The Returns of Life

By Henry Shorr

I’m a 30-year-old student at Youngstown State University. This is not my first foray into secondary education, and I would like to tell my story and what I’ve learned from it. 

I started at THE Ohio State University when I was 18 in 2011. I went to a private high school where I did not work extraordinarily hard to get slightly above-average grades. Like most people who grew up in a suburban city, the idea of “high school, then college, then a career” was instilled and expected. But, to be honest, I was not ready for college.

I threw myself into college social life stronger than I did my studies. I wanted to make friends, go out on weekends and experience life. I thought I could coast through OSU. I couldn’t. 

I started doing poorly in school, which led to bad mental health and brought on even worse performance in class. I had never built the habits I needed to succeed and my days of coasting had led to poor time and mood management. 

All of this was magnified by ADHD, depression and anxiety to create a scenario where I was constantly digging myself out of holes I created. I took some time off, came back and things were okay — until they weren’t again. I eventually was dismissed from Ohio State for my academic performance. 

I made bad decisions and lost friends. Because of the amazing support system I have, I was able to get the help I needed. Therapy became sacred to me, and I finally started to lose that feeling of apathy that had built up so strongly in my chest.

I joined the workforce and worked more food-service and retail jobs than I ever thought I would. I built those habits that I had been lacking and I started school online again, but it didn’t work for me.

In 2017, I found a new job, a bottom-rung organizing job; knocking on doors and talking to strangers. It was with the AFL-CIO’s non-profit organization, and I was making a living wage. I was passionate about the work, and that translated to personal success.

I practiced my script in the car and at home. I researched topics and candidates to build talking points. I self-analyzed constantly and that led to self-improvement. 

After working various campaigns in Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania and raising over $50,000 for our organization solely from door-to-door contributions, I was promoted out of the field. This was my goal: to be a real community organizer. Not only had I gotten there, but I worked HARD to get there. I showed up, did my homework and did my job well. 

During the 2018 election cycle, the organization lost a decent amount of funding and a bunch of us were laid off. I took it pretty hard. I was applying to jobs I thought I was qualified for but kept losing out. Unemployment can be demoralizing. After finding some more campaign work and realizing how fickle it all can be, I decided to go back to school. 

I enrolled at Columbus State Community College in 2019, and was terrified to go back. I’d tried this multiple times and it never worked out. This time was different. 

I found school more engaging. I cared about my classes and teachers, and actually did the work. COVID-19 lockdowns definitely made it harder and there were (and are) still times when I find myself in that ADHD paralysis, but it is way fewer and farther between. I graduated from CSCC in 2021 and made my way up to Youngstown.

Be kind to others, take time for yourself and, lastly, just go to class. That made a world of difference in my life.