Being a student disorients my perception of a year. The last day of school is the eve of a new year; summer vacation is the start of a new beginning. And with every ending -whether it’s flipping the final page of my textbook or closing the final chapter of my life- I always have to look back at what I’ve learned. Every day feels the same and I don’t really recognize how much I change in weeks, months and years time. My second year of college has helped me look at things in an entirely new perspective. In light of this closed chapter, I thought it would be best to summarize everything I’ve encountered. Ultimately, I’m summarizing all of my blog posts into an easy-to-read study guide (something I’m all too familiar with). If I can apply postulates and theories to explain the natural world, then I can formulize life lessons and apply it in the future right?
7. Speak up
When you have an important midterm in the morning and loud music is playing at 3 AM, walk downstairs and tell your friends to turn it down. When you feel an inclination to share your perspective in class, raise your hand. When someone isn’t treating you with respect, let them know how you feel. If you don’t feel comfortable, say something or you’ll feel like you’re wearing wet socks for the rest of your life.
6. Don’t wait
If your class is in 10 minutes and the bus is running late, don’t wait. And don’t bet that you’ll make make it in time to get that first iClicker point, even if you’re planning to sprint into the lecture hall with your arms extended and finger readily positioned on Choice E. Take it from me. Also don’t wait for life to happen to you. A wise Lemony Snicket told me, “If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives.” I think if I chose to wait until I felt “ready” to do anything, I wouldn’t have made this year as memorable as it was.
Was I nervous to start my first day of my new job because I felt inexperienced? Yes.
Was I anxious about submitting my study abroad application because I didn’t know if it was the right time to go? Absolutely.
Was I scared to try something new, approach a stranger, tell someone how I really felt about them? Of course.
Did I do all of the above anyways? Yes. You’re probably thinking, “Why on earth would I risk my current state of contentedness and put myself in a situation that could go up, down, left or right?” I thought the same thing. But if I were to wait to throw myself into the unknown when I felt like I was finally ready to let myself fall, I would probably still be standing at the edge of risk and safety in contemplation. Please don’t wait any longer.
5. There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely
I’ve always had this irrational fear of being alone. Grade school wasn’t the last time I felt the necessity of having a bathroom buddy. I thought the idea of being seen alone meant that I was lonely. It wasn’t until this year that I realized how much I LOVE doing some things alone; I finish what needs to be done, I could think for myself, I could breathe for a moment. Being physically alone wasn’t the issue. It was feeling alone that I was afraid of. But I didn’t feel alone when I was doing stuff alone. I felt more alone surrounded by people who made me feel like I was different. Feeling alone feels like being with a group of people who are inside of the house while you’re standing behind a glass sliding door. I could see what was happening, maybe hear what was happening, but can’t connect or share in what was going on. When you’re in college and constantly conversing with semi-strangers at random houses, you reach a point where you realize you aren’t really solidifying strong relationships. I don’t go out as much anymore because I don’t like having a good time. I just choose to be around the people I want to. I can be doing nothing with the right people and still be more content than doing something fun but feeling lonely. I think realizing the difference between being alone (allocating healthy time for recharging/being by yourself) and feeling alone (being surrounded by people who make you feel like you can’t be yourself) can be mutually exclusive. Don’t be afraid to be alone, be afraid of feeling alone and feeling that way forever.
4. Be Vulnerable
I can’t be strong every waking moment of my life. Acting like I’m doing well all of the time is a tough role to play. And even though I want to look invincible and that I have my sh*t together, I don’t. And that’s perfectly fine. I don’t want to look like I do.
I struggle at my job sometimes, I’m not always the greatest friend, and I make wrong decisions that I wish no one would ever know. But I don’t try to hide any of it. If I did, would I really be writing an online journal about how I almost didn't make it into my major, suck at relationships or am inadequate at completing tasks 75 percent of the time?
All of the people I look up to in my life are the people that recognize that they are struggling, accept that they are weak at times, and allow themselves to get help from their friends and family. Perfect people don’t exist; they’re just hiding their imperfections.
Seeing vulnerability as a challenge to your “masculinity” or “reputation” or “self-perception” shouldn’t be an excuse for allowing yourself to open up to other people. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with others, share in common struggles and exchange love and support. I learned a lot about myself and about other people the more I became empathetic and opened up to them. My best friends are the ones that I can be vulnerable with and the ones that can be vulnerable with me. Be vulnerable with the right people. Those that support you are your real friends. Those that ridicule your weaknesses aren’t.
3. Plans sometimes fail
As much as I wish I got my way all the time, it almost always never happens. And when someone you love must cancel their short-term plans to spend their summer battling cancer, you realize that life doesn’t always go the way you thought things would go.
I try to not let life happen to me and I’m a firm believer of controlling my own destiny. But sometimes things don’t end up that way. In the event of times like these, a good friend told me that I have the choice of being a thermometer or thermostat; I can let the events in my life control me and simply react to these changes, or I can adjust my life and my attitude when things get hot or cold.
I’m not saying I throw all of expectations in the trash and accept that something’s going to fail. I expect the unexpected- a lot of times something can turn out really great, sort of great, not that great or sometimes completely suck. And in the event that things don’t go the way I planned it, I try not to react- but respond. There’s always a plan B, and a plan C,D,E,F,G.
2. Never give up
If you know me well, you know I don’t have any patience. And I also tend to give up way too easily in the face of adversity. When I can’t stand the heat, I immediately stay out of the kitchen. I don’t think there was ever a moment in my life where I can say that I truly worked my hardest for something and continued to keep trying until the moment I found out I wouldn’t get into the econ major. I could have done what I usually do- give up, drop it, do something new because I failed. I never understood the importance of perseverance because I never gave it a shot. I guess I never wanted anything as much as I wanted to get into the economics major. Despite thinking I failed, I didn’t drop the next set of classes to get in the major. Taking the classes could have been for nothing and asking for a re-grade could have been pointless. But I didn’t hesitate to make sure I tried every single option available to me, even if it meant e-mailing my professors and the department. I ended up getting into the major after my professor regraded my test and saw that the TA who graded one of the questions didn’t follow the rubric.
All of it was meant to happen. If I didn’t think I failed at first, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to see how much I wanted something or how much I’m willing to put in hard work and be determined. Success also wouldn’t have tasted this sweet.
1.You can’t do it alone
By far, the most important point I’ve learned this year is that every lesson I encounter was not a lesson I learned all by myself. Someone I look up to taught me this, and it stuck to me since I heard the words come out of her mouth that caused chills to run down my spine. All at once, I knew exactly how much the people in my life have helped me get to where I am. All of my success is shared. Where would I be without the friends I made in CLAS who helped me study for my classes? Where would I be without my housemates who always encourage me to have fun and let go? Where would I be without my best friends telling me to be strong or that I’ll be alright whenever I tweet how anxious/sad/mad I’m feeling? Where would I be without my family who are always there when I give them a call, even if I continue to rant about the same thing every time. I don’t think any of the events I encountered this year would have occurred without their presence. Everything I do will always be a collaborative effort between myself and the people in my life.
Study guides are a good preparation technique for acing an exam. But life isn’t a test to be conquered. If there’s one thing I learned about being a college student, I can spend all the time in the world preparing for the next test. Most of the time, I learn during and after. I’m not afraid of the next test or chapter or stage in my life; I’m bound to learn more than I prepared myself to.