When I first start to inquire about returning to school, I walked into the foyer at Berkeley City College and was so overwhelmed, it took another year for me to go back. The first time I was going through a rough patch of my life. I was living in chronic pain, depression and grief whilst surviving an abusive relationship. I had sustained an injury during my career as a massage therapist and was feeling painfully incapacitated, combined with the toxic environment and the tunnel vision of depression, I could not see any way out. At times I was suicidal. I was living in the Bay Area at the time when renting something affordable was becoming impossible and the amount of homeless people seen on the streets growing daily. I started living in a state of fear, living with an unpredictable, violent man who had no problem putting his hands around my throat, throwing me down on the floor and leaving me with bruises or living on the street, unable to work with my disability. Who was this person? Throughout my life people had told me what a strong person I was, fearless even. I was no wallflower. Where was the warrior goddess who has already survived so much? During these dark days I really came to understand the crippling effects of depression and the burning sting of victim shaming. I learned a hell of a lot about domestic violence, how pointless going to court can be and how much work there is to do on a societal level.
One day, driving on the freeway, I saw a giant billboard which said; "Now offering Multimedia Arts at Berkeley City College". It was like an arrow piercing the fog of hopelessness and maybe a way for me to find my feet again. I talked with other friends who had gone back to college and shared with them how I was so overwhelmed the first time, I didn't think I could go back to school. When they explained that they had gone through a similar experience I didn't feel so stupid and with assistance started the first steps. I returned to college at the age of 37 and at that time it was a lifeline.
I have been in school now for five years. It turns out I am a good student. I was on the Dean's list last semester, I am a member of the Phi Theta Kappa and The National Society of Leadership. I am on track to graduate this year and considering a variety of options. My overall goals are;
to facilitate art wellness practices for others, to research the therapeutic effects of ceramics and art journaling, to become proficient at visually communicating important environmental and scientific issues, to support and expand the crucial art of ecofeminism through education and focused art making, to continue to advocate for survivors of domestic violence. In addition I am learning to scuba dive with a goal of participating in coral restoration projects.
When I started on the journey of my college education, I did not know where it would lead me. I have so many interests both in art and environmental studies and now feel I am able to explore my full potential by staying the course. The most important change though, in all of this learning and enrichment, is the fact that I now believe I can do it and want to. As a result, I can encourage others to believe in themselves.