One of the greatest gifts that recovery has given me is the ability to be a passionate, engaged student.
Prior to recovery, my experience with school looked a lot like this: I would whine on my way to class about having to go (if I even went, that is), then I would arrive to class and be on my phone most of the time, fully believing that the teachers and professors couldn’t see me being completely distracted. After class, I would find a dozen reasons to not do my homework. In fact, during my entire senior year in high school, I did not open my backpack to do homework once while I was at home (instead, I crammed it in during the ten minutes before class). Most of what I cared about within the walls of the school was whose house we were going to later that night, and which friends were most likely to drink with me once we got there.
During my entire senior year in high school, I did not open my backpack to do homework once while I was at home.
Even a short six years later, that life feels almost entirely foreign. Don’t get me wrong, though, it is not as though I entered recovery and became a psyched up student overnight. My college transcript after coming into recovery is rocky at best but, if you look closely, there is an upward trend. Slowly but surely, I was becoming more interested in being a sponge within the classroom (and outside of the classroom, as well). With each passionate professor and peer that I met, the kindling in my gut was given an extra match; more oxygen, if you will. By the time I entered my senior year of college, the kindling had been worked into a small but hopeful fire. Upon suggestion from my mom and encouragement from my partner and friends, I applied to law school.
As a brief aside, it is probably important to know that my brain (and maybe heart, too) have almost always operated on what I can only describe as a double-screen computer desktop. I’d prefer to use a less electronic analogy, but this one came easiest, probably because I am sitting in front of a desktop computer. Maybe this split-screen mindset can be attributed to my Gemini-ness, or maybe it is just part of the human condition. Regardless, on one of these screens exists what I believe to be the truth: You can do this, Bryn; you are enough just the way you are; have compassion even though you are upset, and so on – phrase after phrase of wholesome goodness. On the other screen, however, are the phrases that are easier to buy into: You don’t actually deserve happiness; you certainly don’t deserve a spot in that law school; everyone else understands life more easily than you do, and so on – an endless derogatory monologue.
Despite the gnarly ball of fear in the pit of my stomach, the fire that had been ignited during my undergraduate career was still ablaze.
So, when I was admitted into law school, the screens went absolutely crazy. They were spitting out line after line after line of both positive and negative commentary: You’ve finally found your path, this is it! Followed by, but there’s no way you will actually succeed – you barely made it through college and you’re not that smart. With massive credit owed to my family and friends, I was able to channel a streak of self-love and empowerment and enroll in the University of Maine School of Law’s Class of 2018. Despite the gnarly ball of fear in the pit of my stomach, the fire that had been ignited during my undergraduate career was still ablaze.
On one of the first days of law school, our Criminal Law professor assigned the gigantic packet of reading that we would tackle over the course of the semester. At the end of this packet, which was full of ridiculously dense court opinions, was this simple quote by William Butler Yates:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
I felt my throat get tight and my eyes get puffy, and I got completely choked up as I read and re-read the quote. For the first time in years, I felt wholeheartedly as though I was on the right path. What I had thought for so long was confirmed by Yates’ words: the tedious work that comes with being a student is not the point of getting an education. The heart of the process lies in the moment – or, if you’re lucky, moments – when your soul catches a spark and is awakened. This is not such a rare occurrence, but the version of me in 2011 with a 1.7 GPA would not have believed it possible. Let this story and the story of thousands of other members of collegiate recovery communities paint the picture: this is possible, regardless of the trajectory of your life in this moment.
Life of Purpose is a place like no other because of its dedication to academic pursuits, especially during early recovery. If you or a loved one are seeking treatment and want to incorporate the structure and passion that can come with being a student, call 888-PURPOSE.