By Jonathan Lopes
I would characterize my psychological health as ever evolving. I went through a large period as an adolescent as a simple minded and comfortable, yet largely unaware of the outside world and exposed glimpses of internal insecurity. High school served as a perfect example of this.
Until the latter part of my high school tenure, I didn’t realize or care about much. I was a decent person, just oblivious to the importance of education. Once the idea of college came about, then these doubts and lack of preparation surfaced, revealing my insecurity and little emotional autonomy. I became proactive after the idea of becoming unproductive once again, which led to the label of “loser”, almost drove my transition into adulthood.
Normally, if one is on the two year community college track, one should begin searching for which schools to transfer by their third semester. Due to my lack of confidence, I lied to my peers and mentors about looking at other schools. Ironically enough, I was a well-rounded student at this point, socially, professionally and academically. I learned from my underwhelming and lazy performance in high school that college wouldn’t tolerate the same. I didn’t want to start over and fail like I did in high school. I was an average student in high school, enjoying the time, but not realizing how importance and vital the experience was.
Several Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) administrators are the main reasons why I transferred successfully. A few assisted me with letters of recommendation and the application forms. One mentor, she knows this is about her, realized that I was misleading people about my future and took more of a direct approach. My fondest memory of my time in RVCC was having breakfast with her once or twice a month. We had plenty of conversations on my future aspirations and goals. During this time of insecurity, she asked me to do her a favor and talk to a counselor about my issues, for which I complied. This began my on and off stint with mental health counselors.
After that initial meeting, I wouldn’t interact with a counselor for about one full year. I wasn’t avoiding anything, I just simply did not feel the need or desire to seek one. Once I encountered a personal friend experiencing issues concerning self-harm, I became proactive in meeting with individuals and reading literature for her benefit. Eventually, these meetings transitioned in to my feelings regarding pressure and the idea of committing fraud. In other words, I felt I cheated my way to success. It was based upon insecurity and paranoia.
Through the occasional appointments, I was able to accurately put things in perspective. My various roles as a student leader, most notably as a resident assistant and green dot (mission to stop interpersonal violence) member would allow me to gain perspective, support and confidence through my work and interaction with peers.
As noted earlier in this entry, I see my mental health as ever developing, because life is a constant place of change. I deal with a lot more stress and pressure, especially as a first generation college student and graduate who is now taking on graduate school. Completing pieces such as these really do allow one to reflect back. It is amazing that it really isn’t a cliché, people encounter more and more life experiences as they get older. In turn, it influences their character development.
The ability to express and control our own emotions is important, but so is our ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others. In conjunction to the comments regarding psychological health, my emotional intelligence has changed dramatically over the last four years. Thanks to the inclusion of mentors, occasional meetings with counselors, classes concerning psychological health and activities such being a resident assistant and peer educating, my knowledge of emotional intelligence has vastly changed.
Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. I believe, at least in my case, emotional intelligence was learned and strengthened through education via literature and life experiences. The four main aspects of emotional intelligence consist of perception, understanding, reasoning and managing. As a current professional and former student leader, the opportunity to interact, listen and empathize with the various dilemmas and concerns people encounter, as well as face on a daily basis is refreshing, yet sad. It is refreshing in the sense that we are imperfect individuals who experience various things and are willing to show compassion and support for one another. It is sad, because no one deserves the hardships that adversely may affect their mindset and consume their time.
Now then, my ability to confer with others on a much deeper level, avoiding petty issues involving gossip and what not, has evolved. I now often feel comfortable and secure in speaking my mind to professors, mentors, supervisor and my peers. The ability to question each other in a respectful manner and relay our thoughts and opinions is a skill. Some may not think so, but the concept of feelings is similar to that of public speaking. Both require an individual to express views and ideas while exposing themselves to the outside world and becoming vulnerable. In conclusion, arguably the worst thing to feel is the sense of regret and wondering what could’ve been. All colleges have health and counseling offices that provide free and confidential services to all students. Never be afraid to ask for help, regardless of the issue!