Rory: That’s good. And has your experience with college been any different? Did you start college right after graduating?
Laurel: No, I took a gap year, and I’m glad I did that because I didn’t have time in my senior year to apply for schools, and I didn’t realize that the deadline for applying was in the fall before you’re supposed to go off to college. So I didn’t realize the deadlines and I also didn’t really have time because I was still doing, like, two years’ worth of work in one year. So I took a gap year so that I could get in my applications before the deadlines.
And I worked a little bit, lived at my parents’ house, and I had a good time enjoying my last year living there. And then I got into the University here in Missoula, and I got a really good scholarship because they were really impressed by the fact that I had graduated in two years. So I got a full ride to come here. Yeah, so I was like, “Well, that’s a no-brainer,” like, I always wanted to leave Montana, but…
Rory: Might as well go to school here if you get a full ride.
Laurel: I’m glad. I’m very glad that I decided to stay here. There was a part of me that was like, “I don’t know,” but it was a very smart decision to come here. Not have student loan debt.
Rory: Yeah, let’s not get into that! (laughs)
Laurel: Yeah! (laughs) Yeah. So after my gap year, I came here. And then my freshman year, I was actually thriving, it was one of the best–I’d say right now is actually probably like the best time of my life that I’ve had, ever. But then my freshman year, that first semester was, like, a very close second. I was having–Oh, there’s a dog…
Rory: (laughs) He’s just hanging out!
Laurel: He’s bounding!
Rory: Oh, he’s so happy. I hope he comes in here.
Laurel: (laughs) I hope he does too!
So I had a really good experience my first semester of college. And then second semester of college is when COVID happened, and we had to go home. Which sucked, because I was ready to be out of my parents’ house at that point, and then I had to go back because I was living in the dorms so there was no place for us to go. And it was terrible. And that’s when I started to get really depressed again. It sucked.
But I tried to go back to school with COVID restrictions and everything in the fall of 2020. A lot of my classes were on Zoom, like fully online. I ended up withdrawing halfway through the semester because I didn’t want to be in school, and I was really struggling to be in school with all my stuff being online and not really being able to go on campus, and campus was weird and different.
Rory: Do you think that was related to your mental illness too? I know it hit everyone hard, but…
Laurel: Definitely. I was with my ex also, at that point, when I went back to school in the fall, and that was at the beginning of our relationship, and we were doing long distance. So I was driving to Great Falls to see him, like, every single week, which ended up being really, really hard to do. And it was hard to focus on school and the new relationship that I was really excited about. So I started to kind of shift all of my focus and priorities over to being with him and building our life together.
Rory: Black and white, sounds about right.
Laurel: Yep. And I could not focus on school while we were dating because I just wanted to spend literally every second with him and did not give a shit. I stopped giving a shit about school. Which I also kind of did with my ex in my senior year of high school, and I almost didn’t graduate on time because I had spent a lot of time with her, and I started skipping school a little bit again.
But I went back to school in fall of 2021 for my sophomore year of college, and I got through that year with a little bit of a struggle because I was still a little depressed, and I was still dating my ex so I had to figure out how to balance my priorities. But I was able to do it, had an easier time because a lot of my classes were in person by this point.
And this year I’m going into my junior year, and it’s probably gonna be a lot harder than the other semesters that I’ve had. So I’m kind of nervous, but I’m excited.
Rory: Well, like you said, you’re in a better place right now–
Laurel: I am.
Rory: –you might as well milk it. I mean, the semester’s gonna start pretty soon.
Laurel: (laughs) I know, it’s starting in, like, three days, so I’m nervous. But I’m excited.
Rory: Good thing we’re doing this interview before you have a shit ton of homework!
Laurel: Dude, I know, I’m gonna be so busy too. I’m maxed out on credits, so I’m probably gonna end up dropping a class or two. But I’m starting off strong.
But it’s been mostly better than my other experiences with school because it’s… People say, I’ve heard this my whole life, “High school’s gonna prepare you for college!” That is so not true at, like, a traditional high school, where everything is chosen basically for you, you barely get any say in what classes you take, and your schedule is picked for you. You don’t get to choose most of what you do. It was not like that at Paris.
It was like… you got to decide what classes you took. You got to decide when you went to class, when you skipped class, if you wanted to stay out of class and just do the homework, you could. So it was more like college than a regular high school, so I’d say they prepared me better.
Rory: It sounds like it. I bet the biggest way a traditional high school prepares you for college is it prepares you for, like, the first two years where a lot of classes have attendance policies. But once you get up to the higher classes, they stop having those, I think.
Laurel: Yeah, they do. That’s what I’ve noticed too. Yeah, I still have to do a few gen eds this semester. I’m trying to knock them all out before I get into my senior year so that I can focus. I have to do a Capstone Project my senior year for a program I’m doing called GLI, and I’m nervous because I’ve never done anything like that before, but I want to get all of my hard, required classes out of the way this year before I go into my senior year so that I can focus most of my attention on that. But that means this year is gonna be a hellscape.
To be continued…