As my final semester of undergraduate education comes to a close, I find myself reminiscing on my past years here at Monmouth. My thoughts are conflicted because it simultaneously feels like no time has passed and like ages have gone by since my first day here.
My freshman year still remains as one of my best years shockingly enough. This year came with many roommate issues and a few communication problems with certain friends, but otherwise it still remained as one of the least problematic years. I think this was due to the fact that I went into college with moderate expectations and was therefore pleasantly surprised when I found a great group of friends that I felt were very honest and genuinely nice people who accepted me regardless of my many faults. Freshman year I was lost in my ambition though. I strived for positions that I knew deep down were not the right fit for me, but I was so desperate to make my tuition as cheap as possible that I did not take into account the psychological and emotional stress these positions would have on me. Thankfully I did not even get those jobs right away, but the time I had to reconsider these position was not used wisely on my part. My ambition impacted my academics as well. I specialized my major because I was so obsessed with putting myself in the best position for Medical schools, but I did not take the time to consider if that was a path I really wanted to pursue. Though I am still happy and satisfied with my overall major, I fear that I may have dug myself into a very particular hole, and have now missed out on some great opportunities to really explore my field of study.
Sophomore year was quite literally split into the best of times and the worst of times. The first half was filled with friendship, laughs, and pure joy. I found the perfect group of friends that I felt I could really connect with and be myself around. I did not realize just how crucial my friends were to the overall state of my mental health until I was on the brink of losing them. The second half of sophomore year felt empty, and it was largely because I was no longer around that same group of friends on a daily basis. I had started my new job as an RA and found that living by myself in a relatively empty suite did not sit well with my mental health. Going from living with all of my close friends to living with four strangers was a harsh adjustment. My building was not super demanding and my staff was great. It was just the fact that I had isolated myself from the rest of my friends that caused me to feel so empty inside. Now that I am out of that job and back to living with my friends, I can appreciate just how much joy they bring me and how their presence alone can brighten my day. I came to this school to get a degree in biology, but what I am really leaving with is a much greater appreciation for the people I have let in my life and the affect they have on my well-being.
Junior year was a sadder rendition of sophomore year. My job as an RA had gotten exponentially more miserable with each day. I was more than just unsatisfied, I was lonely, isolated, and terribly anxious all of the time. I was losing sleep, weight, and my friends. I had no one else to blame but myself though. I had chosen this position and I had renewed my contract willingly. This semester was different than the one prior, and that was due to the fact that my staff was not nearly as supportive as my last staff had been. Despite having a packed schedule and other commitments, I was stuck with carrying the entire weight of the building on my shoulders. I was doing over half of the work that should have been split amongst five other people. Despite voicing my concerns to members of my staff and our supervisor, I felt ignored and more alone than ever before. The only other person who could have understood my pain was a part of the problem that caused it, and was quick to disregard my feelings the moment I brought them up. This semester had taken a huge hit to my mental health and memories of it still haunt me over a year later. The only good thing that came out of this semester was that I learned to not rely too much on others despite their position. I also learned how to better recognize signs of manipulation and that anyone is capable of doing it. More importantly, I learned how to cut myself out of a toxic relationship with integrity and strength.
By the time I got out of that situation and was happy again living with my friends, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I was stuck with all of those same feelings I had in the beginning of the school year, except this time in a different context. That year ended on a bleak note, and my senior year has been very different from what I imagined it would be, but I can still recognize that I had a very fortunate situation compared to most.
My senior year ends on a bittersweet note. I am excited for what is to come, but a part of me wishes I had more time with the people who have made these past four years unforgettable. Reflecting on my college career has made me realize that it was never about the lessons I learned in lecture (though those were obviously important and relevant in their own way). The most worthwhile lessons I learned were from the experiences I had, many of which were unique to Monmouth. Though there were many bumps along the way, I am thankful for every experience and opportunity I seized here at Monmouth.