After 4.5 years, six changed majors, and nearly $22,000 of debt, I am a recent college grad as of December 14th from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. It’s bittersweet. It’s exhilarating. It’s sad. It doesn’t seem real. I walked across that stage, said goodbye to my roommates, packed up my car, and headed across the state. All within 12 hours. As I reflect back on my years spent at this university, it has occurred to me that only approximately 10% of what I learned in school pertained to academics. College was a blend of confusing days unsure of who I was and where my path was leading, days where I hated my life and wanted to drop out, and days where I felt invincible. It’s about the journey of personal growth and developing into the person I was meant to be. From the ages of 18 to 22 I learned the true meaning of love, hate, pain, friendship, and loss. Here are the most valuable lessons I learned in college. And no, they don’t come from a textbook or lecture.
Passion exceeds a high salary
College taught me that it’s not all about the money. As I previously mentioned, I changed my major six times in college. When I entered the university as a freshman, my major was pre-physical therapy, in hopes to have a promising career that would bring me wealth and an esteemed title. I soon realized that I hated science and literally had zero interest in being a physical therapist. Undecided, I dabbled in the business major, trying out marketing and management with dreams of becoming a successful salesperson or managing a wealthy business. I eventually came to my senses when I realized that I HATED every single one of my business classes, SUCKED at my job as a commissioned sales associate, and overall was not excited about the field at all. I decided to take classes in the field that interested me the most, psychology. This lead to a school counseling internship that changed my life. I realized that my personal strengths embodied a career that would not bring me tremendous wealth, extravagant business trips, or a prestigious title. And I was okay with this because I knew I would rather live a fulfilling life than a miserable one.
People either fill your bucket or empty it
My mom always told us that “people either fill your bucket or empty it.” Every single person you meet brings an opportunity to lift you up or bring you down. College taught me that even if people are temporary, they were brought to your life for a reason. They teach us lessons about discovering who we are in a person and what qualities we are attracted to in friendships and relationships. And it’s okay if these relationships don’t stick around forever. Life is too short to stick around and dwell over people who “empty” your bucket. Those that don’t support your happiness and those that bring out the worst in you are not meant to stay permanently in your life. Fill your life with bucket fillers.
It’s okay to fail
No, it’s not okay to fail college. That’s just lazy. But it is okay to fail at something that you put your whole heart into. I am a firm believer in the value of hard work and devotion. My parents didn’t pay for a cent of my college education, which lead me to a greater appreciation and pride in earning my degree. I am in no way implying you to slack in your work. However, I AM implying that you should work your butt off in every attempt and if you fail at something, it’s going to be okay. I specifically remember all of the agonizing hours I spent in the library studying for an accounting exam because I was on the verge of failing the class. I went to the professor’s office hours, I studied in a group, read and reread the material and did practice problems. But it just didn’t click. I ended up failing the exam, crying in a bathroom on campus, and feeling like an epic failure because I had to drop the class. I felt like I wasn’t as smart as the other students on campus and that my path was limited as a business major if I couldn’t pass. Two years later, did I survive? Yes. Did it in any way prevent me from getting a job, graduating college, and mess up my life? No. When one door closes, another one opens. I realized that being a business major didn’t encompass my personal strengths; instead it brought out my weaknesses. The world kept turning and I improvised with what I had. Failure is not true failure unless you didn’t try. It’s a learning process.
Be your own person
My entire life, I was afraid of what people thought about my life and my decisions. I think this insecurity creeps out of everyone at times, and is incredibly unhealthy. College taught me to be myself and stop caring about what others thought. I dyed my hair black, I dyed my hair platinum blonde. I wore crazy clothes, I did what I wanted to despite the judgments and perceptions of what others thought of me. And it was liberating! I learned to let go of negative opinions and to just be my own person.
You are not defined by your achievements
Lastly, I have learned that you are not defined by what you have accomplished. Life is about the relationships we make, the love we feel, and the role we play in others’ lives. Those late nights studying to ace an exam were not my defying moments where I felt most proud of the person I was. This sounds cheesy, but I know that if I were to die tomorrow, I would have been glad that I took the extra hour out of my day to spend time with my sisters than study for an exam. It is wonderful to be a goal-oriented person and to achieve things, but is that really what life is all about? College taught me that my role as a daughter, sister, girlfriend and friend are my most treasured accomplishments, and that I am defined by the role I play in these relationships.
Thanks for stopping in. I hope you are having a great weekend and that you are spending some time with those that you love who fill your bucket. Have a great night!