For my first two years of college, I went to an expensive private Christian university in Seattle, Washington. My second year, I had a major illness and a total mental breakdown. So I returned home to Fullerton. I didn’t really feel like continuing college, but in order to keep my parents’ health insurance, I had to be enrolled in school. So I enrolled at Fullerton College.
I must admit that, at first, this was a humbling experience for me. When I was in high school, Fullerton College was known as ASU (Across the Street University). At the time, I felt like Fullerton College was the place where kids with bad grades, lazy kids, and fuck-ups went. I was University material. I smart, hard-working, I had a high grade point average and an impressive SAT score. I was in honors classes. And now I would be going to school with the kids in the regular classes. I was not regular, I thought. I was exceptional. Looking back, I was pretty arrogant.
In fact, I was a broken young man. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t really feel like doing anything except laying on the couch all day, thinking about suicide. Depression casts a dark shadow over your life.
When I first left for college in Seattle, I had this grand vision for my life. I would excel in college, land a job as a journalist, meet the girl of my dreams, and live happily ever after. That vision shattered. I had a mental illness and I was living with my parents. How utterly depressing.
So, in order to keep the health insurance that paid for my therapy and anti-depressants, I enrolled at Fullerton College. I didn’t give a shit.
But when I picked up a course catalogue, something began to change inside me. I flipped through, looking at the huge array of class options: earth science, radio/tv/film, art, ceramics, psychology, literature. It was then that a thought entered my mind that gave me a certain degree of hope: I can take whatever I want.
I didn’t care about grades or cousellor’s advice or degree paths or any of the usual academic stuff that had guided my education path thus far. I was free to take whatever the hell I wanted. So I signed up for a bunch of classes just because they sounded interesting: jazz appreciation, creative writing, drawing, sculpture, Japanese history. And those classes were cheap. Like 12 bucks a unit. I was used to paying something like $1200 a unit.
And thus began a new chapter in my education—an opportunity to take classes out of mere interest. It was at Fullerton College, in the throes of a major depression, that my education really began. I was learning for the sake of learning and curiosity, not for grades or accolades. This was a revelation. It was at Fullerton College that I discovered art, something that actually helped me get through my depression.
Slowly, I began to realize that Fullerton College was not a place for losers and fuck-ups. It was a place for new beginnings, even for arrogant snobs like me.
Now I teach at Fullerton College, and I feel a special empathy for the kids who are lost, who have no clue what to do with their lives. That is a wonderful place to be. It can be the beginning of something exceptional.