SENIOR COLUMN: There is truth in reflection

SENIOR+COLUMN%3A+There+is+truth+in+reflection

Maggie Holmes, Photo submitted

The University of Alabama changed me, in some ways for the better, in others the worse. While at UA, I became more ambitious in my endeavors and pursued opportunities outside of my comfort zone. I sought to achieve lofty goals, like getting into medical school, winning a Premier Award, and obtaining a Fulbright grant. While achieving these goals marked significant memories of my college career, these highlights were not what changed me. It did. 

It started my junior year of college- it being depression, the thing not many like to discuss openly. For most pre-medical students, junior year tends to be difficult; mine certainly was. Applying for medical school becomes real, and many start to play a comparison game, questioning his or her abilities, gifts, and intellect. ​Am I good enough to get in? How do I stack up against everyone else? 

My depression grew worse over the course of my junior year as I seemingly felt insignificant in a multitude of facets- beauty, weight, intellect, ambition. My feelings of inadequacy were overwhelming during Honors Week as I consistently questioned why I was tapped into senior honoraries or The XXXI. I felt this intense sense of comparison between me and everyone else, and I always saw myself as the least qualified or deserving of recognition. 

In May 2017, I hit rock bottom. Everything came crashing down all at once. I was heartbroken and insecure. I lost 12 pounds, dropping to a dangerously low weight. I was a nervous wreck, trembling constantly as I prepared for one of the most intense exams of my life, the MCAT. Before each section of the exam, I had to write “You are worthy and enough” on the top of each page of scratch paper to ensure that I would not panic during the exam. The shell of my personhood was fractured, and to this day, I am still working to piece myself back together from the events that broke me. 

Throughout college, I have masked and hidden personal issues with public image. This practice has had a bottling effect that ultimately hurt my mental health and self-confidence. I thrive on the affirmation that social media provides, as does almost everyone. My Instagram and Facebook are true highlight reels, only showcasing the happiest or proudest moments of those times. I view social media as a ​funhouse mirror: it does not reflect an accurate version of who we are, but it’s fun just like a carnival. 

In September 2017, I presented a Tide Talk about the importance of ​sharing personal stories with others and presenting your authentic, imperfect self to people. Through a series of journal entries I wrote during my junior year, I came forward with the personal struggles I faced: experiencing depression and social anxiety, and comparing myself to others. I saw presenting this subject matter as an opportunity to ​show that there is strength in vulnerability and to merge the gap between my public image and reality. 

However, I was still broken when I presented that Tide Talk. In truth, I was not prepared to discuss such a subject. Through experiences this year, I have learned so much more. Self-care is important, but your support system- those caring for you in the most delicate of times- is what matters above all else. 

One of my greatest mentors told me once, “Go to the bathroom and look in the mirror until you realize who you are. And when you see the Maggie that I see, you can come back.” If you have ever felt unworthy or inadequate, I encourage you to do the same: go look at yourself in the mirror until you see the wonderful self who you truly are. 

To underclassmen women at UA, I challenge you all to be role models for honesty in social media by celebrating legitimate and hard-won successes. It is my hope that one day social media will empower women to share honest images of their lives, not just highlight reels. I also challenge you to encourage one another. Empowered women don’t compete with each other, they support one another- that’s something I learned firsthand this year. When women focus on being a dominant force on their own path, rather than crossing into someone else’s lane, ​everyone wins. 

To the friends who have remained beside me this year, holding my hand and cheering me to the finish line, thank you. It is hard to believe that in a few short months I will be almost 5,000 miles away on a Fulbright award to Spain, but I am ready. It is with your support and love that I have made it. 

Maggie Holmes is a senior majoring in biology and Spanish.