Ah, the false romanticism of new beginnings.
I remember the eager, wide-eyed high school freshman I once was. My bag weighed more than I did and I was determined to join every club, sports team, society and alliance high school had to offer. However, being the endearingly cynical second-term senior I am now (gazing out the window in search of this long lost juvenile zeal), it’s easy to look back and note that the past four years weren’t all they were cracked up to be. That’s fine though because one “C” word gets me through even my longest remaining high school days: Calculus — just kidding, it’s college.
As we’ve learned from being freshmen once already, it’s easy to get caught up in the seduction of a shiny, new chapter of life. This is why we often look to the start of a new day, month or year to “begin again” and “do things right.” In fact, college is essentially just one grand, existential New Year’s Resolution; it’s the epitome of a clean slate. The entirety of our high school career has led up to this point and all previous hiccups and follies won’t matter (every failed test, every tardy — even your Justin Bieber phase can’t be held against you). This exciting chance to start over has us all planning to be bigger, better and brighter than we’ve ever been. And although this change is exciting, inspiring and overwhelming all at once, could this same innovation ultimately set us up for failure?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to have goals. Goals provide us with the motivation and the framework to further ourselves. For many, college is the quintessential #goals. If I had a dollar for every time somebody said, “In college, I’m going to…” tuition would not seem so steep. And I imagine that college, abundant as it is with intellectual and social opportunities, will certainly facilitate our efforts in reaching these goals.
Still, where is the line drawn between goals and ideals?
Allow me to first point to the fact that college is an ideal in and of itself. College is often characterized as a promise land of sorts, a place in which we can better ourselves and become the great people we were always meant to be for society so we can move on to our next subsequent stage of life. The grandiosity of this view makes it only inevitable that our resolutions slowly evolve from things like “Do more squats” and “Feed the goldfish” to objectives more along the lines of “Move out of the house,” “Get life together” or “Save the world.” Did you really stick to that strict, weekly squat regimen? Is your goldfish still alive? I don’t mean to be contemptuous — for all I know you could have the world’s best legs and a teeming home aquarium. My point is that the “college” many students envision with monumental milestones, self-revelations and extensive song and dance numbers may, ultimately, be unrealistic.
That’s not to say I’m not hyped for the next four years. But as we prepare to become freshman once more, we should keep an open mind while remembering the perspective we have now. Although college promises exciting new adventures and opportunities, don’t succumb to the pressures that come with these opportunities.
You should know that you’re fine the way you are now and that you’ll probably (definitely) slip up in college too. In fact, you’ll most likely go through another Justin Bieber phase (I’m listening to “Boyfriend” as I type this). Don’t feel pressured to find your calling, your soul mate or even yourself throughout your college career. I encourage you to see college as more than a means of defining who you are and to view yourself as more than the sum of your college accomplishments. While we’ll undoubtedly learn more about ourselves in the coming years, I think we can each define achievement and capability for ourselves and not look to college to do so instead. We should aspire to a mindset in which expectations are not set by the ideals that hold us back, but rather by our own passions, talents and ambitions.
Lead Image Credit: OakleyOriginals