With senior year finally being in full swing, I have to say that I feel a surprising lack of anxiety. Normally, with the start of each new year comes a fresh wave of uncertainty and concern for me. It’s kind of like how it was living in Kelly Hall freshman year; I never knew what to expect. And while I still find myself wondering what kinds of experiences await me in the coming months, I am significantly less concerned, and I feel as though this is a byproduct of the past three years of college.
During my first year, it was all about living by the mentality of Murphy’s Law, where anything that could go wrong would go wrong. In retrospect, that was obviously a less than ideal mindset to have, but I can forgive myself, as I was a wide-eyed freshman with no idea of how things worked in college. However, my poor mentality didn’t take away from the fact that much of college is just simple trial and error. I made mistakes along the way just like everyone else and had my share of stupid decisions, but I spent too much time worrying about them before they even happened.
One thing that I really wish I had understood as a freshman is that college is indeed one of the best ways to get an education, but it is also one of the best ways to learn how to be independent. You spend more time learning how to care for yourself than you do any subject, and that’s something that I didn’t fully understand until about a year ago. There are certain systems in place to help you out a lot, but there’s no strong safety net like your parents that can save you. If you make a mistake, you have to just live with it and learn from it so that you don’t make it again. And if you, by some miracle, manage to make it through all of college without making a single major mistake, then you are either doing something really right or really wrong.
So yes, college is a learning experience, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating unless you were like my freshman year self, biting your nails and drowning in anticipation of how you did on that discussion board post. Don’t stress on that. Work hard, submit the assignment or take the test, and then forget about it for the immediate future. Yes, I know that can be difficult, but you will be far happier if you do. The waiting isn’t what’s bad for you; it’s the worry and concern that generally accompanies the waiting, and that is what can drag you down.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because a large portion of my memory of freshman year is just me waiting for test results on a math exam when I should have been enjoying my time hanging out with friends or indulging myself in some other kind of fun activity. I still enjoyed my freshman year a lot and have very few regrets about it, but when I look back on it, I realize that I let many minor concerns build up in my mind, and they kept me from getting more enjoyment that I should have gotten out of my first year of college.
Personally, I think it’s better to save the extreme worrying and sleep deprived nights due to test stress for sophomore, junior and senior year. You have the widest margin for error during your freshman year, and while I don’t think it’s a good idea to not care at all about the mistakes you make, I do think it’s important to understand that if you are going to make mistakes, now is the best time to make them. By the time you get around to senior year, you’ll be so accustomed to screwing up that you won’t screw up nearly as much anymore, and even if you do screw up, you’ll be much better equipped to handle it.
Although everyone has a different college experience, there are a few things that we can all benefit from, and I think one of them is definitely learning how to deal with the mistakes that we make along the journey. Not to say that I have any desire to rewind time and live through my past three years of college, but if I were to do that, it would be a much more polished experience to say the least.