Shortly before I started my freshman year at Cal Poly, my parents told me they were getting divorced. It was a decision made almost solely by my dad, and it completely turned my world upside-down. I had never seen them fight in my life, and as far as I had known they had a great marriage. We had just returned from a week-long family vacation together. The same day they told me this shocking news, my dad moved two hours away. Within a month or so I had to leave everything I knew behind, including my little sister who would now have to go through this alone. Socially, this experience made coming to college more difficult. I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life while simultaneously trying to make new friends, and I had nobody I could talk to. Academically, it made it harder to focus on school. The first quarter of freshman year is already extremely difficult as college requires a much heavier workload, and this only added weight onto that. In terms of my family, the hardest part was knowing my sister was at home without me, and that this was probably ten times more difficult for her. I wanted to be there more than anything but couldn’t. I think the hardest part of it all has been missing having a normal family without drama and tension. Now every holiday, every visit home, and every vacation is tinted by the divorce. I wish I had appreciated the simplicity of my life before and the beauty of a holiday involving every person I love being together.
I have handled this challenge by working hard in all aspects of my life, going to counseling, and reminding myself how lucky I am. During the first few months of the divorce, I found a lot of joy in working extremely hard in school and getting involved at Cal Poly. I found that by giving myself something to work towards I was starting to feel more like myself again and to be happy. I also went to counseling to talk everything through, which helped some. Last, I reminded myself how lucky I am to still have two parents who love me. In reality, much worse things than what happened to me can happen. I both reminded myself of this and made sure that I didn’t let it make me discount my own pain or struggle. Additionally, a great deal of credit goes to my sorority, Chi Omega. I was skeptical about joining a sorority, especially with all of the change already happening in my life. Luckily I decided to go through rush and join Chi Omega, and I ended up making the most amazing friends in the world. Even though it took some time before I could lean on them, just having them there made a huge difference.
I felt like it would be inappropriate to share on social media. Nobody else posts about things like this, so it made me feel like I shouldn’t, either. I also didn’t want everybody to know what I was going through. I chose to instead have a few select friends know so that I could have them there to support me. In a general sense of social media, I believe people see others looking practically perfect on their social media, and therefore want and feel pressured to project that same image. It’s easier to put up a front than to be honest and vulnerable, which is pretty disappointing. I’m not sure what it would look like if I were to share this on social media, but I would probably post a picture of my family and say something along the lines of “As some of you may know, my parents recently decided to get divorced…” and tell a bit of my story. I honestly think the overall effect would be positive because I would (hopefully) come to realize the number of people who care and are there for me. Despite this potential positive effect, I have not shared about it, but my mom posted about it on Facebook and received almost a hundred comments from her friends supporting her. Many also reached out individually.
To someone going through something similar, I would say that it’s important to reach out. This is something I am terrible at and wish I had done during this time. I tend to keep things bottled up and to be too scared to ask for support, when in reality people want nothing more than to be there for you and to help you if you are hurting. Reach out to your friends; text them and say “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m going through something right now and I’m really going to need you during these next few days/weeks.” I promise you, no matter how dark it may seem, you are not alone.