Here we are, at the time of reflections. Another year has passed and we ask ourselves – ‘have we made the most out of it’? Was it what I wanted it to be? This is quite an emotional time where the consequences of all our choices and decisions, of the past 9 months, come back to either haunt or comfort us. With all the noise of the campus lifestyle quieting down it is natural to evaluate and reflect on the year we had. Could the grades have been significantly better if I started writing essays weeks rather than (literally) 24 hours before the deadline? Would my social life have been better if I went out more? In general, should I have put more effort in?
I am conflicted about my year. I look back on all the things I did and the ones I didn’t and I am confused. I mean, I have improved most areas of my life in comparison to the previous year but it was nowhere close to any of my set goals. There were always various good reasons why I started my assignments later than planned, why I stayed in, why I didn’t do something etc. and these reasons piled up. Objectively, yes, the year was good, but at the same time disappointing and unfulfilling.
I am no longer concerned about what the university experience ‘should’ be like, rather, I now see it as whatever I want it to be. Having finished my second year, I can see that there definitely is a lot of hype and false assumptions/expectations of what university should or will be like and when real experiences don’t meet that, a sense of sadness and inferiority shows up at your door. I didn’t see that as a fresher – I compared my real way of life with the idea of a ‘normal’ university experience and, honestly, I felt like a failure at times. Perhaps the social side of the university life seems to be the most important and most stressful. Having stayed in to play Counter Strike or watch some TV series on my own I really felt like a socially incompetent loner. I felt that going out every night, drinking and talking to everyone are the things you must do to fully experience university, however, I don’t enjoy any of those activities. So, I felt like I’m constantly leaving myself out of all the fun I should be enjoying. At the same time, it was not my intention to stay in my room that often, but sometimes it can be difficult to get along with the people you know – there simply is no compatibility. You feel like you have to make an effort to talk to lots of people, and even when you do it, however difficult it is, it feels unnatural, difficult and forced. There is no fluidity or ease, just sheer (forced) effort and struggle and it shouldn’t be like that.
So here we are, at the end of (another) academic year. That nostalgic feeling of the positive moments we enjoyed and regrets about the people we didn’t become. This year, at least… A part of me is full of excitement and enthusiasm about the next academic year and can’t wait for October to come because I am convinced – ‘I will study more, I will do this and I will do that next year’ etc., but honestly, will I? How many times have we made promises, set goals with real motivations and the passion that is soon forgotten, only to fail and beat ourselves up? Promises are made for the next year to be ‘my year’ but the excitement soon dies out and our old habits return. We promise to conquer the next academic term to rid of the guilt we carry and absolve ourselves of any blame and failures or to simply make us feel better about ourselves. The promises stem from guilt and regret rather than from pure desire to change and rectify our habits. Therefore they are never kept, but postponed, indefinitely. However this is not the time for critique and this is not the time to make promises we know that won’t last.
Perhaps the problem is our blindness and inability to recognize the importance of the 3 long months that make up ‘Summer’. Why do we always ignore this time of the year and automatically write it off? The time we could use to prepare, we waste – summer could be our training camp instead of a prolonged vacation. ‘Once university starts, I will…’ but we know we won’t because we are out of shape in terms of discipline, academic sharpness, maybe even physically and so on. In other words, once the season (academic year) resumes, our (pre-season) effort and training does not match our desires and goals – we simply demand too much from ourselves in accordance to the level of effort we have put in. Sadness and regret about the unsuccessful academic year we had gives us momentary motivation and desire to make great plans but then we return home and forget all about it. We tell ourselves we will rest, recover and once university resumes we will take it on, but our failures will go in circles.
So, use this summer to prepare for next year, instead. I don’t necessarily mean volunteering, summer placements or even a full time job, but you have to study – read, write, make notes etc. Find articles, books on the topics you will study next year for your modules and start studying now. Learn and study other things, like a language – buy some secondary school language books, get CD courses etc. Exercise to keep your body sharp – internet is full of various workout routines – gym and non-gym focused. Buy a sketchpad and draw every day, start looking for a graduate job now etc. I don’t know what you need/want to do but while others rest you can work and stay sharp.
Yes, studying during the summer is crazy but it is the only way to build discipline and consistency. This is not solely about your academics but more about your entire life. This is the time to work from inside out and do what you have never done before. Life is what we make of it and sometimes we’d rather not try or procrastinate rather than to start and fail. But that fear is holding us back – it stagnates us to the point where we get comfortable with where we are.
This summer is the time where you can change the entire course of your life, but only if you hold yourself accountable to your actions.