As many of you know, I am a senior at UCSD, and I've just had my last final of the quarter. Being a senior means thinking about a lot of "lasts":
This is the last time I will ever walk on our library walk after taking a fall quarter final.
This is the last time I will ever have a fall quarter.
This is the last time I will have to use a scantron for the rest of my life.
And so on and so forth. I've been reflecting on my college years, wondering first of all how the hell time flew by so quickly, and then thinking about how I've changed and grown as a person. It's amazing to think that I was placed at UCSD for a reason, and that all this change and growth I've gone through would not be possible if I didn't go to college here, meet the people I met, experience the things I've experienced. I apologize ahead of time for this lengthy post, but I thought I would share some of the things I have learned throughout my college years. I know I still have two quarters left, and that this list will only grow, but here are some pivotal lessons I've learned and wish that I knew before coming into college, and I hope you can benefit from them.
You're (maybe) paying for school now. You made a choice to pursue a higher education. Though it may not seem like it if you're from an Asian family, college isn't required (?!?!) Don't waste your parents' money. And that doesn't always mean partying it up every night and blowing off your studies. Laziness might be even more dangerous than being a party animal (I know this from personal experience). Know that you ultimately have one purpose in college, and that is to be a student, so don't half-ass your classes and be the best darn student you can be! That being said, DO NOT lock yourself up in a room for four years because you're convinced the only way to get into med school is to study 24/7. Having a social life is good for the soul, can rejuvenate your tired ol' brain, and provides you with relationships, both platonic and romantic ;)
There is such thing as over-studying. I am the type to never feel prepared, and to stress out extremely easily. You need to believe in yourself and be confident in your capabilities. Stressing about a final and staying up all night to go over material you already know isn't doing you any good. Aaaaaand you might end up falling asleep during your final and having to scramble to finish three essays in the last thirty minutes. Not speaking from personal experience of course...
Hang out when your friends have asked you to hang out. If you're feeling lazy and just want to stay home, eat ice cream, and watch Netflix... STOP. Get yourself out of those sweatpants (optional), give yourself a little pep talk, and go make memories!!! Pep talk (one that I adopted from my boyfriend) should go as follows: YOU are the fun. LITERALLY NO ONE WILL HAVE FUN UNLESS YOU ARE THERE. YOU are the party baby!!! Going into any event with that mentality will guarantee that you have a good time and be a good time (don't be obnoxious though, seriously).
Ok, ok I understand that some of us are introverts, and being around people when you need your alone time can be really draining. But don't use your alone time to do something that teenage girls do in rom-com movies. Use that free time to explore a new place in your city, take a recreational class you've wanted to try, get to that project you've been meaning to get to. It's times like these where you can really discover yourself and uncover passions you didn't know you had.
Quit feeling sorry for yourself. This is coming from a girl who LOVES focusing on the negatives and making my life seem like it's the actual worst. Count your blessings, because you really are fortunate. I know this because you're reading this which means you have access to a computer/internet/smart phone so your life can't be that bad.
If you know you're not cut out to be a doctor, lawyer, or investment banker then don't be one. I cannot stress this enough: at this point in your life you need to stop doing what you think is going to make your parents happy (gasp! what?!). Trust me, I know all about the pressure to be successful and ensure myself a "secure" future by majoring in something that will guarantee me a "stable" job post graduation, and that has brought A LOT of anxiety in my life. But if I've learned anything from conversations with friends who have graduated, most of them majored in something they weren't passionate about and ended up pursuing careers seemingly out of left field. They spent four/five years studying biology only to end up wanting to write a novel and discovering that they did not in fact, want to be a doctor. You have your passions for a reason, and the way you feel about them and how you approach them are unique to you. You bring something new to the table, and if you are passionate enough about it, you will find success in it. If you love art, then major in art! Don't torture yourself in organic chemistry classes! Besides, I would not want you diagnosing me with a disease if you don't love what you do. And maybe you really do love biology and have a passion for serving society in that capacity, then go for it! Don't invalidate your passions--use them to your advantage! And ultimately, what will make your parents happy is your happiness.
You do not need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life by the time you graduate. I hate that our society has engrained in our minds that we are supposed to have the rest of our lives figured out by that June graduation day. Hell, some of us if you’re from an Asian family like myself, have been told what to be since before you burst forth from your mother’s vajay. My mom had so many plans for me (none of which really panned out, by the way) to be a newscaster on CNN (the next Connie Chung, she would declare), be a lawyer (because my grandfather was one), or a nurse (that was by far the most ridiculous seeing as I literally had to be held down by 4 nurses at age 13 to get my FLU SHOT).
The ironic thing is that my mom is the person who taught me I don't need to have my sh** together by graduation (I'm sure she's going to say differently because I know that she is actually terrified that I'm going to pursue acting). She spent two decades running a software repair company only to realize at age 43 that she wanted something more with her life, went back to school, and is now a registered nurse on her way to becoming a nurse practitioner, and she loves it. If she can restart her life at an age where our society says we're supposed to have it all together already, then I, at the tender age of 21, certainly have time to start my life, restart it, and restart it again. I don't want to wonder what would my life be like if I had just pursued my dreams from the start? when I reach that middle age, and then regret the twenty years I spent at my safe 9-5. I'm still young, and I have time to make mistakes and fall on my face. Hey, you gotta crawl before you can walk, right? And if I'm not running by the time I'm 30, that's when I'll start panicking. If you're anything like me where you have interests in a variety of things, allowing yourself time to explore your options turn your maybes into definite answers, you narrow down your choices of career, and get to live with ~no ragrets, not even one letter~.
College can be a really lonely place, and if you're like me you like to wallow in that loneliness, look around at people have fun, and feel like you're the loneliest person on the planet earth. But believe me, YOU AREN'T IN THIS ALONE!!! I came into college wanting the quintessential college life you see depicted on the big screens--parties, pledging Greek, being a social butterfly, etc. I tried that the first week of my college career and absolutely HATED it and then thought, well sh** how am I ever going to make friends? But news flash: there are other ways!! I found my home and community with a Christian fellowship on campus (and I wasn’t even a Christian yet, really) and you may feel at home with an engineering fraternity, a sports team, or with an acapella group. The important thing is that you find a community you connect with, be it based on faith, passion, interests, or career goals.
People will come and go. In fact, more people will go than come, and it’s up to you to discern who you want to keep in your life at closer than an arm’s distance. As a people pleaser and someone who wants to be liked by everyone, I went through the fire before I truly understood that not everyone is going to like me. And it won’t be because of anything I’ve done or anything they’ve done, we just aren’t compatible. That doesn’t mean that I should never speak to them and completely shut them out of my life, but why put yourself in situations where you have to try to get someone to like you. I learned in a Cognitive Science class that humans are only capable of being close to a maximum of ~40 people in their lives at one time. So stop trying to have a hundred best friends, because that’s going to stretch you thin, you will end up having superficial relationships, and be extremely lonely. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, challenge you, inspire you, excite you, make you laugh, know how to cheer you up, who believe in you, and are there for you. Friendship doesn’t look like this: *insert the most stereotypical image of the biggest group of friends you’ve ever seen at a party*. It's being able to have an intimate conversation about your fears, your goals, your faith, your struggles, and knowing that this is a friend who is serving a great purpose in your life and vice versa (oh, and you can party/have fun with this person too). But if you have a group of friends with whom you’ve been in the kiddy pool of emotion the entire time, never exploring past the 3 ft area, you have what I call friends of convenience, where you’re hanging out because you happen to go to the same school; once you graduate you will go your separate ways and will likely never speak to each other again. Find that handful, or maybe even one person whom you see as a friend to hit up when you need someone to talk to about life and all the complexities that come with it at 2 AM, because that person will stand by you on your wedding day while the one who only hits you up to party will be at the open bar at your reception.
Network, and don't be an a-hole. Be kind to everyone you meet, because you may be sitting beside the next Steve Jobs who will offer you a position at his start-up, or the future Leo DiCaprio who will need a manager whom he trusts, and that person will be you. And get to know your professors! It took me far too long to realize that my professors are like, really smart and they like, know a lot of really smart people. And despite what you think after you've taken one of their midterms or finals, they actually care about your education and success, or else they wouldn't be professors and dedicate their lives to teaching. Having a relationship with a professor beyond the occasional email is invaluable. Stack up on that social capital, because that is the edge you will have upon graduating with the same degree as the thousands of people sitting next to you.
WHEW! That's was a doozy. Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post. There are many more things I have learned during "the best years of my life" that I want to share with ya'll in the future, but these are just a few that have really stuck out to me. Hope you all who still have finals are pushing through, and to those of you who still have years ahead of you in college, I hope these "lessons" I learned are beneficial to you as well!
Happy holidays, peace n' luv,