This op-ed is a senior op-ed for a Newswire staff member.
College wasn’t what I expected it to be. I don’t think it is for any of us, but for me, the end result is drastically different from what I envisioned when I first arrived on campus. I never expected to change my career path. I never expected to make so many friends and just as many enemies. I also never expected that I would end up disliking my college experience.
I don’t say that to discount the amazing experiences I did get to have here. I made amazing lifelong friends that I will never forget. I fully and proudly embraced my identity as a gay man and came out to my entire family. I succeeded in my classes. I stage managed a heck of a lot of shows to varying degrees of success. Most importantly, though, I learned to prioritize myself and take care of myself.
The unfortunate part is that I learned too late that I was pushing myself too hard. I had too many obligations and not enough hours in the day to fulfill them. I was burnt out by the end of my freshman year, but that burnout only burned harder and faster as I kept catapulting myself into the next project, the next assignment and the next job. It wasn’t until my senior year that I really sat down and had a conversation with myself about what I wanted out of life and what I was doing it all for.
This led to many major changes. I stopped saying “yes” when people asked for help. I stopped apologizing as much. I withdrew from the various communities of which I was a part. I focused on improving my mental health, which took the hardest hit during my four years. I realized that I wasn’t happy with the industry I was going into. I also realized that this university may not have been the perfect choice for me.
Xavier has many great qualities that drew me in, but I watched a lot of damage occur to the community that indirectly or directly impacted me. I experienced a major homophobic incident every year I was here and several more minor incidents as well.
I was called a “faggot.” I wasn’t the only gay man on campus who had this experience. I saw one of my closest friends drop out of college because he was tormented by members of the student body for being transgender. I watched two racist incidents tear apart the fabric of our community. I watched and am still watching a growing sentiment of sexism pervade our student body.
These incidents are not to be taken lightly, and the university itself has done a fantastic job of addressing them and providing solutions. However, as a student body, we have failed.
We dropped the ball. Every talk, every presentation and every forum we hold is meaningless if the only people going to them are the ones who didn’t want the problem to occur in the first place. The people who need to go are the ones who don’t because they don’t see the error of their ways.
What saddens me the most is that I came to Xavier with optimism and hope. Having come from a public school in rural Ohio, a place where I faced constant discrimination, I expected Xavier to be my beacon of hope. What it turned into was a crushing weight that held down my potential in more ways than I expected. I wanted to leave with a large community to look back upon. I don’t have that.
Part of that is my own fault. I’m not perfect, and I realize that. I am as fallible, opinionated and biased as the next student. At the end of the day, my actions are the only ones I can control.
I didn’t handle every situation like I should have. I was angry. I was hurt. I was stressed. I was overworked. It felt like the world was against me in every way, and I let that pain in too much. I didn’t acknowledge it and move on. The pain lived inside me and released itself when I felt threatened, passing itself along to whoever was on the receiving end. Only when I practiced forgiveness did I let it go.
My advice as a senior is to forgive yourself and forgive others. That doesn’t mean you need to reconcile with them. But forgive them. Acknowledge what they did, accept that it hurt you and release the pain. Forgive yourself for your feelings and actions, give and accept apologies as you feel necessary and release the pain. Learn from the experience and improve. Hope that they do the same. Treat yourself and others with kindness and love.
Above all, release the pain.
Trever McKenzie is a graduating senior. During his time with the Newswire, he has served as the Online Editor and a copy editor.