It's difficult to believe, but my undergraduate career is just about completed. Soon the CMU seniors will be graduating, moving on to higher education, jobs, and onto other real world experiences. It's a terrifying thought to think how quickly four years have passed. My experiences and life lessons that I have shared with you over this year are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what I've learned from being a student at Carnegie Mellon.
I want to end my senior sendoff by sharing two ways I’ve grown over my undergraduate years: being able to take risks and not worry what others think about my opinions and actions. When I impart this knowledge on you I imagine the freshmen version of myself, who never would have thought of doing either of these things.
I was always afraid of failure so I used to keep my risk taking to a minimum. This mindset provided me a false sense of safety from failure and rejection from my peers. Little did I know that even when you play it safe there are still chances for failure. I was also very self-conscious about what others thought of me. Do you ever have that feeling that a group of girls is laughing about you, or someone's stare permeating through your soul? Yeah. I had those feelings a lot. To try to avoid those feelings of self-consciousness I tried to remain as invisible as possible and live within the norm at Carnegie Mellon. I remained under the radar by not making a splash. I would avoid conversations with new people, guys especially, but girls too. "FMR? Keep conversations normal and don't draw attention to yourself," I would say before going into each sorority--Pretty much the exact opposite of what you're suppose to do. "Don't go out for that club, you don't know anyone in it and you'll be by yourself," I would say to myself during the activities fair.
I gradually realized that by avoiding risk and letting my insecurities dominate my actions, I was missing out on my college experience. By playing it safe I prevented myself from partaking in some amazing experiences. By trying to remain unnoticed I came off as snobby and missed out on meeting interesting and friendly people.
With this realization I decided to change my college experience. I started taking chances. It was baby steps at first but soon I was taking leaps. I became involved with the Orientation Program, held executive positions in my sorority, and even tried out for Dancer's Symposium (DS). Sure, there were times that I faced rejection or fall flat on my face (especially when I was in DS), but knowing that I tried was worth so much more than knowing I hadn't tried at all.
Regarding trying to please everyone and staying under the radar: I still get those self conscious feelings sometimes, but at this point in my life those thoughts and feelings don't direct my decisions. There have been occasions where I've actually heard someone say something hurtful or I have seen unkind words written about me. Yes, I was upset, but I just brushed the dirt off my shoulder, told myself the things weren't true and moved on. Once I realized that being overly self-conscious was holding me back I started to be the real me. As my perceptions about my abilities have shifted, so have the opportunities for me to meet many interesting and unique people, some of who are my closest friends. I stopped trying to be conventional and I started letting out my quirky side. I guess you can say Carnegie Mellon brought out my inner nerd, but I think everyone at Carnegie Mellon brought out my inner nerd. By not worrying about what others think, I have become a passionate leader on campus, a respected sister and a loyal friend.
I have had so many great experiences during my four years at Carnegie Mellon and this is mainly because I learned to take chances, not wait around for something to happen and to not let others' feelings about me dictate what I do. The freshmen year version of Ashtyn would never believe that she would get to be in charge of Orientation and become so close with six other people, be a tornado in Greek Sing, go on Spring Break with 3 other girls and 27 guys, or write for an online magazine. If I didn't take the chance and step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown, my college experience would have been very different. Take chances and don't be afraid! If you fail, use the support of your friends and family to help you back up and try again. If you're like me and started late at taking risks, know that It's never too late.
Now, Her Campus readers, I leave you with these parting words from Mark Twain: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor and catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."