The Secret To Getting Back On Track In College: How To Love Your "Detour"

By Amy Oestreicher on February 21, 2016

I’ll be taking my own story to Boston College next week to show students that a detour is not a dead end. Somehow I’ve managed to cram more surgeries than I can count into a one-woman autobiographical musical, a presentation on mental health, and a powerful takeaway that difficulties can truly make you stronger.

Ten years of uncertainty and setbacks were frustrating and difficult, but the lessons I learned from that beautiful detour — yes, you heard that right — are truly immeasurable.

Managing Difficult Thoughts on a … “Detour”

A Detour: You’re on a road, and you have to make an unexpected turn. Sounds like life, right?

I’m the only person in the world that feels this hopeless. 

How can things ever get better?

 I must be crazy.

I feel so alone.

These thoughts raced through my head for years.

When Life Takes a Detour …

These were thoughts I had when my “thought-out” life took a detour.

What’s a detour?

A detour is a curve in the road, a bump in a path, a big sign in the middle of your trip that says sorry, you have to go THAT way.

Nobody expects a detour to happen in life. It’s what happens when we think we have things planned and all figured out, and then we’re thrown a curveball.

Believe me, I didn’t expect to be in a coma my senior year of high school.


It’s a mouthful, I know. That was my detour. I thought that in just a few months my path would lead right to college.

The most important thing I learned about a detour? You can still live a happy, healthy, fulfilling life. I even got to college — at 25!


But the great part about a “detour”? You get to travel a route you never would have expected. The road may be tough, long, winding, and seemingly out of the way, but what I finally realized is, it’s the twists and turns in life that ultimately make us who we are.

Now that I’m also in my third year of college, I’ve realized that physical and mental health issues are things we all think about, even if we don’t label what we experience as an “illness.”

We all need to learn how to cope when life doesn’t go like we expect it to. We all could use a few tips on learning how to love who we are. We all have detours in our lives, and we become empowered when we trust that we can travel those detours and come out okay — even better! This “detour” in my path has turned into the richest time of my life and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude. That’s why I call it my “beautiful detour.”

I turned my detour into the best trip ever.

The Secret to Finding Your Way on a Detour …

Sharing your story.


Gutless & Grateful, the honest one-woman musical story of my life, shows the great and not so great aspects of a “detour” in life. How I traveled my “detour” was by trial and error — and it still is. But what I realized is that when I finally spoke up, asked for help when I needed it, and shared my story, I was finally able to heal and move on from it. Gutless & Grateful is the story of how I became a Detourist.

Sharing Our Detours

Why am I sharing my detour? It takes “guts” to talk — and sing — about my sexual abuse, my anger, my guilt, how I lost hope in things ever getting better. But I share to show that things DO get better with patience, trust and resilience.

I share to give courage and a sense of belonging to people who are struggling with all kinds of mental health or physical challenges, but also to help build a campus that gives everyone the kind of awareness and generosity of spirit that makes that world a better place. If we all share our “detours,” we see that our detours are not detours at all. Every road leads somewhere — we just need to hang in long enough to catch the flowers along the way. The more we share our detours, the more we realize we’re not alone. 

How Will You Share Yours?

Just talk. Share. Sing a song, do a dance — or if you’re not a theater ham like me, draw a picture, journal or tell a friend. Heck, post it on Facebook. (But careful with the oversharing.) Your story — your detour –  is worth sharing. You never know if someone else is struggling with a very similar detour — or at least feeling the same kind of uncertainty when a path doesn’t go as you expect.

“Life may be nothing but a series of detours.” 
- Marty Rubin

My detour is taking me to Boston College 2/29. From there, well, the beauty of a detour is you don’t where it may lead.

Just remember to:

Show up.

Trust that you are capable.

Be curious to see where the detour may lead.

Detours lead to new, unexpected and amazing opportunities.

What will you find on your detour today?

All artwork was created by Amy to take care of her own mental health. Learn about her mental health advocacy programs, her art giveaways for students, and find out how to take part in the #LoveMyDetour movement, striving to create compassion through stories.

Amy Oestreicher is a PTSD peer-peer specialist, artist, author, writer for The Huffington Post, award-winning health advocate, actress and playwright, eagerly sharing the lessons learned from trauma through her writing, mixed media art, performance and inspirational speaking. She's also a third year student at Hampshire College studying art, psychology, playwriting and theatre. Amy has written, directed and starred in a one woman musical about her life, Gutless & Grateful, has flourished as a mixed media and acrylic artist, with her art in multiple galleries and mounting dozens of solo art shows, and continues to share her story through her art, music, theatre, workshops and writings, as well as a sexual assault prevention program she tours to colleges across the country. Amy’s “beautiful detour” has inspire her passionate desire to create and help others. Her writings have appeared in Washington Post and On Being with Krista Tippet, her story has appeared on the TODAY Show and CBS, and her one-woman show has been seen in theatres across the country, earning rave reviews and accolades since it’s BroadwayWorld Award-nominated NYC debut. Determined to bridge the gap of communication between wellness resources on college campuses and students, Amy devised storytelling programs especially for colleges and universities to address the issue. Amy is currently touring the country with her one-woman musical, Gutless & Grateful, her keynote presentations, workshops and signature talkbacks, which she has devised specialized versions for corporations, college campuses, survivors, healthcare professionals, and artists. She is leading mixed media creativity workshops to promote creativity as a mindset, an essential survival skill. Amy also offers private coaching to help others navigate their own beautiful detours. Visit for more information.

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