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Dear Junior Year, 

My writing this, while my Keurig brews a fresh cup of coffee at 12:37 AM, is a scene all too fitting to the nature of our time together: unnatural, unregulated, but nonetheless, revolutionary. 

I could segway into a long spiel in an attempt to capture the immeasurable stress that I endured over the last nine months- but this is not a formal complaint, and you know better than anyone that among my many talents, playing the victim never did quite agree with me. Plus, to complain or rant about my junior year would only implicate resentment, when the reality is of the complete opposite. I’m indebted. 

August feels like decades ago, but I can recall all of the anxiety felt prior to the commencement of our time together. Thoughts of  “18 credits” and “who starts a minor this late?” haunted my late night thoughts on the eve of the first day of classes, and I allowed my judgment to be clouded with negative preconceived notions. I have to acknowledge I misjudged you. 

I’m sorry. 

I can’t ignore the level of difficulty that accompanied taking 18 credits, engaging in extracurricular activities, writing for Her Campus, and having both an internship and a part-time job; not even in my wildest, Virgoan state could I genuinely illustrate my daily affairs in a calm, cool, and collected manner. To be direct, I have been challenged more than I have in the entirety of my 20 years. I’ve always been a student who took assignments as they came, priding myself on never falling victim to the sweet voices of procrastination that routinely depart from us on the occasion we take them up on their empty promises. 

However, no matter my diligence, or the rigor of my work ethic, free time was seemingly unreachable: there was always something to do. I was never quite able to achieve the wave of relief that usually follows the completion of an upcoming assignment. My midterm grades served as an affirmation that I was on track and exactly where I needed to be, but as somebody who was accustomed to being ahead, the exhaustive nature of my curriculum got to me eventually, and in the most dramatic of ways. 

I cracked. 

I realized I was simply not okay, in any sense of the word. I couldn’t relax without thinking of what I could be doing to lighten my course load. I was unable to use my phone or computer without the “night shift” setting turned on because staring at the blue lights for a duration of at least 12 hours per day was becoming unbearable. Even my beloved morning cups of coffee were not serving as the energizing, motivating companion I’d once known them to be, only bringing to me an accelerated heart rate and a sense of panic that my pace was too slow in comparison to the neverending due dates. Imagine the horror: in the face of my most draining season, instead of running to dirty chai tea lattes for comfort and a -much- needed boost, I was forced to drink de-caf. This is still a touchy subject. 

Determined to be worn on my exterior, the stress crept from my insides the way garlic emanates from your pores after consumption. My five new gray hairs were initially only noticed after a double-take in the mirror, and I can only hope the new, plum-toned bags that have ornamented my eyes are refundable when I’m finally able to exchange my planner of to-dos for a full 8 hours night’s sleep. 

Again, I am not complaining. Despite my new intolerance of caffeine, the sleep deprivation, the tears, and the premature aging brought by my attempt -and success- at stomaching my junior year, I am endlessly thankful. 

Though virtual, my junior year has been my most engaging semester yet because I was allotted the opportunity to rediscover myself. I completed this semester in a one-bedroom apartment in a city 12 hours away from my childhood home, but the isolation has elevated me in ways I will never forget or take for granted. My junior year has been full of lessons, but among the more significant are the extent of my durability, my passions, and my pleasures. 

Unfortunately, I’m incapable of exemplifying how I managed to successfully complete a semester of 18 credits while participating in virtual campus life, working an internship and a part-time job through a preppy list explaining the importance of a planner and time management. There was no method, routine, or key ingredient -besides that of prayer and mother/daughter pep talks- that served as my secret weapon, because I merely took it day by day. Besides the neverending world of literary criticism, one lesson that left me in awe during this year was the extent of my durability. When I was offered a Shop Editorial Internship with Motherly, I can recall my mother asking me, “Are you sure you can do this?”

“Of course I can,” I answered with all of the false confidence in the world. My being certain of my capability to balance my workload was the furthest thing from the truth, almost to the degree that it was comical. I wasn’t claiming it, manifesting, or speaking it into existence. I was trying to convince myself more than anybody around me.

As the semester concludes with only four days left, I can now say that I am pleasantly surprised. If nothing else, my junior year has shown me the extent of my strength; that I am capable of more than I ever thought. Though discouraged, I never wavered or lacked in any area. My will to succeed is greater than anything I imagined, and I’m eager to see where this drive will lead me in a post-pandemic world where the pressure doesn’t feel as intense. 

Junior year, above all I’m grateful that you’ve revealed to me my passions.  I started this semester with the idea that I would attempt to write for Her Campus, in an attempt to keep my creativity active after trying my hand at blog writing through an internship last summer. What began as something experimental, blossomed into a passion completely unforeseen. With each week, I found myself more and more eager to strain my eyes staring at my laptop with fingers typing at what often feels like 100 words per minute. I found that my favorite part of the week belonged to the moonlit mornings of Wednesdays and Thursdays, when all of the chaos in my mind was tranquilized through depicting every drama around me. 

What can be gathered from the strenuosity of my routine is that I had rarely any time to myself. The bright side of the rarity that I had free time was that I was forced to hone in on what I actually enjoyed. Not what was trending, but what I actually found pleasing. For one, “Gilmore Girls” and all seven seasons of its feel-good nostalgia that chronicle the tales of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore were an MVP in maximizing my spare time. I also found joy in baking desserts from scratch; I made it a point to try a new recipe on a bi-weekly basis. Using my hands to stir, kneed, and frost whatever delicacy I attempted that week was a wholesome distraction from the mount-Everest sized pile of assignments that were awaiting. The oddest way I found comfort in the extremities of junior year was through the music of Taylor Swift. I’m not sure if my new identity as a “Swiftie” is attributable to my being a certified superfan through grades three to five, or if it’s because of the calming, rustic feel to the “Folklore” era. Regardless of the reasoning, Taylor Swift’s music has been essential to my concentration and consistent flow of inspiration during my junior year. Not to mention, the recent re release of Fearless as my semester concluded served as the perfect walk down memory lane. 

While this academic school year was far from easy, I‘ve never been one to flee in the face of challenges, no matter their difficulty. I began my junior year uncertain; fearful that I would leave unprepared for my final year of college, or be faced with the realization that I was waist-deep in a curriculum seemingly useless to whatever my career field would be. 

It is this uncertainty and fear that I will never allow to plague me ever again. Though leaving with slightly compromised sanity,  I depart from this era of growth with immense gratitude and an unshakable surety that I am more than equipped for all that is to come 

Thanks to my junior year, and the entire media powerhouse that is Hampton University’s Elite Her Campus chapter, I walk away confident in my aspirations to be a journalist. I walk away optimistic and eager to begin the grand finale of my matriculation at Hampton University. I walk away as the upcoming Editor In Chief for the upcoming school year- if nothing else, this is an embodiment of the beauty of evolution and divine direction. 

Junior year, I never knew you would mean so much to me. For the first time in my life, I feel like all of my involved components fit for my own good, and to my own tastes. I am being stimulated, challenged, and explored in the best ways possible. I despised you for a while, but I now see there was a perfected method to your madness. 

On the many nights that I sobbed to no company outside of a blank google document, I didn’t realize you were a silent partner, coaching me to keep going

Thank you for illuminating my path, thank you for the push, and thank you for the opportunities.   Above all, thank you for showing me myself. I’d missed her dearly. Though she is almost recognizable, we’re reacquainting ourselves entirely, and it’s a purity I’ve never known. 

Junior year, you have ignited an inextinguishable flame within me; a light for religion, a light for feeling, a light for life, and an undying need to write about it all. I am overwhelmed with joy to formally walk in the purpose of pursuing all the dreams realized. 

 

Sincerely, a rising (graduating) Senior,

Cheyenne Paterson

 

Cheyenne Paterson is a senior English major, Strategic Communications minor studying at Hampton University from Boston, MA. She aspires to combine storytelling and an editorial style of writing to increase audience engagement and advocate for brands and corporations. Cheyenne is the Editor-In-Chief for Hampton University's Chapter of Her Campus, a regular contributor to Impressions of Beauty, and the President of the Peer Counselor's organization on campus. In her free time, Cheyenne enjoys dabbling in interior design, perfecting her homemade coffee, and baking new recipes!
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