Last semester, my entire collegiate career was changed by one unexpected incident: I sustained a concussion on that second day of classes at a Residence Life event. What was supposed to be my busiest semester (I loaded my schedule was 19-credits of classes, activities, and leadership positions) was put on hold when my concussive symptoms didn't subside for four months after my initial injury. I have always been the kind of person to maintain a busy schedule and look towards achievement, so while I knew that I had to "rest," rest for me meant going to bed a little bit earlier and powering through my assignments as fast I could as long as I could manage.
However, after my symptoms worsened and I was bedridden for a whole day at a time, I realized that I needed to take a step back and really focus on my health, which is something that I don't do often. Thanks to a self-care focused psychology course and the extra time I needed to get healthy, I ended up learning some essential life lessons that have helped to change the course of my college journey.
1. I Developed a New Perspective on My Health
Like I told my public speaking class this semester during my introductory speech, before my concussion, I was the kind of person who would run myself ragged to get done everything on my schedule to the very best that I could accomplish it. I put so much effort into everything and became so dependent on caffeine to keep going. However, I realized that I was rushing through life so much so that I couldn't enjoy where I was at during the present moment because I was just so focused on what I had to do next.
Now that I'm healed, I have to admit that I am back to loading my schedule, but that's how I enjoy life. I realized through my concussion that sometimes I simply can't do everything and that it's importance to take breaks. To stay healthy, what I need to do is take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the view.
2. I Began to Learn How to Overcome Perfectionism
When I sustained my concussion, one of the first things that I had to do was give up my tight grip on my life. I poured my time and effort into each assignment until I deemed it "perfect," but I realized that I didn't need to preoccupy all my time on each little thing. I didn't need to overachieve on everything. I found that I over-studied for most of my tests and put in time and worry that I didn't even need to. While I didn't end up taking the 19-credits, I still ended up being able to excel in the classes I did take and ended up with a 4.0 despite my medical challenge. While it's not as romantic as the notion of, "Shooting for the stars," it's okay and healthy to not always feel the need to overachieve all the time.
Another thing that I learned was what was truly important versus what was not essential. For instance, I learned to put my health before waking up an hour early to do my makeup, because getting that extra sleep was essential to helping my get through the day. Before that semester, I never would've left my dorm without doing my makeup, but I learned that for the sake of well-being, it's okay to head to class wearing sweatpants and t-shirts with no makeup on. I began to feel comfortable in who I am without having to go the extra distance; I became more comfortable in my own skin. While I'm back to waking up early to get ready, it's because I want to, not because I need to.
3. I Learned Who Was Really There For Me
Anyone who has had a concussion or has a loved one who has had one knows that it is mostly a silent injury that affects every part of your life. I learned who was understanding and supportive of me and who really didn't even try to understand or help me. Concussions are mentally and physically exhausting, but often times, others cannot see that. I am grateful for the people that were supportive of me throughout my recovery and supported me. While it was a hard time, I learned who my friends truly were by all of the kindness and support they gave me.
While I never had a doubt in my mind of how amazing my parents are, I am truly grateful for the support of my family, who on multiple occasions made the four hour journey to pick me up because I was too sick to stay at school. I am so thankful for those who went on this hard journey with me.
4. I Was Able to Reflect and Gained the Courage to Take Some Leaps of Faith
Something I wasn't expecting was all the time I was able to reflect. These many moments of reflection lead to the ability to really assess where I was compared to what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. After long hours of talking it over, praying, and thinking over what I really wanted out of my college career, because of the time I was able to spend in reflection, I made the decision to both transfer out of the university I was at and to change my major at my new university.
I realized that I wasn't truly happy where I was at, and while I could've powered through my college career and stayed where I was, I decided what I really wanted was a change in pace and to try a new school. I learned that in concussions and in life that it isn't always best to, "Power through it." There were some great things about the school I was at, but more and more through reflection, I realized what I wanted was to be able to start again with a new major. It was easier to make the switch to education at a school closer to home, and so far, I have been enjoying the change. I was able to really assess what I truly wanted rather than just rushing through my college career.
I realized that while I found psychology interesting and was doing well in it, that didn't mean that it was the right fit for me in the means of a lifelong career. What I was able to find was that my passion was for youth character development and helping young people become their best selves, which lead me to pursue a current major in Secondary English Education.
It took a leap of courage to take these chances, but through my concussion, I gained the confidence I needed to take this chance.
5. I Realized that No Matter How Hard I Planned, I Still Couldn't Control the Weather
What I planned as my busiest, best, and brightest semester was drastically different than I ever could imagine, but I learned that no matter how much planning and preparation I did, there are things that are totally out of my control. With this in mind, I realize now that even though I never thought I would transfer or the many things that happened because of my concussion would occur, these unexpected and initially painful things can lead to happier things happening in the future. Sorry for the cheesy inspirational quote, but sometimes what you need to do during the storm is open your umbrella and walk towards the rainbow. Life might dramatically change, but things like my concussion may have led to some of unexpected blessings.
5. Excedrin and Naps Are Often My Best Friends
Before my concussion, I never took naps, but because of it, I learned the value of a good college nap. I also learned that Excedrin is a lifesaver for my migraines.
While I'm not happy that I sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, I am truly grateful for the life lessons I have learned during my recovery process.