OPINION: To Drop a Class is to be Your Own Hero

I can’t drop this class. I always quit when things get hard. Everyone in this class is smart enough to stay here, but I’m not. But if I stay in the class, my GPA will be so low. It’s already so low. I’m never going to get that internship with such a horrible GPA. Maybe I should drop it. When am I even going to take it if I drop it? Am I still going to graduate on time? It’s just one class, I should just deal with it.

“I just dropped my class.”

Let’s clear the air. I am arguably UC San Diego’s strongest proponent of dropping classes. In just my first year, I’m proud to say I dropped five. In winter quarter, walking out of Chem 6B and then dropping a second class afforded me the much-needed confidence to commit to my passion for literature. The focus and relief that I felt after dropping Math 20B for the second time only proved my fears about not having the endurance for the class worth it. I don’t regret dropping any of my classes, but by no means were these decisions easy.

I know what some of you are thinking: “I want to stay on track for engineering, and I can’t afford to be set back on my four year plan. If I drop, I face paying for Summer Session fees, or worse, another full year at UCSD.” As someone who had the privilege of dropping courses that fall outside of my major requirements, and someone who does not have to worry about losing their financial aid due to a potential lack of units, I won’t pretend to be in a place to offer you consolation. But, if you’re experiencing your first quarter and are already torturing yourself over the so-called death of your college career, I can guarantee that learning to accept defeat is more vital than anything else you’ll learn in your education.

Seemingly unable to accept such small-scale defeat, many UCSD students are so stressed out that it feels normal to satirize stress-induced depression and anxiety (re: UCSD Memes for Sleep Deprived Tritons). And although the romanticization of harming yourself in order to achieve a good GPA is prolific, it’s a symptom of a larger problem plaguing our school’s culture: we like to brag about our suffering to hide from it. This isn’t our fault; we’ve been under pressure since our early teens to measure our self-worth by some combination of GPA, percentages, and hours spent participating in extracurriculars. For some of us, by the time we’re college freshmen, it has become our personal standard for the bare minimum to achieve what others might perceive to be the academically impossible.

Considering the poor mental health of students at our university, it is critical that the administration provides us with accessible resources to manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. However, waiting periods at UCSD’s official mental health resource, CAPS, can last up to four weeks, so it can often feel pointless to ask for help when you need it. It doesn’t help, either, that employers, teachers, and student organizations often contribute to the stigmatization of taking days off for self-care. The reality is that our student body is often on its own when it comes to emotional health. Thankfully, there are other resources that can offer support on our campus, in one way or another. But it has to start with admitting what you can and cannot do.

Aside from memorizing hundreds of facts you know you’ll forget, perfecting your integration skills, and writing a convincing essay, your employability rests on the state of your mental health. A degree that takes a toll on your mind and body at the end of four years means very little to your boss who sees a graduate too insecure to take any initiative. Someone who is confident and comfortable with adaptability, however, is extremely valuable in the workplace. So although it may sound ironic, one of the best ways to become resilient is by letting yourself fail.

One of the most gratifying fruits of my failure include discovering that I’m a dynamic human being, with strengths and weaknesses that change over time. Every day that I learn more about myself, I’m increasingly grateful for my experiences, because I’ve found that no matter how much my undertakings may look like a failure on the surface, every action can serve as a stepping stone for future success. This outlook may sound cliche, but it has been critical in my journey through setback and towards resilience.

If you find that the class you’re unsure of depends only on willpower and time management, bask in relief, because continuing your class may present nothing more than another challenge. If, instead, it seems that your fear of failure is crippling, and you’re drowning in unwanted responsibilities, drop it now. It’s better to take a step back, rather than to start ingraining patterns of anxiety and depression in your mind that can take years to reverse. Whether you drop, take a “W” later on, or even retake a class or two, I can guarantee that any change you enact is positive change—there’s little you can do now that you’ll regret by next year. I hope this article pushes you in some direction, and that you get honest with yourself (and maybe with a friend) about your anxieties at school. So to those of us who have embraced failure with optimism for future self-growth, cheers to dropping our classes and being our own heroes.

Nathaniel Imel is a staff writer for The Triton.