Anna Schultz-Girl On Computer With Notebooks

How a Required College Course Changed My Life

I spent many years of my early adolescence believing that my thoughts defined who I was as a person. I thought that if I had bad thoughts then that meant I wasn’t a good person and that there wasn’t anything I could do to change that. I definitely never thought that a required college writing course would teach me about self compassion and empathy, but here I am telling you that a W101 class is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me. 

When I walked into my W101 class this semester, I was excited because I love to write but I didn’t really know what to expect. I figured there would be a lot of papers to write and basic skills that we were supposed to learn over the course of the semester. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I realized that the class was in a science building and taught by a chemistry professor, Professor Joe. It turns out that some of the best things really do come and happen when you least expect it.

I remember one of the first things Professor Joe told us was that “having bad thoughts doesn’t make you a bad person.” I had never had an adult, unprompted, tell me that, but it affected me a lot more than he probably even realized. I know it probably went over some people’s heads, and that’s okay too, but it’s something I’ve thought long and hard about. He then went on to explain “system 1” and “system 2.” System 1 is the thoughts that we have in our head, the ones we have no control over. System 2, on the other hand, is the part of our brain that consciously chooses to make decisions and take actions. System 2 is what we have control over, it’s what makes us who we are. And the best part is that if you don’t like who that is, you have the power to change that too. It just takes practice. He’s also taught us that mistakes are okay because that’s part of being a human. No matter how hard that we try, we are programed to make the wrong decision sometimes. The class is essentially about human habit. Even in becoming aware of why we do the things we do, the chances are that many people will continue to do the things they’ve always done even if that’s not the right thing to do. So that’s where self compassion comes in, another big theme of the class. Mistakes don’t make you bad, either. Taking responsibility is an important skill to have and understand, but there’s no point in beating yourself up about something that you’ve done. people sitting in chairs and taking notes

In addition to the content of the class being important, Professor Joe also intentionally makes the setting relaxed and low stress. He evidently understands a whole lot about human behavior because it’s a lot easier to write and participate when there’s limited pressure. 

Overall, I’m really thankful that a class I never expected to love has literally changed my perspective on myself and on life. I hope that whoever is reading this will show themselves some compassion next time they mess up and remember that people are generally good.