Dear 100 Hour Board,
Several years ago I was an undergrad at a university, and I got into an emotionally abusive relationship with a girl. Now, this was my first relationship and being the idiotic young man that I was, this relationship became all I had. I ignored school, career planning and pretty much everything that a responsible college student should focused on. Eventually this relationship ended and my GPA was in ruins. I was put on academic probation. Desperate to graduate on time and rebuild my GPA, I took on more classes than I could handle, without realizing my depression and anxiety. My grades and mental health kept spiraling downward and eventually I was kicked out of school. I was ashamed and terrified; not knowing what to do, I lied to my parents. I have spent the past several years at a community college and I have rebuilt my GPA and progressed on my mental health. However, my lies and the time itself have became heavy weights on my soul. I'm now in my late 20s, still in school and the lies I have told my parents become more and more complex. I want to come clean to them, but I fear the truth would devastate them, perhaps it would even endanger they health. All the people surrounding me are moving forward with their lives, and here I am, sitting in the hole I have dug for myself, not knowing how to get out. I fully understand the picture this story paints me, and feel free to pass judgement, for I deserve them. My question is how do I get out of this pit. Is there a way? Or will it become the albatross around my neck?
-The Flying Dutchman
Dear Davy Jones,
You say that you're stuck in a pit of your own creation, but it sounds to me like you're working hard on getting out. You're enrolled in community college, you've worked really hard to get your GPA up, you've progressed in your mental health, and those are all really big, impressive things! You can recognize your past mistakes while still being proud of the progress you've made and acknowledging the fact that you've been working hard to rectify things. I know it can be difficult to be proud of yourself when you feel you've made mistakes, so this is me telling you that as a random internet stranger, I'm really proud of how hard you've been working and what you've been able to accomplish. That may sound like an empty platitude, but I really mean it. Making progress is hard, and it's a long process, and sometimes it feels like it doesn't come fast enough, or drastically enough, but the fact that you're still plugging away at it is awesome. Seriously, way to go.
And you know what? An accomplishment is still an accomplishment no matter how old you are when it happens. Taking ten years to graduate from college gets you as much of a degree as someone who graduated in four years. Getting married at 40 instead of 20 is still getting married. Buying a house when you're in your fifties instead of your twenties is still buying a house. I'm not saying that all those scenarios will necessarily apply to you, just that you don't have to fit your friends' timeline. You have your own timeline, and it doesn't make any of your accomplishments any less valuable or worthwhile than anyone else's. Don't beat yourself up for not fitting someone else's idea of success, and instead celebrate the steps you're currently making.
Telling your parents sounds like it will be really hard, but I also think it's generally better to not live a lie, because it sounds like it's causing you a lot of stress and concern. Yes, the truth will probably be hard for them to hear. But it would probably be harder for them to one day realize on their own that you've been lying to them for all these years and never came clean about it. I don't know if that would happen or not, but what I'm saying is it's a hard situation all around, and there probably isn't any one way that will be totally easy. Sorry if that sounded depressing, but the point is, it will be hard to tell them, but it will also be hard not to. If you want to come clean, don't let the fear of potential consequences stop you. I can't tell you the best way to approach your parents to tell them what's really going on, because I don't know them or you, but I would suggest praying about it beforehand, both for yourself and for them, that they'll be able to take it as much in stride as possible. It may also be helpful to frame it in terms of why you lied to them (it sounds like you wanted to protect them), and why you now want to come clean (probably because you love them and want to be totally honest with them). You can also tell them what you've been doing to improve your situation, and what your goals are. That will help keep the conversation focused on the positive, and your desire for a genuine relationship with them, rather than on your personal shortcomings. I don't know how such a conversation would turn out, but I can tell you that a lot of people will surprise you by how understanding and kind they can be if you just give them a chance.
Good luck, friend.