As my sophomore year of college comes to a close, I can’t help but feel a sense of “I made it out alive” relief. Looking back, the lessons I’m taking away have nothing to do with academics or what I learned in class. Rather, this year taught me more about who I am, what I want and why following your own path is ay okay.
Starting off in August, I was full with energy and ready with my plan of attack. Freshman year had given me a sense of college life and by the end of the summer I was ready to return to campus with a vision in mind of all I wanted to accomplish: work, intern, bump my 3.9 to a 4.0, join this club, be on that team, spend more time with friends, go here, do that, etc. And the awful thing is I managed to magically fit it all in to my semester.
Needless to say, come October I was burnt. I was interning during the week and working on weekends, while juggling class, assignments, school clubs and a dwindling social life. Skimping on sleep and pumping by body full of caffeine, I felt like a half-ass version of myself who was half-assing her way through everything. Beyond feeling hectic, exhausted and stressed out, I felt angry with myself for packing my schedule so tightly. I hit a wall and after a disastrous attempt at midterms, threw my arms up in the air, and to my own surprise thought, If this is what success is, you can keep it.
This realization was a big deal for me – I was always someone with a chihuahua like intensity, always eager, hyper and nipping at the ankles of my next goal. But after living like a miserable zombie for three months, I had had enough and decided living life on high speed isn’t worth it. You see, packing my schedule made me hate life. I was always either too exhausted or too preoccupied with the overwhelming amount of work I had to do to enjoy the opportunities that were in front of me. And the worst part is none of these things – which had all been in the plan – brought me any happiness.
My realization was solidified when I saw this sentence in a book I was reading at the time: “You are not your achievements, you’re reputation or your possessions”.
When those words sunk in, I felt completely liberated. If my worth wasn’t measured in things, accolades, grades or the opinions of others, I was free to live life according to my own intuition. And that’s what I did.
For the spring semester I decided to things because I genuinely loved them and not because I thought I should be doing them. I quit the job I hated, took a less prestigious internship that was more aligned with my interests, quit the leadership position I loathed, tried new things, and most importantly put my sanity over my to-do list. This meant sometimes choosing sleep over finishing all of my assignments and then not getting mad at myself for it. I had to remind myself there are only so many hours in a day, and as long as I’m trying my best, losing hours of sleep is simply pointless and unfair.
I learned if my own inner state is off balance, everything else will be off too. If I’m walking around miserable and exhausted everyday, wanting to hit fast forward on my life – there’s absolutely no point. I’d rater be a full functioning version of myself with a lower GPA, than a zombie with all A’s.
Lesson learned: our relationship with ourself sets the tone of our life, and treating ourselves with love, respect and kindness has to come first. Lesson completely learned…and one I will carry with me for the rest of my life.