What A Semester Trying To Do It All Taught Me

If I’m being honest, this semester kicked my ass. It kicked my ass every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. There were no easy breezy days. No walk in the park, sunshine and roses, I am so happy to be alive days. If I could, I would go back in time to my second semester freshman self who thought it would be a great idea to take on a course load full of major classes, multiple jobs, running a blog and volunteering, all while still trying to maintain relationships with friends and family, get a workout in, prepare healthy home cooked meals, read a book, watch some movies, get a full eight hours of sleep, and I would punch her in the face. I guess I should feel flattered that she had that much confidence in my ability to literally fit 27 hours’ worth of “to dos” into a 24-hour day. But I can’t be too mad at her, because without all of those choices, I would have never learned some of the hardest, but most important lessons of my life thus far.

Before this semester I believed that my success as a student, as a daughter, as a friend, as a human being was defined by how much I could put on my plate. And I can’t blame myself for thinking this because it’s just the world we live in. As young people we are told that in order to get the best internships, land the most prestigious interviews, marry the most perfect spouse, have the most incredible children, live the best life, we have to take advantage of every possible second. There is no room for error here, no room for down time, or even just a moment to take a breath because this is your future we are talking about. So we work hard every single day to make sure our resumes are filled with volunteer hours, meaningful previous job experience and participation in a diverse array of clubs and activities. Can’t forget about academics of course, as we must get the best grades, in the most rigorous classes, while also trying our best to graduate early so we have a leg up when searching for our first jobs. We also need to create long lasting relationships with friends old and new, maintain bonds with family members whilst living the healthiest life style possible full of kale and gluten free bread. There must also be some time to socialize and really take advantage of that oh so important college experience that our parents are paying thousands of dollars a year for. And if after all of those things have been taken care, we find ourselves with a few moments of free time we literally freak out that we forgot to do something or perhaps should add something else to fill the time because the only life we know is one of productivity.

This mentality was me. This mentality was the reason I took on so much this semester and also the reason why I was so disappointed in myself when I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. About a month ago, one of my journalism professors asked me to hang out after class to go over a story that I had turned in. I was in a rush to go to my next class that was across campus, but I couldn’t really refuse to stay so I waited. After everyone had left, he handed me back my paper and explained to me that I have received a 60%. He told me his reasons, all of which were valid and most of which had to do with the fact that I had absolutely zero quotes in my story. He assured me though that because I had done well on my other assignments I had enough cushion in my grade to lessen the blow. I thanked him for the feedback and quickly walked out of the room. I put on my sunglasses, got into the elevator, and tried my best to pull it together. I am not normally the type to get too overly upset about a grade, especially if I gave it all my effort, but this one hit me. I walked out of the journalism building towards my French class, wiping the tears that were streaming down my face and trying to breathe deeply in order to catch my breath. All I could think about was the fact that the only reason I received that grade was because I accidently fell asleep during the time of the event that my story was on, which prevented me from getting the quotes I needed. I literally fell asleep because I had packed my week, and quite frankly my semester, with so many things that my body could not physically stay awake. As I got closer to the building where my class was, I tried so hard to stop crying and just keep it together for a little while longer. I began walking up the stairs and I literally couldn’t. I just started walking back to my apartment and the only thing in the world I wanted was a hug from my Dad. I made it home, walked straight into my room, collapsed onto my bed and I just cried. And if I’m being totally honest, after I stopped crying I felt the largest wave of relief come over me because I realized that I could not keep doing this whole “do it all” thing and that was perfectly okay.

I never knew that getting a D on a paper would be a highlight for me, but it was. It really was because it finally showed me my worth is not defined by my ability on inability to do it all. It showed me that mistakes aren’t ever really mistakes if you learn from them, and if you believe this you will never fail at anything you do. It showed me that it’s okay to admit when you are feeling overwhelmed and to ask for help when you need it. It showed me that I have to be more gentle with myself, especially on the tough days, because I am doing the best I can. It showed me that you don’t have to be the best at everything to still do it, in fact you should surround yourself with people who are better than you because it makes you better. It showed me that I need to take advantage of being young because I have my whole life to work and make money. It showed me that the only person in my life who wasn’t proud of me was me, and that I need to start seeing myself through the eyes of my family and friends. It showed me that it’s okay to say no to things and to people because we all need a break. It showed me that I should never feel guilty for taking time to relax and fully enjoy hanging out with friends free of “oh my gosh I should be doing something productive” thoughts. And finally, it showed me that even if I don’t check every box on my daily to do list, nothing I do or don’t do will ever be that bad that the earth will literally stop turning. And lucky for me that means that the sun will come up tomorrow and I will get to take another crack at it.

So thank you past me for signing current me up for a semester of madness because without it I would have never found peace. Even though I am still learning every day to cut myself some slack, I gotta say that this life, a life where happiness and experiencing life to its fullest is at the top of the to do list, is so much better than what I was doing before.

And just in case no one has told you today, you the person reading this, everything is going to be okay. Your success in life does not depend on this test, or that boy, or this job, or going to that party, or this grade or anything of the sort because none of that matters. The most successful people in the world are the people that wake up every morning grateful that they get to be themselves and live their life for one more day. So let’s all be that person because as J. Cole once said: