Parfois, exister dans la liberté est plus douloureux que rester dans le confortable.
Sometimes, existing in freedom hurts more than staying in what is comfortable.
I have officially finished my first year of my master’s degree at the Sorbonne. These past few years of school have been such a ride that I have decided to take a year off. I wanted to share what having spent the past four years at university meant for me, because they taught me so much more than just history.
I want to start this off by knowing how lucky I am that I have been able to study at the Sorbonne, one of the best universities in the world. I know what it would mean for so many other people to walk those sacred halls and study in the heart of Paris. I appreciate the opportunity that I have had these past few years (minus the major strikes), and am exceptionally grateful to multiple professors for their patience and understanding. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without specific people that helped me along the way.
Though studying at the Sorbonne was magical, privately, I was living in hell. This is why, when I defended my dissertation and received my grade, I couldn’t stop shaking nor fight against the tears in my eyes.
“Why are you so open about such private things, Verónica?”
I have had that question asked before. First of all, I am not public about everything. There are definitely things I keep to myself or between my circle of trusted friends and family. I don’t believe that everything should be shared on the internet. I do believe that there are certain topics that should be talked about more. In speaking about my mental health and my traumas, I hope that I can help others understand anxiety, depression and recovery and potentially help others who are in a similar situation.
For a long time I felt like I couldn’t share with anyone what was going on. If I started to explain how I was feeling (which these past couple years, I have been struggling with a lot), people would tell me, “you need to stop complaining right now! Look around you! You live in the most beautiful city in the world!” It felt like just because I lived in Paris, I didn’t have the right to be upset, troubled nor sad. I look back at my life these past few years, and I realize that my mind went on airplane mode. It was still functioning, just not on full capacity. I was going through the motions, struggling to sleep, having no motivation to do anything in general or anything I loved. I would pop in and out of my loved one’s lives, in Paris and afar, because it would get tiring having to put on a show telling everyone that everything was ok. I would snap at people for no reason and struggle to control my anxiety. I was taking out a lot of my built-in frustration with my most trusted.
Once I realized what happened to me in my second year at university, I almost gave up school and went back to the United States. I never knew when something was going to trigger me. I was always scared and troubled. I would often max out the absences I was allowed for all of my classes, which was something that was quite unusual for me. I don’t know why nor do I know how I found the strength and courage to continue. The last thing I wanted was for this event to control my life, control me and my dreams. So, I continued.
I finished my bachelor’s degree with an ok grade. I wasn’t exceptionally happy with it, but I tried not beating myself up about it, seeing the circumstances I had achieved to just be able to pass my classes. I was accepted into my master’s program with the professor that I wanted, and was able to write my dissertation on a subject that I was highly interested in. Still going to the same university as my assaulter made me uneasy, but I knew since we were not in the same program, the chances of crossing paths with him were more unlikely.
Then, in 2020, a break-up and COVID happened.
From January to March, I was living at my best friend’s house. I went to Rome around that period to get my mind off of things and for the first time in a while, do something for myself. Rome had been a trip I had wanted to do since I first moved to Paris in 2014. That was when COVID was starting to spread in Europe, but wasn’t seen as necessary to close everything down just yet. When I got back from Rome, I was sick. I had never been that sick in my life, and I didn’t even have a place to call “home”. I was starting to get better the week before confinement, when another friend, who was moving in with her significant other, told me I could spend some alone time there. President Macron declared that schools would be shutting down, and then he declared confinement. I moved into my friend’s apartment, with my two suitcases, the day of confinement, where I spent it alone.
Was it hard? Definitely. But it was something I needed. For me, confinement felt like time just stopped, and I could, without any stress, reflect on my life. That’s when I found the courage to come out with my story and decided to take a year off of school as a mental break and be able to reorient my studies more to my passions, instead of what was expected from me.
So, how does all this come back to la Sorbonne? It has been the scene of many of my fears but also of triumphs.
When I defended my dissertation, I again, was expecting just a passing grade. I was proud of what I had written, but I just know how tough French professors can be. I wasn’t expecting to get the best grade of my university career and une mention (with honors). I wasn’t waiting for my professor to tell me she was fond of my work, and mention the things she had liked along with the things that needed improvement. I’ve noticed, in the French schooling system, that the French tend to always point out just the negatives so that you will improve on that, instead of also adding what you did well. For me, having done so well on that project with everything that was going on helped me gain back a bit of self-confidence. It might look like I have it on social media, but it is something that I actually lack. If I could do so well due to the circumstances, I can only now imagine how well I can do once my mental health is at a healthy place.
Why do I want to talk about all this? Because with social media, what we present to the world is just a façade. So many people who know me in real life, but didn’t know about my narrative or my mental state, messaged me about that article saying that they didn’t know. Of course not, I was only posting about my amazing life in Paris. I felt guilty any time I talked about how I was struggling, because it wasn’t fair to many because I live in the city of lights and go to the Sorbonne. I looked like I had it all.
I regained my voice again and am no longer scared to use it. The Sorbonne was one of the main settings, where for this to happen, was set.
Bisous, besos, xoxo,
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Social distancing was followed for the photos – the mask was removed just for the shots, making sure no one was near me.