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MIT blogger Cami M. '23

then and now by Cami M. '23

a reflection on the very bad

warnings: suicide ment, depression ment

1.

The first time it happened was in fifth grade, right before spring break. I was called into the principal’s office.

“I hear you’re threatening to commit suicide. Camille, do you even know what that means?” she asked me, the condescension blatant and obvious.

“Yes.”

“Well then why would you say such a thing?”

I didn’t know how to respond.

My mom pulled me out of school after that, even though we had a couple of days before spring break. “Useless fucking principal,” my mom muttered under her breath. She turned to me. “You let me know if anything happens again, okay? You let me know.”

I nodded.

“Just have fun. Play your DS and we can watch Pokemon when we go home.”

I nodded again.

After that spring break, I was known as “the girl who almost killed herself.” My mom found out about this and decided to switch schools.

In a car ride to my dad’s place, he asked me “Why would you say shit like that? Are you getting bullied? I can kill them. Who’s hurting you?”

I kind of just stared out the window without saying anything. I felt bad for making my parents worry.

I would start going to therapy about a month after this.

2.

The second time was in my freshman year of high school. No one actively caught me or anything of the sorts, I had just had little moments where I would crack. Where I would think about it for too long in too much detail.

To this day, when I think back on it, I can’t really think of why. Teenage angst? Something I tucked away in the back of my mind and now can no longer access? Still unsure.

3.

My senior year of high school was one of the worst years of my life so far. I had a falling out with my three best friends, who all still remained friends post-fallout, leaving me feeling very worthless and lonely. It was really hard walking around campus getting questions about what happened when it really boiled down to miscommunications and taking far too long to fix what had happened. To make matters worse, this was around the same time that a girl in our year committed suicide.

I wasn’t very close to her, but it still hit really hard, especially being in the position of always thinking I’d be the one to make the news in that manner, not her. It was just a very confusing and emotionally turbulent time.

In the months to follow, among the stress of college applications and the stress of just being at school in general, I fell into a really, really rough place. Around the time of falling out, I tried to reach out and seek some clarity, maybe try and fix things, but I was only met with radio silence. At that time, I was on vacation in Vancouver for Veteran’s Day Weekend with my mom. Simply put, sparing you the shitty details of it all, that weekend in Vancouver was the weekend I almost killed myself.

I spent a lot of the weekend in calls with my boyfriend at the time, in between crying sessions. We would watch a lot of movies as distractions. Other times, I’d be out and about, roaming Vancouver with my mom. I really wish that weekend hadn’t been tainted by everything that happened. It was a really beautiful city.

In particular, one of the strongest memories was overlooking the view on the Capilano Suspension Bridge. It was the night after my worst breakdown yet, but I remember feeling at peace with everything when I peered over the bridge. It was…good to be away from everything — college apps, school, ex-friends. I could just exist in this space, surrounded by greenery and rushing water and little noises and things would be good.

image of capilano suspension bridge

I never really told anyone what happened in Vancouver, not until many, many months later. For the most part, I didn’t really want to tell anyone because I didn’t want to be labeled as a copycat. I remember the time when I did end up telling someone, my friend had replied, “Who do you think you are? Her? You don’t get to do that.” and it shut me up real quick.

I forgot a lot about these things, little memories and moments like this shoved into the back of my mind because things are much, much better. But, being back home has reminded me a lot of the things I went through that last year, the “pre-MIT” era.

I dreaded going to school every day because I always worried if I would find people to sit with at lunch, or find people to complete group projects with. It was always just a gamble. Would I be able to sit and talk with these people? Or would they be there already talking to them and I’ll have to find somewhere else to go?

I spent a lot of my time in senior year eating in classrooms with my favorite teacher, Dr. V. He was a really simple man from the great state of Iowa and my chemistry teacher. He was very old, very Republican, very traditional, and still very much my favorite teacher ever. He would sit and listen to me ramble on every day at lunch. I’d had Dr. V as a teacher for the past three years. In fact, I had basically zero interest in chemistry, but I took three years of chemistry just because I wanted him as my teacher.

My friend’s suicide had hit Dr. V very hard. She was one of his favorite students, if not his very favorite. It was really hard seeing him try and cope, since I knew it had really affected him. He would sometimes start sentences like “I don’t think anyone really expected it. Or maybe. Maybe I should’ve…” and then he trailed off.

Not a lot of people are prepared to lose someone like that. A lot of people tend to blame themselves for not seeing the warning signs. I sometimes think I should have seen a lot more signs.

Needless to say, it was nice to have company during this time. Me, coping with a whole slew of shit, and Dr. V, also coping with a whole slew of shit. We would talk really about anything and everything during lunch time. College applications, my major, my favorite TV show, skills I want to learn. I feel like at any other time I’d feel really pathetic for being that kid with no friends and instead resorting to talking to teachers. But the really only good things about my high school were my teachers, so it didn’t feel as bad.

November passed and college decisions were soon approaching. Around late November, I had my MIT interview. It was strange, but it was good. I bursted into my computer science teacher’s classroom the day after, telling him all about it. During this time, I had resorted to befriending the juniors at the time, seeing as all the seniors were just…far too scary to me to talk to. They asked a lot of questions about the application process. I answered as best as an applying senior could (which wasn’t very good).

Around two weeks later, I got my MIT decision. I was in a call with my boyfriend. My mom, who I had kicked out only minutes earlier, had her ear eagerly pressed to the other side of my bedroom door.

I typed in my credentials. I hit enter. I read the word “congratulations”, and I broke down crying, immediately thinking “Is this my reward for pushing through from that day back in November? Is this the universe saying it’s proud of me?”

I still don’t really know if it was. But all I know is that I rode the high of my acceptance for the next couple of months. I emailed my teachers right away, letting them know the good news.

I got a lot of fake shit at school. A lot of phony phone calls from people who had never hit me up before. A lot of DMs asking me stats. A lot of shallow shit I didn’t wanna deal with. But I just reminded myself I’d be out of here in no time. I felt that every time I wore my MIT hoodie at school. I didn’t really care if I got glares. It just felt good knowing that I had a bright, bright future past the shitshow that was my senior year.

Somewhere along the way, though (post-CPW), the high eventually wore off and I was dropped back onto earth when I had to do group projects with the people I had tried my best avoiding all of senior year.

I felt it to the point where I started having those suicidal thoughts replay again and again. And it was really hard because not only did I feel this nausea from going to school everyday, but now this guilt of feeling suicidal because my life was supposedly very good. I was going to MIT, the school of my dreams. My teachers liked me. I had good grades. I had a family and boyfriend that loved me. So why was I once again returning to this shitty mindset?

I didn’t really know what to do. But fortunately, that decision was made for me.

I was called into the principal’s office in early May. I was kind of freaking out. I thought I was going to get expelled or rescinded or some shit, and that my whole world was about to crumble and I wouldn’t be able to go to MIT.

But instead the principal and some other big administrative head honchos sat down and started to read out quotes from my private Instagram about me wanting to kill myself again.

I remember feeling these flashes of embarrassment as I listened back to my whining and rants. It sounds really pathetic when you hear it out loud in someone else’s voice.

“Did you write these?”

“Yeah.”

“Are those girls bullying you?”

“No, not at all. It’s just hard. We had a falling out.”

“People are going to tell you to make up with them and forgive them, but I hope you know you have no obligation to do so. If they hurt you, if that’s some shit you went through, you don’t have to do anything about it. You don’t owe them anything.”

“Thank you, I needed to hear that.”

“I’m going to call your mom. She already knows.”

“Okay.”

“You can just sit here and wait.”

“Okay.”

I was already crying at this point. I felt like a wreck. I knew who had reported the screenshots. I wasn’t mad. I was really grateful. I think it’s exactly what I needed.

A few minutes afterwards, my mom had pulled up to the school and we were having a conversation with the head of administration, discussing what to do next.

“Well…she’s an excellent student and her grades are good and she’s never really slacked. I…don’t really see why she would need to come to school in these last couple of weeks.”

I blinked. Processed. Blinked again. I get to just not come to school in the last couple weeks of my senior year? Holy fuck.

Looking back on it now, I see it’s pretty ironic. At MIT, I was so upset at not being able to finish my freshman year in person, but in my senior year of high school, I nearly cried with joy at the prospect of not having to go back to high school. Funny how things change.

In the end, I ultimately chose not to go back to school. I went to all of my teachers and told them what happened, not delving into the whole “I-had-a-suicidal-episode-and-the-school-doesn’t-want-two-suicides-this-year” ordeal. I kind of just left it at “I’m not doing so great right now” in between choked sobs. They understood.

In the time I didn’t go to school I:

  • got the President’s Award01 This is my school's bullshit way of giving us ranks without actually giving us ranks. Valedictorians were first in the class. Salutatorians second. Presidential Award was third. Nice. at my school
  • ended up getting a really nice outside scholarship for MIT
  • went to fake prom with my boyfriend at the time — he flew in from North Carolina to spend the weekend with me
  • went to graduation and walked alongside my classmates

And then I was done.

And things were good. Very, very good.

That summer, a bit before I would head out to MIT, I hit up one of the girls I had fallen out with and asked we meet up to talk. It was a big step in this whole ‘healing process’ I was trying to push myself to undergo.

I eventually met with her at The Source, a mall in Buena Park that cool and hip teens go to. I decided it was a good place to murder — in the sense that I knew once I had this conversation, I would never be able to go back here again because this conversation would taint everything about it.

I remember the conversation going from awkward02 'Hey, how've you been in the past year even though we went to the same school and I basically know what happened but I just avoided talking to you since things were weird between us...haha?' to tense03 'Well, I mean, I'm sure it was very difficult for you three to try and get through senior year together while I suffered through it alone, but who's to say! Haha!' to brutally honest04 'I almost killed myself that November when you ignored my texts and blocked me out completely.' to just, well, an ending.05 'They don't really want to be friends with you at all, anymore,' she said.<br /> 'Yeah, I know.'<br /> 'But I'm always here for you.'<br /> I know she meant it in the moment, but I haven't contacted her ever since.

And then we hugged and I wiped my tears away and I sat in my car for ten minutes and gathered myself so I didn’t get in a car accident. Then I drove home. And I felt as if that chapter of my life was finally done. Like a weight was taken off and I never had to worry about them ever, ever again and they would vibe in their corner of the country while I vibed in mine and it was good.

4.

I get scolded a lot by people for oversharing a bit too much on the Internet, and while I agree sometimes, I think my reasoning behind it has well intentions.

I never thought a girl like me would end up at MIT, let alone in the position that I am.  In this past year, I went from…skipping my last weeks of senior year due to a depressive episode to working three jobs that I love. To being Vice President of my class council and an associate advisor for incoming first-years. To booking a fucking internship at Microsoft. To finding a super loving and great group of friends. And, well, to ultimately just being the happiest I’ve ever been.

Looking back on it now, I wasn’t as friendless as I felt like I was in my senior year. I had great friends that helped me. Kenneth, Harsheta, Ethan, all the juniors…they really were my anchor in my senior year and I think I wouldn’t have held out as long as I did had it not been for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I still go through some shit at MIT, but it’s never really for the same reasons as in high school. It’s mainly just a lot of “school hard, brain smooth”, but I’ve never really returned to that same place I once was in in my senior year.

Overall, I’m just constantly blown away how fast things can change in the span of a year. I can’t help but think of how much I would have missed out on if I didn’t chicken out that weekend in November. Or if my friend hadn’t intervened and sent those screenshots to administration. I am just…very grateful to be where I am now. And I am so thankful to everyone who has kept me here.

5.

At the end of my freshman year, we had to write letters to our future selves. They would be mailed to us at our graduation.

I recently reread that letter and it’s pretty cringey. It basically is dripping with teenage angst and stupid metaphors. But, it also asks a lot of good questions, too, so I thought I’d take the time to respond to freshman year Cami.

Dear Cami(lle),

Are you 17? 18? I don’t know how old you are.

I was 17 when I first got this letter. 18, now.

So, what have you finally decided to do for school, for a career? Psychology? Programming? Veterinarian? I hope you choose something you’ve enjoyed.

Tricky question, it’s about a yes and no. I know a general field (something in media and/or computer science), but not specifics.

You should learn to shut up once in a while. I hope your eating habits have ‘normalized’ and your stomach no longer gets nauseated at the sight of food.

Ah, reading this now I finally remember why I was so upset in freshman year. Eating disorder things. But no, I have not learned to shut up. I think it’s good that I didn’t. My loud mouth gets me in trouble a lot of the time, but it’s also important to speak up for what you believe in and when you see shit that shouldn’t fly.

Are you still saved by music? Panic! at the Disco, twenty one pilots, Halsey, Fall Out Boy? Did you ever meet them?

First of all, very cringey. Yes, I ended up meeting Panic! at the Disco and Fall Out Boy (some of the best nights of my life.) And I still very much enjoy music, your range is just much larger rather than emo Tumblr girl aesthetics.

 

Did you finally dye your hair like you wanted to? Get a tattoo? Write? Improve your art skills?

Yes, you dye your hair, but you regret it. Severely. It fucks up your hair really, really bad and you swear to never do it again. Tattoos are now out of the question because you’re too finnicky to decide on something and your interests change far too quickly. You’re an MIT Admissions Blogger, so, yes Cami you are writing a lot. You’re also a media studies major now, so that’s pretty rad. I know you were nervous about not being able to pursue the humanities in college, but I’m here to let you know that things are okay.

Still friends with L and T and A? Still annoyed with every classmate ever? Still trying to figure out right and wrong opinions?

No, you’re not friends with L. Senior year is a shit show. But it ends…okay. But you no longer talk, and that is okay. You still talk to T and A, but not as often as you think you will, but that is okay, too. Classmates in college are cool. MIT is great and everyone’s super nice, but I guess I should tell you that you weren’t very fond of some people in your graduating high school class, but you do make a lot of unlikely friends. About the opinion thing, let’s just say you’re a chaotic good on the alignment chart.

That’s okay. Your life isn’t supposed to be set yet. Please be in a good state of mind. I hope you’ve figured out if you’re depressed, have anxiety, or just moody.

Gonna be honest here, I think it was a mix of all three at the time. Now I’m just a little ball of anxiety but things are going well. Things are good.

Have you learned time management?

Nope.

I just want to know if you’re okay, if it got better. Because every week is a countdown to Friday. But that’s okay.

It gets so much better, you have no idea. Your junior year of high school is your hardest academically, but it’s your favorite out of all of them. It’s the best one, probably. College is insanely fun, too. You’ll have a good time.

I hope you’re still playing music. Don’t lose touch with D and W and R. They’re good. I hope you’re still writing or drawing.

I still play guitar occasionally. I think around this time you just started learning. Spoiler alert, uh, you don’t get much better. But you still think music’s pretty rad. Don’t worry. You kind of talk to D and W? Not so much R. It’s fine.

I have no real way to end this, but I really liked the ending paragraph in the letter. I think it really summarizes everything I’ve learned over these years.

I have so many hopes for you. But if you didn’t fulfill them, then that’s okay. You’re okay. You will be okay. I want you to remember that the one goal in life is happiness. You will look at your life and be content. And if you haven’t reached that yet? That’s okay. I’m proud of you for going on for four years strong. Just make sure to stay alive. Please. You’re talented. Smart. Pretty. You do not need other people to complete you. You are valued. You remember that, okay? Thank you.

Love,

Camille Mejia

  1. This is my school's bullshit way of giving us ranks without actually giving us ranks. Valedictorians were first in the class. Salutatorians second. Presidential Award was third. Nice. back to text
  2. 'Hey, how've you been in the past year even though we went to the same school and I basically know what happened but I just avoided talking to you since things were weird between us...haha? back to text
  3. 'Well, I mean, I'm sure it was very difficult for you three to try and get through senior year together while I suffered through it alone, but who's to say! Haha! back to text
  4. 'I almost killed myself that November when you ignored my texts and blocked me out completely. back to text
  5. 'They don't really want to be friends with you at all, anymore,' she said. back to text