In my freshman year of college, I remember feeling so shy and cautious about everything. I was finally in college, the place I've wanted to go to since I was in middle school. I didn't want to mess anything up. I pushed myself to get up for classes and reminded myself of how important it was to get the best grades I could achieve.
Flash forward to me a year and a half later, skipping a 12:30 P.M. class to take a nap. No, I haven't become a slacker. In fact, my grades are still looking pretty great. My entire life, I've always been an A and B student and I still am in college. However, the way I went about getting my grades when I was in high school versus now is pretty different. In high school, I stayed up super late to do homework and when I would give up, I'd cheat. So hard. I would go past the first page of Google trying to find the homework document anywhere I possibly could. College has taught me that you can't necessarily get away with doing that anymore, but I've accepted that. I've realized that when you put enough planning and enough of your time and effort into your work, you'll feel more deserving of your grade. It's a pretty satisfying feeling.
I learned that mistakes will be made and that's okay. In high school, anytime you made a mistake, it felt like the end of the world because high school was just full of drama. Everything was taken to heart and all actions were rash and impulsive. I've messed up more than I'd like to admit, but I know for a fact that I've learned a lesson with every mistake I've made. Making all the mistakes I have, it's allowed me to become a more compassionate and understanding person. I know now that sometimes, you just gotta take the time to really think through your actions and their results. It's basic but it's something many people are still learning. You have to make mistakes to learn from them, and it's not the end of the world.
College has also taught me to put my mental health first. In high school, it really does feel like high school is all there ever will be. It feels like high school determined the rest of my life for me, and I know now that it doesn't and it never really did. There were so many times that the crushing weight of trying to graduate with the perfect GPA and trying to be the perfect student would just take me under. There were endless nights of stress and no sleep and crying and uncertainty; I thought I would be nothing if I were not the perfect student, or at least close to it. Now, I still stay up trying to make sure I get the good grades on my assignments but I'm learning not to let attaining certain grades suffocate me. If I'm exhausted or mentally drained from school, I allow myself to skip a class every now and then to sleep and get a peace of mind. Mental health days are definitely required as a college student.
I've learned that school truly isn't everything. It's hard to believe that because we've done 12 years of regular schooling our entire lives, and then some more for those who decide to go to college. School has been all we've ever known so how can it not be everything? Well, it's not just for the plain old reason that it isn't. Oftentimes, we are so caught up in schoolwork that we forget there's so much more out there in the world. There are moments you don't realize you miss out on. You miss out on meeting someone and going on dates. You miss out on the perfect sunset outside your dorm. You miss out on a fun night of just walking around campus with your friends and laughing all night. School isn't everything, but living your life is.
I hate to be cliche and say, "Hey, live life to the fullest or you'll regret it," but it's true. You miss out on so many moments of your life because of something that will only result in a piece of paper awarding your mastery of a major has taken over your time. Of course, college is all about balance. Find the time to do your essay due on Friday but also find the time to watch a movie with your best friend or make some new friends. Find the time to do something crazy and unexpected that will leave you more thrilled than ever.
It never feels like there's enough time in the day, let alone in life, and that's why college always seems to fly by. I don't want to look back at my college days and say, "I wish I had gone to the lake with my friends that time" or "I wish I had said yes to a date with that cute junior." I want to look back and say, "I can't believe I dived into the lake in the middle of the night with my college friends." College, so far, has taught me this important message: a life full of 'I wish' is not a life well lived. Don't get so caught up in the stress of it all. Live a life that you can smile at when you're old and pensive.