No. 025 • C’est La Vie (4/6)The year I turned 30, I received an emotional call from a cousin regarding my aunt, an enormously compassionate and loving woman who doubled as my maternal figure. When I heard the tragic news (see No. 015), I immediately felt the painful dismembering of my Soul. Within a year, I had become the worst version of myself that I had ever known._________For about two years, I closed myself off from the few friends I had, and my day-to-day schedule consisted of running errands, attending classes, ignoring sympathy calls/texts, and being bitter. On top of that, I - along with other brown-toned students - had to deal with grade deflection from three professors and blatant bigotry from immature classmates (a common occurrence at my chi chi frou frou university). And, my mother was driving me mad with her irrational voicemails/demands. _________Then one semester, I took three back-to-back exams, aced them all while I was sleep deprived, and suffered a breakdown. I was midway into a fall semester, and I was due to graduate in six months with my master's degree. I just remember being on the floor, staring at my computer screen after I got the results from the final exam, and thinking, ‘I can’t do this anymore. If I don’t take a break, I’m gonna flunk out of this program.’ I was dealing with a combo platter of street harassment practically EVERY day from brown-skinned men who had nothing better to do with their time; insecure professors and peers were humiliating me because they believed people of my hue were a “threat” to their social/intellectual order; and a needy mother who was driving me insane. The one person I could talk to was now dead, so I was on my own._________I stopped staring at my screen and started typing a four-paragraph e-mail to my dean, whereby I requested a leave of absence for one academic year. We met in her office that week; I made my case as to why I needed a temporary break from the program, and also noted that I’d take up talk therapy during my time “off.” She heard me out, granted the leave of absence, congratulated me for partaking in self-care, and wished me a strong return the next year.