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U.S. | Education & Student Activism

Sometimes It’s Best To Just Drive Past the Point Of No Return
by Sudhama Ranganathan
Wednesday Jul 10th, 2013 3:35 PM
There is no one right way to make it through difficult times. People get through their own any way they can, each in their own way. No matter the similarity between paths taken, each person’s method will always be unique, as it has as much to do with things we all go through, as things peculiar to that person’s own experiences in life. Just as we can never truly look through another’s life, no matter how much we wish to, we can’t go through another’s hard times for them.

As such, in each difficult situation, we all have to make our own choices regarding navigating hard times, and how I get through my circumstances simply might not apply to yours. There may be things you have to do I won't understand, but that worked for you, and vice versa. I'm sure there are parts of your life many just won't get if you described those times to them, I know there are parts of mine most wouldn't understand. In many ways, that's part of the beauty of life, the way we can be so similar, and yet still so different from one another.

Be that as it may, we can also absorb the experiences of another person, and use those to inform how we deal with our own difficult times. Though our times will not and cannot exactly clone their experience, there may be enough similarities in how they dealt with their experience to give us good information to use when making our selections in terms of the choices and decisions needed going forward through our own trials in life.

When I went through harassment and discrimination as a student at the University of Connecticut's Landscape Architecture program, one of the first things I realized was that there was a shortage of advice on how to survive it. Sure, there was plenty of sweet syrupy stuff to help you with your hurt emotions and how to recover. There was plenty of stuff saying, “leave and get a therapist to deal with what the mean people did to you.”

Some of that can be great advice for the victim of harassment, if they can leave. But, what if after weighing the pro's and con's, the person finds the pro's in the 'to stay' column outweigh the con's in that same column? What then? Well as far as the Dr Phil type advisors go, it's basically, “well you're just stupid and you're on your own.” It's as though every problem were not unique. Sometimes I wondered if these people got paid by the putdown.

Either way, their advice fell short, especially for the people for whom remaining was the best option. Take me for example; there were tens of thousands of dollars in school loans I would have to repay if I left school. There was only one program for landscape architecture in the entire state. Those out of state programs were mostly five year programs, mine was an intensive four year. It was centered around a certain design philosophy shared by the professors in my program, and as such was uniquely crafted around that philosophy.

I had a scholarship that, in order to stay qualified for it, I needed to maintain a certain GPA, go to school full-time, take no breaks in between semesters and the financial amount it contributed to my college fees only lasted through four years of schooling. After that, I was on my own. That was a problem for me, as I could not afford to pay that, and the loans and grants I had aside from that scholarship would not pick up the slack. I would need to work full time and go to school part time.

The likelihood I'd be able to do that in a extremely time intensive landscape architecture program was scant. One of the professors warned me about working and going to school when I first signed up, saying nobody had ever made it through the UConn Landscape Architecture program and worked full-time simultaneously in the history of the program. Those that had tried, all had to quit their jobs or quit the program at some point. He also told me that was pretty much a universal thing with landscape architecture programs, due to the intense demands on a student's time. I was trapped and it made more sense for me to fight through if I could, than it did to leave.

There was no advice for people like me, and there was no way I was alone in the world in terms of not being able leave my situation, and being in a better position if I could find a way to make it through. I did make it through and graduated, despite the best efforts of the people harassing me, as they wanted to stop me from graduating, and that's why I am writing this and why I have written the many other articles about my experience. There are ways to make it, it simply requires a little effort, thinking outside the box, awareness of what's happening around you, and staying with your decision no matter how nerve wracking, chaotic or scary things get.

In everyday life, especially regarding institutions, be they educational, religious, corporate or other, not rocking the boat, fitting in and keeping your head down are the order of the day. Master these, and you are well on your way to not only surviving, but succeeding and excelling in such environments.

Those people that have experienced harassment, may have had people give this advice to them as they were going through it, and when they were given this advice did, they may have said or thought, “the boat is already rocking, it's impossible to fit in when people are constantly pointing you out and the very nature of being harassed makes you stand out.” If you have thought that, you are not alone. If you can keep your head down then great, but if it is many people harassing you, and it's all the time, then you may become the center of attention all the time whether you like it or not.

Once this happens, you need to start thinking outside of the box and allowing your thoughts and your mind to go places you normally would not. I am not referring to breaking the law or going against the rules of your institution.

You may have noticed that your harassers are not totally doing that either. That is how it is in an institution, people know the rules and are exploiting holes, finding ways to work within them and cleverly going around them, in order to do what they are doing to you. Of course harassment is illegal everywhere and in most all institutions, so they have adapted.

You must find ways to develop counter strategies to those they use against you, that do not get you kicked out and still help you to survive. To do this, you will most likely have to think in ways you have not in the past, and may not have wanted to. They may be ways of thinking that scared you, but now, if you intend to stay, it's time to be brave and go beyond the boundaries in your own mind that you previously dared not go beyond. Those places that seem like the line beyond which there's no return, those are the lines you must cross.

You will see, as I did, you will not only be the same person, but an even stronger, smarter and wiser version of your former self for it. The final test in boot camp for Marines is called the crucible, and is designed to push cadets to places they never thought they could go and then beyond. Those that survive the harassment (real serious harassment, not every day stuff) will find that you can take the awareness you gained and use it to push all kinds of limits in your lives and experience things you never dreamed possible.

It happened for me, and I'm sure you can make it too. In fact, I'm doing it right now! First, you need to lose your fear of what you believe to be, or what others have told you is the point of no return. Who knows? You may find that you don't even want to return. :D

To read about my inspiration for this article go to www.lawsuitagainstuconn.com.

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