As I finished packing the last of my college items into the car, my mind was reeling with thoughts about my upcoming adventures. I would finally leave the boring and superficial world of high school, and enter the exciting new world of college. There would be great food, a wide variety of activities all week long, and finally a work-life balance. I was both nervous and excited to start my new journey, and to leave my dull high school life behind.
High school was a roller coaster of emotions and experiences: excitement over new classes that slowly turned into frustration and annoyance when I yet again had my life devoured by work. I participated in the International Baccalaureate program, and had a variety of expectations that proved to be unrealistic: I had supposed that the work load would increase, but that I would have a solid peer support group to get through it all. Instead, I found that every week and weekend was the same: working on homework assignments and projects, talking about these projects over lunch, and continuing to work on them for the rest of the day. My expectations were inaccurate, and as such I decided to dedicate most of my free time to exploring my college options. I was convinced that college would be where my expectations would finally be realized.
Fast forward to college. I am now almost one month into my second semester, and I have been reflecting on my expectations. I had very high hopes for college, driven by my unhappiness in high school and my desire for a reality that was better by leaps and bounds. In hindsight, I now see these hopes as unrealistic as well. I was taking all that I disliked about high school, and envisioning perfect solutions in college. I was envisioning intellectual courses that balanced with a wonderful and supportive social life and the option to finally live healthily. Many of these suppositions came from my idealistic college experience, and the information I received on campus tours and from the media.
My classes have been wonderful, and have challenged me to learn in a different way. I have been able to develop imperative study habits, and learn more than I ever thought I could in one semester. However, I found myself disappointed yet again with my work-life balance. I found myself studying alone or in the presence of friends, every night of the school week. My schedule is always the same: class, work, class, meals, studying, and more studying. I came to learn that the week is entirely devoted to academics, and rightfully so given the rigor of college courses. I had to learn how to embrace this new reality, and adjust my expectations accordingly.
I have never been very into the party scene. I am an introvert who enjoys the company of others in smaller and calmer gatherings. That being said, I have always known that I should try something at least once before I discredit it as something that I have no interest in. I attended numerous campus parties on the weekends, and tried to see what the appeal was. I would return to my dorm an hour or two later, and wonder why people look forward to doing the same thing every weekend. Loud music, crazy lights, screaming and yelling. I tried but failed to see the appeal.
This was when I started struggling. It is still very hard for me to admit that I am struggling at the place where I thought all of my dreams were going to finally be realized. I envisioned many things for myself in college, but struggling in this way was not one of them. I have been reflecting recently, with the goal of finding a way to rise above my current struggles and better my situation. In order to do that, I had to come to terms with the entire idea of expectations.
In elementary school, I had the expectation that middle school would be the best days of my life. In middle school, it was high school. In high school, it was college. In college, it has been my life after graduation. I have always expected the future to be better, without even attempting to better the now. I am now realizing that this is not a constructive outlook. My default is to look at the future, and to ignore the present. If it doesn’t live up to my expectations, I immediately envision a better future.
This is a very easy habit to slip into. As is the assumption that I am alone in my struggles. It seems as though everyone else is living their dream. Their happiness is etched into every Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook post, leaving me wondering why I am not living my own dream. But then I started to look deeper. I began to see the posts of other college bloggers, and how their struggles have been hidden underneath glowing social media profiles.
I started to realize that the struggle was not mine alone. We all have expectations, and consequently inevitable disappointment when one or more don’t match reality. I have made a list of all that I want to change over the course of the semester, and now the looming struggle has become a systematic plan for change. Deciding to motivate under the pressure of struggle is easier said than done, but it will produce more positive results. I have learned that I need to start looking at how to better the now instead of waiting for a better future.
I share a lot of my personal experiences and journeys on this blog, and decided to share this one as well in hopes that it will be helpful to at least one person. I believe that being honest is the best option, especially when you are struggling. One of the hardest lessons that I have learned is that it is okay to struggle; coming to terms with struggle is the first step to rising above it.
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