Three years sounds like a relatively short amount of time, but 1,095 days does not.
As easy as it is to say my three years as a college student have flown by, when you think about it, 1,095 days is a long time. Over these days, I have seen classmates and friends accomplish amazing things, but I have also seen peers and friends experience tough times.
Even though I have seen my friends go through both good and bad times, it seems as if friends tell me about their accomplishments or happy moments but choose to hide the struggles. Unlike the successes, the true lows of college are not outwardly shared and experienced as an undergraduate community.
I had a tough freshman year which consisted of moving away from my close-knit family, acclimating to an overwhelming social environment and learning how to transition from relatively easy high school classes to demanding introductory college courses.
On top of this, I was trying to manage being an athlete who committed three to four hours a day to training or meets for a sport I wasn’t totally sold on. There were tears, last minute emails to professors and crossed fingers when grades were posted.
I internalized most of the struggle and only reached out to one or two people when absolutely necessary. I felt the need to maintain and project an optimistic attitude and hide any other problems I was facing.
So in those 365 days, I realized college is hard. Like, really hard. Spoiler alert: 730 days later I still can not tell you it is easy. I can, however, tell you that you hit highs and lows of varying degrees as you navigate the whirlwind of friendships, relationships, important choices and demanding academics. I have learned acknowledging the lows is just as important as relishing in the highs.
For example, look at my 1,095-day battle with introductory business courses.
Things went downhill more than once, and the only thing worse than knowing you have to redo a semester’s worth of hard work is having to tell your parents that you have to redo a semester’s worth of hard work.
I would spend hours studying for tests and still not receive the grades I wanted. I was hard on myself.
I bottled up all my frustration and put off telling my parents about my grades while agonizing over how they would take the news. I was more afraid they would be disappointed than I was afraid that they would be mad.
I knew they believed in my ability to do well, so it was upsetting to have to tell them that I wasn’t doing well.
During one of these lows, I met with a member of Lehigh’s faculty through Lehigh Athletics’ academic support. I distinctly remember her telling me to treat the class like I would a track competition. When I told her I threw javelin, she said, “Meghan, the girl in front of you just out threw you by two inches. You have one shot to beat her. You have to tell yourself you can’t fail.”
From that moment on, I turned my biggest fear of disappointing my parents into a tenacious motivation to make them proud. I started the spring semester of my junior year by writing down goals I had for myself in my planner. I stopped being complacent with my grades. I communicated these goals with my coach and close friends, using them to keep me accountable.
In my last required economics class, which I knew was going to be my most challenging class yet, I sat in the front row and took meticulous notes. I went to office hours regularly, sometimes with questions to which I already knew the answer. I spent hours doing problem sets over and over on whiteboards and with classmates, telling myself failure was not an option this time. At the end of the semester, I didn’t need to cross any fingers when final grades were posted. I wish I had recorded the celebratory phone call with my parents.
If I had never hit the lows of getting unfavorable exam and final grades back, I would never have opened up to people I now can consider best friends, nor would I have developed the drive to start living up to my full potential. Now, I can’t imagine college without those experiences.
The times you admit to lows aren’t chinks in the armor, but moments where bonds are formed, relationships are strengthened and personal growth is at an all-time high.
Let yourself be weak, tell yourself it’s OK to not be OK, and appreciate the 1,095-day journey of highs and lows that has brought you to where you are today.
Yes, my GPA still isn’t where I want it to be, but my ultimate goal this semester is to make dean’s list. For some students here that may be a home run every semester, but I’m excited to have my turn at running the bases.
Meghan Reilly, ’17, is a design editor for The Brown and White. She can be reached at [email protected]