I climbed in my car Sunday afternoon heading to face another semester on The Plains. In all honesty, I wasn’t ready. My break had been an emotional rollercoaster and I had fallen back in love with the routine of being at home with my siblings. Just like most freshmen, first semester was rough. I found myself bombarded with changes to every aspect of my life. People warn you that it’s a trying time, but nothing hits home like experiencing it yourself.
There was so much uncharted territory and when I try to describe it the word overwhelmed is all that comes to mind. But, thanks to a lot of coffee, a lot of love, and the good Lord’s grace, I made it. I survived, and this was such a feat for me that it was all I could manage to think of over break. I lived, I conquered and in the shuffle of the holidays and the rest period that follows I kind of forgot that I wasn’t necessarily done. I had to go back for round two and deal with school all over again. I was nowhere near mentally prepared to face another semester of school, but not going wasn’t an option. Which got me to Sunday, headed back to Auburn in a car filled with clothes and books but a spirit filled with panic.
Then my phone rang. A beautifully timed phone call to inform me that I had in fact gotten a job that I, on a whim, had applied for two weeks earlier. I was given the opportunity to write for "The Odyssey." The message that I was, in fact, going to be okay wouldn’t have been clearer if God himself had come down from the Heavens and plastered “you've got this” on a billboard. You couldn’t have brought me down from cloud nine if you tried. It was exactly what I needed to encourage myself to head into this semester fully determined to make the best of it. Writing has always been one of those things I was decent at, and I’ve always been the girl with a secret diary in her pillowcase (as I’ve aged I have tried to graduate to the word journal).
I am a frequent reader of the Odyssey and I had been toying with the idea of submitting an application for awhile. Over break, I found myself reading some of my previous writings and decided to go for it. I didn’t really expect to get a response so soon and I sure as heck didn’t think I’d get the go-ahead to start writing within the next week. It was truly one of those situations in life where God was pushing me onto His path.
It’s human nature, though, to forget about those glorious moments in which we are shown first-hand the beauty of our creator’s plan and quickly my courage faded. By Tuesday evening, I found myself in that same unprepared panic and I was so anxious about the first day of class, but he proved me wrong again. Wednesday made for a great day filled with seeing my sorority sisters, spending quality time with my roommate, and reuniting with my long lost love Chicken Salad Chick. I then got to thinking, which is something you’ll see I do a lot as you go on this writing journey with me, and I realized that surviving second semester might not be as hard as I imagined.
First semester may have knocked me down, it may have knocked you down too, but second semester is fresh and new and we’ve all acquired some pretty useful tools for this go around. So I decided that there couldn’t be a better way to start this writing gig off than to talk about those same tools. So here are some things I feel like are all vital to not only surviving, but owning, second semester.
1. First and foremost, keep your eyes open for those pats on the back from God.
I feel like he is constantly sending us signs to encourage us, let us know we’re on the right track, and sometimes to keep us off that bad road. The kicker is that if we’re not listening we won’t hear Him. If you’re questioning a situation, a decision, or feeling down, turn to him. He will surely provide you with better answers, comfort, and guidance than any. We just have to take the time to listen.
2. Let go of last semester.
This is a toughy because you want to always learn from your past, but my situation was one that just leaves me feeling overwhelmed all over again. Let it go and breathe in this new opportunity. You have a fresh start and there is nothing more glorious than getting to begin again. Constantly remind yourself to embrace it.
3. Don’t try to look too far into the future.
Now, I don’t mean to act impulsively and have no reserve for consequences or how your actions will affect your ability to get a job in ten years. But, don’t stress and think if you mess up one homework assignment you won’t get into medical school (I’ve totally done this three different times). You can’t enjoy the free week ahead of you if you’re worried about that jammed packed one coming up in March. Boil it down to a system of focusing on what is going on now and what you have to do next. This semester is a long haul, with tons of class time and not a lot of holidays or breaks. It’s going to be easy to get bogged down and stressed out over future events. Just be conscious of where your mind is and don’t miss what is right in front of you.
4. Manage your yes’s and your no’s.
This is such a hard concept for me to grasp and it is something that I vowed to work on in this next year and semester. Learn to say no. If you really don’t have time to babysit for that new family- turn the job down. If you have a test tomorrow and can’t watch four hours of Netflix with your BFF- say no. If taking on a leadership role in one of your clubs doesn’t work at the moment- don’t volunteer. Learn to responsibly and respectfully turn things down. On the other end of that spectrum, be a yes person as well. If your friends are going out on a Friday and you don’t want to go because you’re tired- do it anyway. If your girls are going shopping- get you some retail therapy sista.
This one is so important, go on the freaking lunch date. I don’t care if it’s the cute boy from history, a classmate or a sorority sister go on the lunch date. It doesn’t hurt and it’s not like losing that one hour will kill you. All of this is extremely hard for me, especially the lunch date situation if you couldn’t tell. I am way better at not doing than I am at stepping out of my routine. I find myself saying yes to my no’s and no to my yes’s and I have learned that it leaves my constantly unhappy. I’m always wishing I was doing something other than what I’m doing now. Don’t be that way, because it isn’t fun. Time is one of the most precious jewels we have, so work this semester to make sure you are doing what truly makes your heart happy and benefits you the most.
5. Be kind.
I have learned that the days I smile the most are the ones where I am offering that smile to others. Positivity breeds positivity. Work this semester to broaden your friend group and your connection pool. Learn the names of those sitting beside you in class and try to actively listen to their small talk. Smile at people on the concourse, and be kind to the cashiers on campus. Just spread your love and brightness, because to spread it you have to be it. You’ll be constantly reminding yourself to be happy.
6. Lastly, be inspired.
About an hour after the phone call I got on Sunday I came to my senses and thought “holy crap I have to publish an article in a week”, and I instantly started racking my brain for ideas. All week when my friends and family would ask how the writing was going I would reply with, “I’m waiting to be inspired” and I meant it. I was constantly searching for inspiration; for a moment, that was worthy of writing about.
And, let me tell you I had so many of those moments that I had to start a new journal just to document them all. I realized, though, is that there is a strong possibility that I didn’t have any more ‘lightbulb moments’ this week than on any other typical week, but this time, I was searching for it. So look for things to inspire and encourage that thoughtful side of yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, appreciate that sunrise or that Starbucks coffee. Let everything you experience actually be an experience. It makes a world of a difference.