First quarter of my freshman year was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I moved into the dorms, started classes, and immediately searched for ways to get involved on campus. I wanted to continue the legacy I left in high school; I wanted to continue on the pathway of success.
And I did. I breezed through first quarter without many hiccups. I was successful in my classes, joined Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity here on campus, and made many wonderful friends. When Winter Break came, I was a little sad to say good bye to the campus I now called home for a little over a month. After break, I felt rejuvenated and ready for the new quarter to come. There was nothing but hope for future weeks and more successes. Not long after the first week of classes, the hope I had quickly started to fade when I was faced with my first obstacle.
I got sick. And I mean really sick. Week two had just started and I was starting to struggle. I powered through my classes, complained day in and day out, but could not bring myself to sacrifice my grades for getting better. That was mistake number one. I waited so long to go to the doctor until I could not even bear to get out of my bed. When I finally went, it took an entire weekend to get better, and although the germs were eradicated from my body, my spirits were low. So I continued going to classes, sluggishly, not a single ounce of motivation in my body. The quarter before, I had never experienced a low like this one; in fact, this was the first time in my educational career that I could say I dreaded going to the classroom to learn.
I’m not lazy when it comes to my learning, but high school was different. I was always at the top of my class, a star student in the eyes of every teacher I had the privilege of learning from. I was part of numerous extracurricular activities, had a wonderful, supportive family, and a few close friends I had known and trusted for years. Things were different. Now, in charge of my own health and wellbeing without parents to constantly rely on, I found myself with a heavier weight on my shoulders.
In the quarter system, that we all have a love and hate relationship with, midterms come quickly. Everything we learn is thrown at us fast, and students must be on top of their game at all times to keep up. When the first round of midterms came around, I felt ready. I was most nervous for my biology exam, because it is a topic I’m not as comfortable with.
That exam marked the first C I had ever received. I was devastated. I couldn’t believe what had happened. I spent days on end beating myself up for my performance on the exam, trying to figure out what went wrong. That was my second mistake. While, eventually, I brought my spirits up and thought of a plan of action to avoid a repeat poor performance on the next exam, things could have turned out a lot different had I immediately done this instead of dwelling on what I could no longer change.
Weeks passed, assignments came and went, and although my performance in my classes was surely improving, this did not mean life was easy. I have severe anxiety and depression, mental illnesses that many face on a day-to-day basis. While in high school, my anxiety was mostly surrounding balancing school along with my part-time job, but now I have watched my mental illness escalate into something different.
I do not know who I am; none of us college students really do. I may only be in my second quarter, but that doesn’t mean I’m not constantly thinking about my future. Do I really want to pursue medical school? Am I cut out for the pressures that the education and the field would throw my way? What about everything else – marriage, children, etc.? These things can be difficult with a medical career.
While I would never in a million years give up my goals, I think it is important for all of us to question ourselves, ask ourselves, is this what you really want? Is this who you really are? We all ask ourselves these questions, and that is okay. But, for me, this was mistake number three.
It was a mistake because right now I do not need to worry about the logistics of the medical career I aspire for. Instead, all that needs to be worried about is the here and now; instead of asking whether I am good enough for my dreams, I should be asking myself what can I do right now to better myself for the part of my journey I am currently facing leading up to my future destination?
For the majority of this quarter, I participated in a wonderful group at the Health and Counseling Center called ACT. This group is designed for people just like me suffering with anxiety and depression; no, we cannot get rid of these mental illnesses. In fact, in ACT, they teach you that avoiding the problem is never the answer. Facing it head on, learning how to coexist with the mental illness without it being detrimental is key.
One of my biggest takeaways from participating in this group was from one of the first lessons. It was a lesson about values and goals. We all have things we value that affect the way we go about living our daily lives. In addition, we all have goals we wish to achieve. However, it is important to remember to live according to our values every step of the way to achieving these goals; if we simply focus on getting to the end instead of savoring each moment along the way, we are missing out on a lot.
It is important to keep these things in mind in life’s hardest moments; finals week, especially, can be really difficult, but, from one student to another, don’t forget about the following lessons I have learned throughout winter quarter as you wrap up the classes you are currently taking and get ready for your new ones. So remember to:
Take care of yourself. If you’re sick, go to a doctor. If you need a little bit of time to take care of your mental state, take it. Get the help you need, when you need it. Waiting longer will only dig a deeper hole for yourself that will take much longer to get out of.
Stop dwelling on what you cannot change. That grade you weren’t proud of, that fight you got in with your best friend, or that dumb mistake you wish you could take back are all examples of life’s hurts and hang-ups, but believe me, moving forward will only benefit you.
Focus on the things that matter now. Long term goals are okay but achieving those goals won’t mean as much if you don’t take the time to enjoy the part of the journey you are at right now. Savor every moment; time is precious, and you will not be able to get the minutes that pass by back later on.