One thing that I love about college, and one thing that I will most certainly miss about it, is how it presents itself in stages. A college student has the luxury of living life one semester at a time. In other words, life comes in stages, which makes it easier for you to look at yourself at the beginning of the semester and compare that with the you at the end of the semester. There is a beginning stage and an ending stage three times a year (Fall semester, Spring semester, and summer).
This last semester was a particular challenging one for me. And it was challenging in a way that I have never faced before.
I began the semester, only a few short weeks removed from summer classes. I thought I was ready to be done with college and was convinced that I was ready to move one, that I got all I needed out of college. That should have alone told me just the opposite. And I let it get the best of me.
Last spring semester, I had worked so hard at becoming disciplined, figuring out how to best manage my time, and following my passions. Unfortunately, I did not carry that into the fall semester until I was forced to toward the end.
I didn’t care about being in school. I didn’t care very much about my classes and, more importantly, I didn’t care about doing the right things and about bettering myself.
I am a very analytical person. I analyze everything from the movie I’m watching, the book I’m reading, the person interact with, to the items in a food menu. Therefore, I am extremely indecisive with just about everything, at least until I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. And so, I seem to have to live life at a slower pace than most people. When someone asks me a question, or when I am faced with a decision, big or small, sometimes it will take me a week if not longer to find a proper answer or decision. Because I have to think about it – and analyze it.
I came to a point in my life where I wanted outside of my head. I hated this part of myself and I simply could not handle it any more.
Most people in college make a ton of mistakes. Big ones, small ones, stupid ones, etc. Not that I haven’t made mistakes in college, that couldn’t be further from the truth, but not your typical college student mistakes. I never got drunk and stayed out till three in the morning the night before classes. I never dated the wrong girl, got in with the wrong crowd, took shrooms before going to a concert, or even experimented with sex. College is a time when most people experiment, and often times, it is through that experimentation that they find themselves. Not this guy. I found myself by always being one of the first people to leave the party, sober enough to safely drive myself home. I found myself by analyzing every situation I was in for in particular day, how I reacted to each situation, and how I could react better in each situation. I found myself by analyzing my life day to day and the people around me like an entomologist would analyze the inner and outer workings of a new species of bug.
I cannot recall how it happened or why it happened, but near the end of last summer, I basically decided not to like this part of myself. I wanted a way out of my head. I could analyze something to death only to find that someone else has a perfectly reasonable and justifiable opinion that is opposite of mine. I realized that 99% of the stuff I analyze just doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things and I began to believe in only a small number of objective truths about life. The rest didn’t seem matter. I wanted to get away from the me I had previously worked so hard to build up.
And so, I reached a point in my life where I (please excuse my language) just decided to say fuck it.
I didn’t worry about analyzing everything. I just reacted. I didn’t take care to slow down and live at the pace I needed to in order to stay true to myself, because that would entail lots and lots of unwarranted analyzing.
I just took things as they came and I tried to simply enjoy life as it was handed to me and, for good or bad, it started out better than I could have hoped for. I was having a ton of fun just living life.
As a result, I put having a good time ahead of living a good life.
And it wasn’t until I got a 33% on one of my midterms that it hit me like a punch in the gut. I needed a change. It wasn’t until I put myself in a situation where I thought I was most likely going to fail a class – an English class at that – when I stopped and thought.
And it took until now to get myself back to a place where I want to be at.
I realized that I was living an unhealthy lifestyle for myself, that I was in an unhealthy relationship, and that my priorities were not where I wanted them. I was not making the proper decisions to make myself the best character I possibly could.
But even though I finally woke up and took back control of my life, it took a long time to get back to a place where I could look at myself and genuinely be proud of where I was and who I was.
Maybe I needed to go through that stage to get to where I am now and to learn the life lessons that I learned throughout the semester. For that reason, I am not proud of myself for having done some of the things I did, made some of the decisions I have made, but I do not regret any of it. I think I needed to go through that stage in order to really understand myself and really understand that the me I have been wanting to be, that the me I discovered last year, was without a doubt, is the best me I could possibly be working toward. It was and now is the best path I could be on in order to get the most out of my life.
I think that I could have still been a good person on the path I was on most of the semester. I do not, however, think that that me could have been a great person.
Last night, while lying in bed allowing my mind to do its thing; to analyze, I came to a strikingly powerful conclusion. I think I know what it takes to be a great person and how to do what it takes to do so.
I decided to divide this post into two parts in order to make it less overwhelming to read, but I am going to end it with one of the many things I have learned because of this semester, a preview for the next part. It is the thing that I realized last night.
Jesus said that you must “love your neighbor as yourself.” Like much of what Jesus said according to accounts given of him, this seems to be a fairly simple statement, but really, there is plenty for people like me to analyze. In order to know what it takes to love your neighbor, you must know what it means to love yourself.
To find that balance of self-worth and humility.
To be the best person you can possibly be in the grand scheme of things.
Here is the definition I wrote down last night while thinking about it.
“What it means ‘to love yourself’: to realize the privilege of life and take care that you are valuable to the overall story and possess a longing to do anything in your power to make yourself better.”
There are certain people you encounter who almost instantly give out the vibe that they are living a great story. You just know that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, whether they acknowledge it or not.
I think that, in every case, it stems from their ability to love themselves. They understand the sacrality and the privilege of life. They realize that each person only gets one story to live and are doing everything in their power not to waste that story in any way.
That is what it means to love yourself.
That is what it takes to be a great person, not just a good person.