August is here and the store shelves are filled with back to school items, especially for college freshmen leaving home for the first time. I think about my own experiences moving into various dorms and apartments as an undergraduate student. While I am no longer moving at the start of each school year, and don’t miss hauling suitcases, bedding and other assorted items up and down multiple flights of stairs in hot summer temperatures., the beginning of the semester is still an exciting time for me. It’s a time of fresh starts and new opportunities. As a graduate student and part-time lecturer, each fall brings about the potential for positive changes and growth in my learning and experiences. However, this year the past has also been on my mind with school on the horizon.
On a recent trip to Boston I was wandering down Tremont Street near Boston Common en route to a particular restaurant. I soon found myself at Emerson College without even realizing that the school was so close to my destination. Pausing in front of the campus radio station and looking inside the enormous glass front windows, I began thinking about Melissa. Next month would have marked the start of her senior year at Emerson if she had not passed away. Previously I have written about my experiences contrasting what Melissa’s future could have been with those of my own students, but seeing this particular college campus was a jarring reminder of Melissa’s potential if the eating disorder had not taken her life. Melissa never had the opportunity to experience college like the students I saw at Emerson that day, from moving into the college dorms for the first time to walking across the stage at graduation. Even students who attend college and experience these milestones, are not immune from eating disorders. As well, eating disorders do not simply disappear once someone goes to college. It is not something that one simply “outgrows” when they reach 18 years of age or move away from home.
Melissa didn’t have the chance to start her fall semester at Emerson with the promise of new beginnings and opportunities, but it is possible for anyone who chooses recovery. You don’t have to be in school or wait for a new year to make the decision to seek help or continue towards a path of recovery. A fresh start and new firsts are always possible in the fight against eating disorders.