Everyone has a different take on college. For some, it's time to develop lasting relationships and live up the weekends, for others, it's time to study the subjects they always dreamed of studying. For most it's long nights cramming for finals and early morning coffee runs where early morning is defined as 3 AM. In college, everyone seems to accept and embrace personal lifestyle choices, yet, for some reason we have a fear of being labeled as the "try-hard."
I spent most of first semester doing too much in the eyes of everyone else. Case competitions, homework, clubs and studying piled up into a deep pit of trying too hard, doing too much and burying myself with all too optional tasks. I still got more than enough sleep — at least more than I got in high school — and I spent more time with friends than ever. I was legitimately happy, but my happiness wasn't enough for everyone else.
The comments came flooding in:
"Why do you try so hard? You really don't need to you know."
"Honestly, take a break. You're intimidating people. Everyone thinks you only do work all the time."
"How do you do it? Dude, be on my team next time. Carry me please."
My best friends warned me I was alienating people. My lifestyle choices were suddenly under attack and I feared the social repercussions of my personal pursuits. Apparently being successful and being happy meant being judged in the eyes of others and I couldn't do anything about it. I felt incredibly powerless and perhaps even a little used as more and more people distanced themselves from me in fear that I was "too much," "too good" and "too smart." I even started to feel a little used. You can only help someone with their homework so many times before you begin to get jaded and I had become extremely jaded.
I don't like to think of myself as a try-hard, but I am certainly not about to change myself in fear of being labeled as one. For everyone who has ever felt inclined to stop being themselves, to stop trying because of those around them, remember these following things.
1. Try because you believe in trying.
When you are doing the things you love, the things you want to throw your heart into, it is inevitable that you give it your all. If other people don't understand that, it's okay, it's only important that you do. You are not working this hard for someone else, you are working for yourself.
2. Rely on those who support your deepest pursuits.
Those who love you will be there for you always regardless. Make time for them, let them love you and keep them close by. If there are people in your life who want you only because you can boost their grades, status or social standing, move away. They aren't worth your time, no matter who they are.
3. Fight for yourself first and everyone else second.
Love yourself first. If you cannot care for yourself, you cannot be there for others either. It may be tempting to fall for the advice of your friends, they may seem to know best. But, if their goals and yours differ, perhaps it is best to fall for your own dreams before those of others. College if your chance to experience without repercussions, don't let the obligations to please hold you back.
4. The guilt of self-betrayal is the worst.
Regret in college is a very real thing. When you miss an opportunity and when a deadline passes by silently, you will wonder the most dreaded question of all, "What if?" Don't put yourself in that position. Hold on to your principles and your own values. These may change during your time in college but don't ever betray what you believe is right.
There are some days when I regret being a "try-hard." Some days I wake up feeling dead and sleepless and some days I wish it was in my personality to be less serious and more troll. Most days, though, I am thankful for myself and proud of myself for sticking with the paths I chose. When I do regret, it is always for the sake of sleep and health rather than the sake of other people's opinions of me. Be kind to yourself and never let the doubt of other's drag you down.
Lead Image Credit: Ermin Celikovic via Unsplash