Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dear Younger Self: What Really Matters

Dear Younger Self,

It was dead week, and Brandon and I were in the library after a long year. “I’ve got acne, weight loss, sleep deprivation..., all symptoms of stress,” Brandon said.

“Yeah,” I replied, “I’ve got the same, except weight gain, and I heard those were symptoms of depression.”

“Probably both.” We were only slightly joking.

Sophomore year was hard. You might have expected that since you knew at least Fall semester held 18 credit hours.

It was more than the academics, though. I was hung over from what I thought would be the best year of my college days, and spent the first part of sophomore year reminiscing about the epicness of freshman year and moaning how it would never be the same again. Living with 7 girls in a house was a culture shock, and I quickly grew tired of sharing a room. As unappetizing as the cafeteria was, living on frozen dinners and the occasional macaroni and cheese was worse. Spending time with friends had to be scheduled, as they quickly grew busy too. I had involved myself in way too many stuff, as meetings filled every hour in the day not occupied by class. I frequently stayed up past 3AM, as there was physically no time to get all my homework done (which I started neglecting). And at the end of the day, I was incredibly lonely.

At the end of the year, all my motivation was gone as I wrote here. I desperately needed school to end. Grades didn't matter.

I tried to salvage the last few weeks for making memories in what I thought was an empty year of torture. But the whole year really wasn't that empty. I’ll remember doing Linear Algebra at Starbucks with Ethan and then meeting people at Woody’s for College Night, late nights at The Stoop doing homework due the next day, the road trip to Urbana conference, playing peanuts with my housemates and Marie getting super into it, Lon-Capa aliases, the snowy spring break trip, epic shenanigans, and green boxes. And the such like.

I came back from school and cleaned off my shelves, throwing away old binders from high school and shoving my trophies on one shelf. As much as I threw away, much of stuff remained, and they seemed so useless there, unable to be thrown away, defeating their purpose if I put them in a box. When you’re in high school, or even younger, every accomplishment or activity seems like a stepping stone to college, the ultimate step. The geography bee gives out scholarships. Various activities can be put on scholarship and college applications. My high school letter and its pins are so I would get into a good school. And grades mattered a lot to me.

Dusty on the shelf, they all seemed so useless. They only mattered to get me here.

Now that I was here, I realized what really matters. It’s not grades. It’s not the number of people you can meet. It’s not how much money you can make writing, editing, or selling tickets. It’s not even getting a job or into grad school at the end of it all. What really matters are those moments you’ll remember, those people you’ll remember, and the positive impact your short, God-given time here can have.

So, incoming sophomore, remember as you embark on another year that it’s those moments that will make the torture worth it. And they’re also the reason you came to be here.