Edit Desk: Turning hardship into motivation


Peter Gardner

“Nothing important, or meaningful, or beautiful, or interesting, or great ever came out of imitations. The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” 

These words from Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Anna Quindlen have been influential throughout my three years at Lehigh. 

Before freshman year, I was told college is a place to learn academically, but also to grow and discover who you want to be. Living by yourself, discovering your own lane in the world and creating habits are all influential components of the college experience. 

Even after hearing this advice it took self-discovery for these words to resonate with me.

I am not unique to say that this pandemic has completely altered my college experience. My memories of walking to Linderman Library are fading by the day and I can barely remember how the swipe system worked at the Upper Court dining hall. 

Although experiencing the pandemic during “the best four years of my life” has certainly been hard, I am very glad it happened at this phase of my life. 

The extra time has forced me to spend more time with myself than I ever have, pushing me to realize the little things that make me happy. 

Finding yourself and developing into the person you want to be is the most courageous part of growing up: having to diverge from the traditional path and start blazing your own trail. At some point though, everyone must diverge and discover who they truly are or their whole life will be lived for others approval. 

Last summer I started working at a radio station founded by entrepreneur Jesse Itzler. Itzler has dedicated his whole life to becoming the most authentic version of himself and his mentorship has played a large role for my growth in trying to become the best version of myself. 

Growing up in New York City, my house was mostly just the place my family slept. I do not remember a day growing up where I spent its entirety in my apartment. Most days were spent going from activity to activity, maybe stopping by the apartment once to grab something I’d forgotten. 

Now that life has slowed down for over a year, I have spent an outrageous amount of time in my Southside Commons apartment in Bethlehem. Yes, there are times where the repetitive days can be infuriating, but there are also so many positives I have learned from time alone. 

Isolation has allowed me to think about the way I spend my time and rearrange my life in a way where I can prioritize what is important to me. 

The pandemic has allowed everyone to slow down so that they can become more thoughtful and purposeful with their actions. 

College students are in a unique situation. We’ve been forced into isolation and told to socially distance, during a period of time where we are usually supposed to be our most social selves. 

Although it may feel like college students are being robbed of those experiences, there are so many positives to be reaped. 

Taking a step back from the fast-paced normal college semester, and starting to orient my life around the person I want to become has been such an important part of my college experience. A process that I was not ready to begin before the pandemic hit last March.

I am now into the second half of my college career and I can confidently say that although I have gained an array of knowledge from the courses I have taken here, I have gained infinitely more from the personal growth I have experienced since arriving on campus in 2018. 

I still have a long way to go, and a lot more to experience, but I am glad this pandemic expedited my ability to be self-aware. Hopefully COVID-19 has pushed me forward more than it has held me back.

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