Leaning into Senior Year Changes

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Another week of my senior year is over, and if the lines of students buying scantrons in the University Store were any indication, I’d say it’s the beginning of midterm season.

The kind that doesn’t really end until finals begin.

Personally though, I can’t say that I’m feeling a whole lot of stress. Somehow, I’m still ahead in almost all of my classes, I’ve written two 1000+ word papers that aren’t due for a while, and my study plans are already set for when midterms and finals do finally come around.

Truly, I can’t tell you the last time I was this on top of things… Probably fall quarter my sophomore year.

Just because I’m ahead of the game though, doesn’t mean that I’m coasting through this school year. If anything, this is probably my most challenging quarter on the creative side of things. And it only gets tougher from here.

As an english major, I can write you an essay, plead to the humanistic or logical side of things, and understand literary theory/criticism (if you give me an hour at least) any day. 

As a Creative Writing emphasis student with a Media, Arts, Society, and Tech minor, writing a well balanced and interesting story or creating a digital render of a sand dollar that covers expression, technical lines, gesture lines, and symbol qualities are a little outside my norms.

It literally gives me headaches.

On the realistic side of things though, it’s probably not the material or the work giving me headaches. And the new kind of work I’m doing, well, it’s new. Here’s why that’s important.

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Have you ever watched little kids try to play soccer or basketball, any kind of sport really, and recognized how bad a lot of them were starting out? Growing into our bodies, I can’t say that we’re born knowing how to dribble a ball and throw it perfectly or how to kick something without the rest of our bodies moving too. That’s why we practice. 

Even while I started getting into digital art back in high school, I hadn’t touched it in college until this past summer when I chose to take a refresher course online. I’ll be honest, I am not that good. And if you ever ask me to draw a face of any kind… You will be sorely disappointed—for now.

Because here’s the thing, even while I’m doing work that I’m not used to and trying programs that I never thought I would get to touch, it’s exciting. Because I know that it’s a good fit for me.

Between my creative writing workshop, literary theory seminal, intro to science and tech interdisciplinary studies, and digital class, my life looks very different than it did last quarter. Last quarter, I went from one english class to another, all of which had a whole lot of readings and far too many things to remember. Now, I get to use my head and my own comprehension along with my creative skills and imagination. I can’t say that I’m good at what I’m doing quite yet, but I’m passionate about it. And I know exactly where I want to go with it.

That says a lot.

Unlike a lot of other students right now, I’m not stressed even with week 4 upon us soon enough. I’m still ahead of my work, my study guides are being finished, my classes are being attended no matter how surface level they can get, and I’m working hard. That, and I’ve been doing a little more playing hard every weekend with my roommate too—lemme tell ya, dancing is good for the soul.

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So yes, my classes are hard and there are some things that I am really bad at right now. Sure, it’s midterm season and I’m trying to stay on top of all my material. But also, classes are interesting and I know these are things that I actually want to learn about. I’m finding a better balance in this whole college thing.

Took me 4 years, but like I said, it takes time to get good at something. And even if I’ve gotten that far, I know I still have a whole lot to learn.

This time, I think I’m open to whatever comes next.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Taking Up Space

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Another Friday has come upon us and I’m spending it attempting to be as productive as possible and failing rather miserably. After all, we’re heading into prep-week in only a few days and that means finals are just that much closer.

I’m definitely not ready.

I’ve had an issue with being productive lately. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like there has been a whole lot on my to-do list but not much crossed out every day, and at a certain point, that catches up with a person.

Even so, there have been some positives to this past week— a few bits that have reminded me just how much I’ve grown as a person in the last year of my life.

Yesterday, I sat on a panel of students and told other people about my experience being a Cross Cultural Experience Orientation Leader. Just picture that for a moment: for two hours, I’m sitting on a high chair in the front of the room with four of my peers and people are all there to sit and listen to us talk.

Just us.

A year ago there was absolutely no way I would have been up there. I used to avoid being the center of attention; in reality, I used to not like having eyes on me at all. Sometimes I still find myself mumbling too quietly to be heard because in the past, I was afraid of taking up too much space.

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So I spoke quietly. I only did things that would make a positive difference and didn’t publicize it when I saw that difference come to fruition. I kept my head down when I walked and tried to walk quickly, not wanting to be too slow for the people around me. And I always, always, kept my mouth shut until I knew that when i opened it, it wouldn’t cause any disturbances to  the atmosphere of a room and the presence of anyone else around me.

I didn’t want to be too much.

It’s hard to break out of a habit like that, of constantly reminding yourself to stay quiet or take up less space or let the attention be on people who matter.

I know I’m not the only one in saying that reminding myself that I matter too is something that takes getting used to.

Some of that space belongs to me. Some of that noise should be taken up by my own voice. Sometimes, maybe I belong at the front of the room.

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The more people I talk to, the more I realize that maybe I have something to say that they need to hear. It’s not that I have all the answers, it’s simply that I might have a little more information to get them to where they want to be. In sitting in on that panel yesterday and feeling like someone who might actually hold some worth in pushing other people forward, I guess maybe it’s safe to say that being someone people pay attention to isn’t so bad.

At least, not when it’s for the right reasons.

Even while I may not have been productive as I wanted to be this week and I haven’t quite figured out what that balance in being quiet or too loud might look like for me, I’m figuring it out. For now, I think that’s good enough.

Happy Friday.

Adjusting to Yourself

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Did you notice that there was no Bookworms on Tuesday?

There’s a reason for that.

You see, last month I did a post on the Mortal Instrument series along with the two other branch off series by Cassandra Clare. So I’ve been joy-reading all of those from the very beginning since last month—very slowly since my life has been a bit jam-packed lately—which consequently means that I haven’t gotten the chance to sit down and read another book.

Maybe it sounds like an excuse, but honestly, I just haven’t had the time to make it a good post for you.

You deserve that much; maybe I do too.

We all have our responsibilities, as students, parents, employees, human beings… There are things that we have committed ourselves to doing whether or not we can really do it well at the moment. Even if we want to.

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That’s where adjusting comes in.

Just like we have our responsibilities, we also have our own lives that in the grand scheme of things, we make the rules. Sure we have our plans of how things go or when we retire or what comes next, but maybe that plan changes as you change and circumstances change with it.

Just like I didn’t write a post I had nothing for this week—instead of speed-reading a new book or recycling an old one I have little interest in—change the rules for where you’re at (within reason of course).

Think about it.

Everything we do comes from what we’ve got left to give. If we have no energy, say you skipped breakfast or didn’t sleep last night, then you’ve got a little less to give than another day where your circumstances would be better.

This is the small screen version of the picture; take a moment to zoom out.

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Every one of us has jobs to do, things we partake in every day that keep the world running as it does. It’s that idea that everything affects everything.

So if you forget to eat breakfast today, then tomorrow, and the next day until it becomes a habit, your performance falls. And when your performance falls, maybe you start to skip out on meetings with friends or nights with your family too. Before you know it, someone else has to pick up the slack and maybe they start missing things right behind you. When they miss things, someone else has to make up for the time that they don’t have to spend on their other jobs, and well… The cycle only continues.

But what does this have to do with you?

Like I said, everything affects everything. And it starts with you. In order to make sure you can be what and who you want to be every day, you can’t skip breakfast or skip sleep or do something that you simply aren’t prepared for.

It’s not worth it in the long run if you’re still going but everything you do is a little less than it could have been.

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So take a moment to look where you’re at, what you’re doing, and maybe adjust a little today. Take more time for your morning routine, hum in the shower, take a break when you need it; just listen to yourself and do what you need.

Because only when you’re doing good for yourself can you efficiently do good for others. It starts with you.

Going into the weekend, I hope you remember that. Happy Friday everyone.

An Open Letter To College Freshman

It wasn’t until I had a conversation with an old friend yesterday that I realized I’m going into my second year of college— I’m not a freshman anymore. cole-keister-291568To look back on the beginning of college last year, it’s odd to think of myself as two different people; the me then and the me now. But things have changed, I can’t deny that, and the first year of college was a big one. Would things have been more different had I known a few more things going into the year? Maybe. Because I was terrified, I remember that much, in a new school with new classes and new strangers, with this thing called a major I had to work to get a degree in for the next 4 years.

Talk about daunting.

So as a college sophomore, this is my open letter you about what to expect, not expect, and what you need to remember going into your first year of college.

Here’s to you.

Dear College Freshmen,

Well would you look that, 12 years of mandatory schooling has led you up to this— your first year of college. I’m sure you’ve got some expectations, maybe crazy frat parties or super cool lab classes you get to take part in. Like I said last week, try to let go of those expectations and just live your life for a little bit, do whatever you think feels right. But don’t you worry, both activities are nice options to add to the great college experience, there’s plenty of time to do it all. Because people might say “welcome to college, best four years of your life.” And maybe it can be, but only if you make that happen for yourself. No one else will. 

First things first, college is an education. Amidst the weekend parties or the late night food runs, remember that you’re there for school first. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an AP class to get your grades up when they’re lower than you want them to be. Instead you have two choices: retake the class, or simply do well enough the first time that your GPA doesn’t take a hit in the process. james-bold-343821That means going to office hours, asking for help or a tutor (when I got a tutor for Calc 2, I realized that I’m actually pretty good at math, I just needed some help), and stick to a study schedule. Whether you’re on the quarter system or the semester system, assignments and tests come up quickly, you definitely don’t want to be caught by surprise. And not the good kind. Speaking of AP, it may mean something completely different in college, but there are just as many students it applies to. Academic probation is a very common place for college students to find themselves, especially in the first year, because things happen and adjusting takes a little time. So if it happens, don’t freak out, but do your best to avoid it. Trust me, it’s just easier if you do.

So, you know how I mentioned that college is an education first? Well it is, always remember that, but also remember that this is about to be your life for 4 years… You can’t spend all your time studying or working that you have nothing to look forward to but good grades. Don’t get me wrong, good grades are fantastic. But they aren’t everything. I’m not a big party person, never have been, yet I tried going to a few college parties because you never know what you’re going to like doing in a new place. That doesn’t mean you have to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, know your own boundaries, but try to have a little fun too. Still not that into parties? Try a kick-back or a movie night instead, go to the market one day or take a trip downtown. anton-dee-343828.jpgThere are so many ways to get out there and meet new people, you just have to give yourself a chance. Check out a few clubs you’re interested in, join a gaming group, go to a few monthly lectures/seminars, just find a place to fit in and enjoy being a college student while it lasts. Just one year goes by pretty fast.

Now we’ve talked about the education part and the fun part, but what about everything you still don’t know? There are a lot of things that happen throughout freshman year, but the beginning can be a bit scary, maybe lonely, and definitely an adjustment. And that’s okay. Even while going to the same school as my brother, the first night was still a lonely one. Big new school surrounded by people I didn’t know, stuck in a major I didn’t like, and a whole year I just walked into not quite sure who would be walking out. I had a lot of questions going through my head: Am I going to make my parents proud, will I even find friends who like me, how am I supposed to start over again, what do I do if… That’s when the what if’s started. And those never really ended. But I can tell you a few things to hold onto, ready? First of all, you will find your people. Maybe you will have a whole group of people that matter to you by the end of the year, or some greek brothers/sisters to hold ontonathan-dumlao-287713.jpg, maybe you’ll find some nerds that like the same things you do, and maybe you’ll fall in with a crowd that likes things you never really cared for yet somehow you’re at home there. Just know that you will find a place to call home, even that place is just one or two people. As for the classes and figuring out where you’re headed academically, there are counselors around for that exact reason. No matter your area of study, there are people who are paid to help you map out your classes and find a little security in your future. And if you’re switching majors? They help with that too. All you have to do is ask.

Last but not least, let’s talk about you. College is a lot of pressure, from the grades to finding a place to belong, it can all seem pretty daunting at first. It’s a process, one that you learn and adjust to throughout your college career. But whether you’re just starting out or getting back into the swing of things, you’re not alone in this. You’ll make new friends and keep in touch with your old ones, none of this means you have to leave people behind if you don’t want to. Just make sure you don’t leave yourself behind in the process. And if you’re like me, you might get a little lost freshman year. Or a lot lost. With all these questions and things to think about, it can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly. The good thing is, just like there are counselors there to help you map out your classes, there are counselors there to help you through the rest of it too. I know a lot of students struggle with the anxiety of starting over and the pressure of getting things right, but you don’t have to do it alone. Most college campuses have matheus-ferrero-228716.jpghealth and counseling centers, if you ever feel the need, there’s nothing wrong with going to find some extra help. We all need a little help from time to time, and that’s okay. Like I said, all you need to do is ask.

From new friends and old ones to handling classes and balancing a social life, the first year of college comes with a lot of adjustment. In the beginning, you might have a hard time finding solid ground under your feet. All I can say is give yourself time. If I’m being honest, I didn’t find my feet until the end of my freshman year and at that point, I realize I had been building the foundation for it all year. I just never tried testing the weight. And speaking of weight, the freshman 15 may not be as big a problem as they say, but just because there’s a Chick-fil-A on campus doesn’t mean you need to eat it every day. Pay attention to what your body is telling you and go to the gym every once in awhile; just be healthy (stock up on Dayquil/nyquil now), get enough sleep, and that’s all that matters. It’s going to be a year of firsts, new people, new stories, and a whole lot of learning. So buckle up and get ready for one of the most life-changing years of your lives. Make it count, go live your life, and good luck!


A College Sophomore