When enrolling at San Diego State University, I envisioned classrooms filled with ambitious, brilliant students—but the reality was quite different—I was among thousands of lifelong underachievers. After the first week, attendance dropped drastically, and the few who remained were there reluctantly.
I lived in the dorms with seven guys whom I didn’t know, and I was struggling to build relationships. In high school, I had tons of friends, and I felt respected amongst my peers, but the transition from the Bay Area to San Diego was rough; Southern California natives despised my prolific usage of “hella.”
Over time, an ever-widening chasm divided the occupants. The socal fraternity guys were on one end, and the stoners were on the other. Then, there was Jose and I, who didn’t fit into either of these categories. I didn’t smoke, skate, or join a fraternity. Jose and I were black sheep. And to make matters worse, I had my first experience with someone who habitually blacked out, and then proceeded to raid the communal freezer; I lost countless meals to his antics, and when I confronted him, all he said was, “Sorry bro, I was blacked out.” So, I stored my food in my room.
These social schisms, in conjunction with a lackluster academic experience, cast a shadow over my supposed “glory days.” I locked myself in my room, played games, completed assignments, and stormed out on the weekends to anywhere with something to drink. I’m not sure what depression is, but I know this was the closest I ever came to experiencing anything like it. My patience was at an all time low, and my temper was incendiary. Eventually, I had to fly home on random weekends; just to cool off and gather my senses. I was so close to dropping out, or at least finding another dorm. Then, I heard about meditation in philosophy class. And although I was a skeptical Atheist—I didn’t have any better ideas.
I turned the lights off in my room, climbed onto my bed, crossed my legs, and closed my eyes. After a while, I felt my thoughts burning inside, and I sat with them. There was nowhere to flee to, and nothing to distract me. For the first time in my life, I felt the rage: eating me alive.
It has been nearly a decade since college, and I still meditate when I need to dispel negative thoughts, or create a space to forgive others.