As my to-do list piles up, my ability to breathe properly falters. Walking around campus with tensed up shoulders and a scowl on my face is a clear marker of one thing: I am stressed! Although there have been many fun moments in college so far, fleeting weeks of exams, papers, studying, and outside expectations can get to me — more so than the other people it seems. Pretty soon, my "I cans" turn into "I can'ts." I wonder If I will make it out the other side alright, or if I will fall short of my goals.
Growing up, I never had problems with my self-worth. I have parents who tell me they love me, a good relationship with my sibling, great friends, and a very positive image of myself. I knew that I was capable of many things, and when put to the test of perfection — which my pressure-cooker high school demanded more often than not — I rose to the occasion. I did things at my own pace, but I also went above and beyond the expectations of my teachers and parents. I never bragged, and I was always humble about my accomplishments. Most often, I didn't even want to recognize what I had achieved. Graduating as one of the three percent of my grade to get straight A's all four years of high school, beating out dozens of people for a scholarship or a slot in a competitive music group, and working my butt off to get the things I want was never a selling point for my personality, but it was always part of me. I knew I was accomplished and could achieve things I put my mind to with the support I was receiving.
I'm sure I am not the only person to believe that college is the biggest challenge I have faced in my life so far. The difficulties of the to-do list get to you, but instead of having more time and support, there is a crunched deadline and it is all on you. You can't blame your personal setbacks on anything like you could in high school, and you can't ask your parents for help. Not that I ever relied on outside blame or parental guidance too heavily, but it was nice to know that in high school if you messed up, 50,000 dollars a year was not on the line. At college, there is no redemption. You can fall in line and work hard, or you can drop out. No one will really care either way, and that's the scary part: you are finally completely in charge of your future.
I know this global, catastrophic way of viewing the best four years of our lives is not something you all necessarily want to hear. My point isn't to get everyone down, rather, it is to illuminate the beauty in being self-reliant. You finally have the power to put in your best effort, and to make doing well your own. It's so easy to feel down on yourself, to give up, and to not put in the work you know you deserve to be doing. School is a challenge, not a punishment, and we all owe it to ourselves to get down to brass tax, grind out our work, and achieve our goals. We deserve to graduate, and be able to say "yeah, I did that." So next time you feel like you can't, remember that you are here for a reason. Out of all the kids that applied to your school, it's you and not the other person. Give it your best shot, and be the best version of yourself that's possible. I promise you'll thank yourself later.