No doubt many of us have already begun dreading the workload that will inevitably lead to stress and anxiety. Over the course of this semester, the majority of us will complain about the unfairness of the due date of a paper or the amount of studying needed for a test or vent about our involvement both in and out of academics.
It is a well established fact that Gustavus students are extremely busy between classes, friends, extracurricular activities, and addictions to certain TV shows (Breaking Bad, anybody?). Even the easiest of college classes still require one to roll out of bed, put on whatever yoga or sweatpants happen to be nearby, and go to class. And for the vast majority of you, your classes were not picked because they were the easiest.
This semester, no matter your intellectual and time management abilities, most of us will find ourselves cramming, pulling all-nighters, burning the candle at both ends and stressing over upcoming assignments all the while refusing to acknowledge and break our caffeine addictions to coffee, energy drinks, or in my case bottles on bottles of soda.
College is a challenge; not only with the amount of work one must do, but also with what seems like a constant existential crisis. This semester, many of us will have to retool, revamp, and even discard ideas, theories and values that we previously thought were correct.
The honest fact of the matter remains that all of us will struggle this semester in some way or another. We will struggle with writer’s block, relationships, and whatever personal demons we fight against (sometimes on a daily basis). However, I do not write this in hopes that you will drop out of school nor to depress you about the semester ahead.
I write this because I truly believe, “Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger.”
Some of you may scoff, claiming that being paralyzed, contracting a disease, or being forced to pull an all-nighter does not make us stronger.
I do not disagree with these claims. They do not make me physically stronger, but that is not what I want you to take away from that ideology.
There is another type of strength that is far more powerful and useful to ourselves: mental fortitude, the ability to face adversity or pain with courage.
Part of developing mental fortitude is the ability to view challenges and struggles as opportunities to get better. When you pull an all-nighter, you are sleep-deprived. However, you can (and should) look on your struggle as a learning experience.
In the future, you will have the knowledge to either work more efficiently to prevent the all-nighter or know how to survive one. Or much like how near-death experiences can leave us with a newfound appreciation of life, all-nighters can leave us more appreciative of the nights when we get to sleep.
Ultimately, how we respond to this struggle is more important than the struggle itself. Do we fold and lie down quietly? Or do we find ways to improve and/or find purpose and meaning within our struggle? Ultimately, the choice is up to you.
This semester, make the most of your opportunities to become the hardest working, most determined, and mentally strong person you can be. Embrace that our reaction to struggle and hardship ultimately determines our character and the person we become. When you finish the semester, look back and reflect upon how much you have grown. Notice how focused you were, and how controlled and determined you were in your actions. Think about how you will feel when you are done with finals and know your grades.
It’s not the grades that matter, but more so the fact that we will have strived for something greater through determination, fortitude, and self control.
It is tiring, and you will undoubtedly feel thankful to be done and happy that you made it through. But you will do more than just survive.
If you had only wanted to solely survive in life, you wouldn’t have attended college, and if you did you wouldn’t go to class. You wouldn’t have shown up to Orientation, and you may not have returned for another semester. But you didn’t and you won’t because you can and will find something more important than that. You will strive for something more: to become a better person.
Isn’t that what education is about?