I used to take pride in the fact that I would always try to tough it out whenever I got hurt growing up. I wouldn’t cry when I got fouled by someone playing soccer, or when I fell off my bike, or when this girl freaking nailed a lacrosse ball at the back of my head in eighth grade, or when my little sister put Go-Gurt in my hair. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I have certainly cried before. I’m not a total psychopath. Nonetheless, my parents or my coaches were always proud of the fact that I was a tough cookie.
But as I have learned at my time at Penn, and especially in the last year and a half, being “tough” on the outside isn’t always rewarding. In fact, it can make things a whole lot worse.
I didn’t know this was going to be the case, but my time on the 134th board of The Daily Pennsylvanian was without a doubt the worst year of my life. Or, more precisely, it coincided with the worst year of my life.
I’ve struggled with depression for years, but it started to get much worse towards the end of my junior year at Penn. I fell down the stairs because I was checking myself out in a window (I know) and it was hard to walk for six months. I was also diagnosed with the second-least sexy disease after gonorrhea: irritable bowel syndrome. I was sad, and I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I wanted to kill myself, but I didn’t tell anyone.
I stopped taking care of myself. My friends and my roommates didn’t see me or hear from me for weeks. I didn’t answer texts. I stayed inside Starbucks during Fling, doing homework. I slept through Hey Day, intentionally.
At the same time, I loved being Under the Button’s Managing Editor. I loved the fact that I could make other people happy, even if I couldn’t be. Out of all the things that were going wrong with my life, UTB was the one thing that I could consistently do right, do pretty well, and do with purpose.
In the fall, some things went worse, but a lot of things went better.
I made an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services as soon as I got back to campus. Apparently, I am not really good at this “opening up to people” thing, as my therapist pointed out (which is maybe why I gave up on writing this column several different times). Every time I cried in his office — even the smallest amount — I began to needlessly apologize out of embarrassment.
I started to respond to texts, actually initiate texting people, and make plans. I wanted to have fun, at least in my senior year.
Still, I didn’t open up about everything. No one, except my therapists and my professor, has known about the fact that I spent all of last semester in a small seminar with someone that assaulted me, because I needed to take the class to graduate. I barely passed, and only did so because I spent an afternoon begging and crying in the professor’s office at the end of the year.
Don’t always be a tough cookie. The best cookies are the soft, gooey, slightly undercooked kinds, anyway. It’s so difficult to do at first, but being vulnerable on the outside feels so much better than being tough. You don’t have to go out of your way to hide as much of what you’re feeling. And it’s really validating to know that other people generally understand and often know exactly what you’re going through.
That being said, I’m not telling you to completely overshare about your life. Don’t be that dude who tells everyone about that massive dump they just took. Please … please.
And things are much better for me now. Hey Day was bittersweet. I’m spending the summer hiking half the Appalachian Trail because I’ve wanted to do it since 11th grade. I just spent $9.99 on Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut & Almond Butter and, honestly, I expected it to taste better. I don’t feel sad.
Being a part of UTB and the DP has allowed me to write about and publish what I think is important and funny in a meaningful way. It's a good thing I’m going to be the longest-tenured UTB writer in history and can keep going at it next fall. Thank you especially to David (who has never stopped checking in on me), Alec (my work husband), Reb (my work mom), Harry, Figgy, and Jonathan.
SOPHIE TROTTO is a College senior from Yardley, Pa., studying mathematics and philosophy. She served as the Managing Editor of Under the Button on the 134th board. Previously, she was an editor and staff writer for UTB.
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