I Am

In an Unfamiliar Place

Photo Credit: Ed Betz

While Salve Regina was the “school of my dreams,” unfortunately I couldn’t use that fact as the sole reason for making my college decision. I had also decided I wanted to become a secondary education biology teacher with a special education certificate, but studying in Rhode Island would only make sense if I also wanted to teach in that state.

But today I realize that the decision was influenced by another factor. I was terrified of living away from home. At that point, I had never spent two consecutive nights away from home, and I wasn’t ready to deal with being away for months at a time. While I did have some good rationalizations for not attending Salve Regina, this fear was the main reason I didn’t go out of state.


In May 2010, I made a decision to go to Dowling College on Long Island. I could commute from home every day. At the time, Dowling was known for its education programs, and it would also make it easier to transition to teaching positions on Long Island.


My first year in college, I felt I was back in kindergarten all over again. I was very uncomfortable in these new surroundings. My assignments for my English class felt insurmountable, even though, in retrospect, they weren’t that different from my high school work.

At the same time, I was working on getting my license. I drove to school and back with my dad in the passenger seat. The drive made me really feel the change in distance; I knew that I was now 30 minutes away from home versus the 10 minutes I was in high school.

While I was on campus, I deliberately starved myself because I developed a fear of getting sick while I was at school. The only thing I ate in the morning was a banana. During the day I would eat a bag of nuts and trail mix. I brought water with me, but I did not drink it. By the time I would got home if was later in the afternoon or early evening, I would gobble down everything that I could get ahold of. I began to get sick even more than I used to when I was in highschool. I can recall a weekend when I was so weak and exhausted that I stayed in bed the whole day.

The combination of these experiences was overwhelming. I felt bound, like an outside force was constricting and suffocating me, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. It wasn’t until several years later that I learned the name for this feeling: anxiety.

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