to treat depression and anxiety.
I started feeling so much better. I wasn’t doing the bare minimum anymore. I was actually putting in the effort and started getting As and Bs like I was before.
Senior year ended up being my easiest year of high school. I had classes I liked and dropped the ones I did not. I was able to learn more about what I wanted to change in education, such as the inequities that people of color face in their schooling.
During my final year of high school, I got used to the idea that I had no idea what I was doing. Would I be accepted into college? Did I want to be a teacher or a psychologist? Would I move out or live at home?
I did not have a plan anymore. I did not know what was going to happen.
In this process, I was working toward the realization that no one knows what they are doing — and that is okay.
Today, I know a little more. I will go to Fond du Lac Community College this fall to get my A.A. and my Ojibwe language certificate. I want to attend a four-year college after that, maybe in Duluth. I hope to become an English and Ojibwe language teacher for high school students.
I am learning to “go with the flow” while not being afraid to set some goals. It is not necessarily a plan, but something to work towards.
I don’t know what I am doing and that’s okay.