Looking back on my article about the value of honors, I feel now as though I’ve lost a lot of optimism in making my own expectations real at college.
While I maintain that the value of one's college experience is what one makes of it, there's also a level of immense disappointment when that experience doesn't live up to your expectations.
I came into LMU an aspiring film and television production major, ready to set my foot into the industry and to make my middle-school dreams of becoming a filmmaker come true. I'll leave this spring semester a soon-to-be environmental science major who needs to cram summer school sessions in July because my old plans took up so much wasted time.
I clung onto outdated plans and ideas that no longer brought me joy for the future. The four-year plan I built for last semester now lays abandoned, and for too long I was bouncing through the perils and troubles of college life with no clear end plan.
On top of those stresses, my plan to switch majors led to a lot of confusion as to how the process worked and what I could do in the meantime.
A change in plans isn't necessarily bad. Sometimes that change can open up even more opportunities.
"Coming out of senior year [of high school], I had already made the decision to add math," said freshman math and philosophy (previously math and economics) double major, Ava Totah. "However, I never thought philosophy would be something I would see in my future! Now, philosophy is also a contender for the Ph.D. or professor spot and, at the moment, I'm just seeing which one I prefer by the time I graduate."
It isn't easy to cope with jealousy, either. Missing an internship, scholarship or other career opportunity is painful enough without seeing someone else take that chance and excel. Hearing about your friends interning for a Congressman, getting an off-campus job, working on a professional film shoot or presenting a well-researched project while you're doing relatively little is painful type of FOMO.
When everyone around you has, to you, for years been told to strive to be above average, and you end up average in most things, it's discouraging. To borrow from Dr. Brian Treanor, a professor of philosophy at LMU, "in any given field—academic, artistic, athletic or otherwise—most people are, say it with me, average. That’s what average means."
I didn't think that this would be the year I would experience the horror of a possible university shooting and the white-hot rage of realizing it was a prank. I didn't think that this would be the year I would first see wildfires in real life from the Bluff.
I didn’t think it would be the year so much bad news—the unabashed and anti-intellectual bigotry by on-campus speakers and students, the global sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, the culture of sexual assault and criminal behavior throughout LMU—would pile on hour after hour.
It's crushing to have an ideal picture of an exhilerating-yet-challenging first year be destroyed by the reality of life being uncaring and prone to a despairing reality.
Most of those events are obviously out of anyone's control, and it isn't as if nothing good came from this year at all. I managed to join the E-board for two on-campus clubs and of course, I will always be grateful having completed a year of higher education.
However, just because I've been privileged enough to nearly finish a year of college in stability doesn't mean that the issues of stress, jealousy and failure aren't any less impactful.
What's important is to keep some sense of balance with whatever life throws at you and try to turn one's stress into action. Have a plan, and don't dwell on the losses for too long.
"I think it's important to go into college with an open mind, but some sort of plan can be really beneficial," said Totah. "I think it's important to have a general idea of your interests so you can formulate some kind of plan for college. However, in terms of career paths or other majors, you should go with the flow. You never know what you might discover, especially through your core or extracurriculars."
I still have three years left of my undergraduate career at LMU. I plan to make those three years better than this year.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a freshman environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email firstname.lastname@example.org.