A Halfway Reflection

The quarter system was not designed for self-reflection. We set ourselves on autopilot by the end of week one and week ten arrives without warning. Starting junior year means that every step forward is now over halfway to the finish line. With some time to finally reflect on the past two years, below are five things my freshman self would come to learn.

Image Source: Jenna Hamra

1. Surround yourself with people who know more than you

We have all been warned of the dangers of comparing ourselves to others ─ doing so often leads to feelings of inferiority, low self-esteem, or a lack of competency. One major change I have noticed is my newfound ability to use comparison as a source of inspiration rather than self-degradation. When someone seems smarter than me, faster than me, or kinder than me, I ask, “What are they doing that I can learn from?”, rather than, “Why am I not as *blank* as them?” We do ourselves a disservice when we undermine our own potential and fail to admire the hard work exhibited by those around us.  

2. Don’t take shortcuts

It’s taken me eight quarters to understand what it means to truly learn something. Learning isn’t regurgitating a textbook or using adrenaline from procrastination to crank out assignments an hour before a deadline. Real learning moves slowly. It requires time to allow the mind to wander, make connections between concepts, and create new ideas from the connections that have formed. Shortcuts prevent us from completely and effectively interacting with knowledge.  

Image Source: Pexels

3. Define happiness on your own terms

No one has a monopoly on happiness or its definition. We all deserve to be happy, but our individual catalysts may very well be unique. Take the time to create and come to terms with your own source of happiness. 

4. We all have a genius waiting to grow within us

The notion of a fixed versus growth mindset is a powerful concept in psychology. My freshman self had to dismantle the belief that some people are just “naturally smarter”. This belief was my way of justifying where I was academically as opposed to where I could be. We all have a genius waiting to grow within us, some people have simply spent more hours in the library. 

5.  Long-term motivation is best fueled by genuine enjoyment

Doing without thinking inevitably leads to the question, “Why have I been doing this?” Without an answer to this question, we often find ourselves fighting burnout. It’s easy to keep running through life without stopping to smell the roses, but when we do, we are able to remind ourselves why we started running in the first place.