Onwards: A Tale of Mental Illness, Skill, Luck, and Success

By Jackson Buckheit

CW: suicide

This article is the third part of a three-part series of student narratives. These narratives are part of Professor Crystal Thompson’s English 101 class project, in which students were asked to explain how they came to be a student at UNCG. For all of the stories, visit the project’s webpage.

Since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with technology to a ridiculous extent. As a child I was never excited about anything most other kids became excited about. This fixation, while debilitating to my social comfortability, captivated me like nothing else could. It would be the only thing I would care about or express emotion in reaction to. Believe it or not, it turns out I have Aspergers as well as a few silly little mental illnesses that make living life just peachy. I’ll avoid getting into the nitty-gritty, suffice it to say, I have quite the collection of non-skid socks. While the melting pot of unfathomables was brewing in my mind throughout my development, so too was my skill with computers. My grandfather was a big supporter of my tech obsession. For the longest time he worked for IBM when it was still on top, and he eventually ended up working for the NC prison system as a coder and programmer. He is responsible for revolutionizing not only the way prisoners are managed, but also how their environment is managed. 

Another inspiration, and/or enabler for my tech addiction would be my old boss, Phil. I worked as his employee for two weeks before being appointed to manager due to my sheer skill and effectiveness as both a technician and a salesman. I worked as his manager for a long while before I eventually began my time at Guilford College. I was the boss of men twice my age and triple my experience. Before I began, I happened to “lose the battle” against my psyche and miraculously survived bleeding out. Unshockingly, the completely annihilated tendons in my arm made carrying computers and working on things just a wee bit difficult. Despite the downsides, the experience of surviving a suicide attempt was the catalyst for my current success. Without it, I don’t know how differently I would see the world. While I was hospitalized I had even more opportunities to study up on technology, which further enabled me to become an even more skilled technician. Once I started my time in Guilford I began to work for their IT department. After about two weeks it became apparent that I was the most effective student employee. After I was acknowledged for my hardworking nature and sheer skill, I began to receive more and more important tasks. My time as an employee for Guilford helped further solidify my passion and future in technology. It was like breathing for me, it was second nature. Sadly, my time as an IT specialist also helped me see the negatives of the school I attended. I came to realize that the school was underfunded and falling apart at the seams. Professors were leaving left and right, entire majors were being removed, classes were slowly decreasing in diversity, and the professors that still remained were clearly apathetic. I figured I’d transfer somewhere else to avoid pouring money into a school that was seemingly on the verge of collapse. 

The first school that came to mind was NC State, regardless, I immediately shot that down because one of the main things I wanted out of college was separation from my family. The second school that came to mind was UNCG. Both of my parents had good things to say about it, and it was still far away from home. I immediately submitted an application without a second of research and waited for a response that came surprisingly quickly. I was accepted and was offered a place in the Honor Society which I accepted. My experience with actually applying to this school was maybe five seconds long. However, the experiences that preceded the day I submitted my application molded me into the person I am today. I don’t regret a single choice I made, even going digging for tendons. I reminisce on my past daily and thank myself for being stupid enough to do that.

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