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The Importance of Stumbling in College

This article is sort of selfish, in that in the midst of midterms, deadlines, and planning, I sought some time for reflection. Somehow in the craziness of it all, we’ve moved past “the beginning of the year” and are tip-toeing toward that weird part where you can see the end of the semester but it’s not quite there.

This sort of reflection started any sort of thinking during midterm time does–I’ll be studying in the library, rubbing my eyes as I watch the clock creep into the AMs, and start thinking existential thoughts. I don’t think philosophical existential thoughts, more along the lines of what any college student crankily would think at 2:30 AM on a walk home from the library; what’s the point of all of this, when is it going to pay off, when can I get a break, etc.

As much as I love to complain and worry and fret about my time spent in college, I’ve been trying to push myself to look past my current anxious thought because the reality is that I’m more than halfway through this four-year unit of time. So when I’m in the library and fantasize about being home and when I’m home and worry about all the work I have to do, I’m failing to acknowledge what’s unfolding right in front of me.

I wish it were as easy as me saying “hey reader, just take some time to be mindful!” I know that if we all could, we’d sit a little longer at lunch with our friends, go out to dinner for a change of pace, or spend an afternoon leisurely enjoying ourselves. I don’t need to tell you the research found regarding mindfulness and how it benefits academics, mental health, and overall well-being.

There are mindfulness tips I could discuss pertaining to positive thinking, guided meditation, and an awareness of thought. However, what I’ve found in reflecting recently is the significance of college transience.

There is definitely a hype surrounding college. High schools are getting more competitive as we’re being trained more and more to think about the future. Within the first month of my first year, I was waiting to thrive. In return, I was flabbergasted by the mundane activities of doing my laundry, studying for tests, and making small talk as I attempted to find my niche.

What I wished someone told me was that the magic of college is in the mundane. The magic of college is all the homesickness in that first semester, floating between friends, watching Netflix alone in my dorm room. College is feeling stupider than the other kids in your class, pulling all-nighters, wondering if you made all the wrong decisions.

What I’m trying to get at is that the magic of college is being at college and having four more years of pure growth. While it’s so incredibly easy to get swept up in little concerns about academic deadlines and extracurricular obligations, it’s important to look back and acknowledge how wonderful it is to have this time to stumble. Moreover, it’s crucial to stumble.

So, to high school seniors making application decisions and college students: appreciate the stumbles. Call your mom crying because you have two tests and an essay due and week and a half old laundry to which you desperately need to attend. Take a 15-minute bathroom break during class because you definitely drank too much the night before even though you swore you weren’t going to drink bagged wine again. Worry about whether you made the right decision in declaring your major, especially if it doesn’t directly point toward your dream career.

Through stumbling, we grow. Through being present, we acknowledge that growth. So anytime you feel unsure of what you’re doing, take the time to wonder why you’re feeling that way. Sometimes that reflection can either provide reassurance, or clarity.


Image Credit: Feature, 1, 2, 3, 4


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