The phrase “college years” may seem like sweet strawberry wine when pitted up against terms like “real world” and “making ends meet”. Here’s my problem with that: college isn’t sweet. College wasn’t sweet to me. College was actually somewhat bitter.
I went into my junior year of college with over a 3-point GPA and worked about 55-60 hours a week. My work schedule was fairly set, and I had classes three days a week. Somehow, I made all of the hurried drives between shifts, classes, work, school, and in between it all did my homework. And I still managed to squeeze in visits to my boyfriend’s house after work (at 1 am most nights I was able to. Yes, it was ridiculous. We knew that). Somehow, everything just worked…for a while.
Fast forward to midterms. We all know how things get around exam time. You’re downing coffee, working on those last minute term papers that you pushed off until now, and praying to the collegiate gods to give you all of the knowledge you need in the next 12 hours before your exam. Face it. When you’re desperate, you’ll do anything to get the topics from that $150 textbook into your brain on a last minute whim.
I was spending late night hours at work or in the lab at school working on video edits and last minute articles for the classroom/student-writing portion of the newspaper. I averaged about four to five hours of sleep a night for about two weeks before I finally cracked.
You heard that correctly:
I crashed and burned. I was royally flushed. I bombed two of six exams, my grades slipped, my diligence at work slid, and my attitude sucked. And as exhausted college students, we all know what happens when we stress too much, sleep too little, and get annoyed too often: we let loose on people we don’t necessarily mean to let loose on.
I chose such a horrible time and place to do so. Lesson #1, boys and girls: don’t let loose at your place of employment when you are in a position of power but under the general manager.
Needless to say, I was fired from my job the week of midterms. I deserved it. I was an ass. It happens. What happened in the days and weeks following is something I don’t think I will ever forget.
My morale was lower than low. I started skipping classes. I stopped running for a period of time and basically became a couch potato. I was constantly in tears (and after three years working for that company, I was crushed but understood why it happened). I was angry with myself on so many levels. I camped out on the couch instead of my bed for almost two weeks when it hit me: I had stopped caring. That day, I withdrew from five of the six classes I was taking that semester.
My mentality had overpowered any single care I had about school at that moment in time. At times, I regret doing what I did in withdrawing that semester. I lost a semester’s worth of my scholarship. I had to write a letter to the financial aid office to explain my situation so said scholarship wouldn’t be revoked. Applying for jobs was endless until another restaurant gave me a chance to meet new people and clear out of where I had been before; even so, I wasn’t super comfortable with change. My GPA stunted for a semester or two before I was able to get it back to where it had been, and I didn’t get to graduate a semester early with the people I had been working so hard with in classes up until that moment in time.
I had to make a choice: was suffering through school and going through the motions really worth it if I wasn’t going to be happy and make the most of it?
Think about your high school, college, or work life experiences thus far. Think about if you’ve been going through the motions or actually putting your heart and soul into what you do. If a supervisor, professor, or esteemed person in your life were to walk past, would your work radiate your passion for the job or subject matter, or would you be the person there without a care in the world? That could be the defining moment between having landed your dream job with a new challenge each day or simply sticking to what you know because it is easy for you and you don’t care.
Looking back, it may not have been the best decision, but it made me work that much harder to get back to where I had been before scholastically, financially, diligently, and more. It made me appreciate the people who had my back during that horrible time (you know who you are). It made me appreciate having the common sense to know when to take a step back, breathe, and take care of myself (like everyone should take the time to do. It’s not easy being a working college student or a young graduate. That’s why it’s important to take that five to ten minutes here and there to really relax and recoup. That’s why it’s important to allow those around you to encourage you and help you reach your goals). And it made me realize, especially now that I’m well into post-grad life, that grades weren’t necessarily everything. I graduated with honors and with a degree that I’m proud of, and that makes all the difference in the world after where I’ve been.