5 Things I’ve realized at the Halfway point of College

I just started my third year of college and, while I’m still unburdened and just mildly stressed, I think this is a swell time to reflect on my college experience thus far. Reading the first few bullets here, it looks like a rough time. It’s not all bad though!

  1. My youth-and-inexperience bailout card is inching closer to its expiration date. In the grand scheme of things, I’m still green and clueless, but at Brown I’m an upperclassman now (bleh!) and it feels like much more is expected of me. It’s a different tone than what I’m used to; every decision I make now feels so much weightier than before. It’s more burdensome, yes, but some mental reframing makes this situation a bit less dreadful. Growing up, I’ve always craved more freedom and more self-efficacy to do the stuff that I want on my own terms. Now that I’m barreling towards the wild blue yonder of adulthood I’m finally getting what I ask for, I guess. Thanks, Life…
  2. A high school friend told me that she was worried we were drifting apart. Though unpleasant to think about, the reality is that we have (and will continue to have) progressively fewer opportunities to lounge away afternoons with all of our old friends like we used to. While I was stressing about this, another friend reassured me that if we were true friends, we should have nothing to fear about drifting. Is that true? I gave that question a lot of thought this past summer, and I found that it helps to think of this whole situation in terms of a bridge-building metaphor. A huge proportion of friendships from youth are built on together-time and shared experience. I think of those as the foundations that sustain relationships when they’re new and also bear all the weight for the many unsteady ones too. Having less time to spend forces me to pull out some of those supports. Sadly, that leaves me surrounded by piles of dusty rubble, but the few good bridges left that are still standing look so damn majestic.
  3. Practicality concerns make a vengeful comeback: Mr. You-Should-Be-More-Practical has always been a regular visitor of Gloria’s head and he would always attend the executive decision-making forums that take place up there. Up until recently, he’d sit discreetly in the corner taking notes or something. He would frown and narrow his eyes every time Gloria decides to take on a slew of random commitments on a whim or discovers a new way to procrastinate, but would otherwise keep his mouth shut. But somewhere between the end of sophomore year and now, some jerk handed him a megaphone and a soapbox. The way I see it, this semester’s opening forum went down in a crazy skit like this: Just as Mrs. Curiosity cleared her voice to start the opening remarks, Mr. Practical strode through the double doors like the cavalry, shoved her aside, flung away all the paper notes on the podium before climbing up on top of the podium(who does that?) and called out the fat elephant in the room: What is Gloria actually going to do after college? At first, every other attendee in Gloria’s head looked at him like he just let out the smelliest fart, and then they started exchanging nervous looks between each other. Before long, the quiet murmurs around the room erupted into full-on mayhem. I know I’m being dramatic, but the start of junior year has driven me into a new patch of existential turbulence. Difficult to deal with, as usual.
  4. I’ve changed a lot in just two years, and I feel more motivated than ever to have it documented. I don’t feel like a different person than I was in freshman year, but mentally, I feel like a different species from the current First Years here on campus. I guess that means I really have changed a lot as a person over these two years — a lot more than I give myself credit for. Personal change is a sneaky and gradual thing. It’s like how you don’t notice yourself growing over the years, but see subtle signs of it when nostalgically browsing through old photographs. Reading my older blog posts this summer has actually reinforced my motivation to journal regularly. Journalling is like taking photographs of the mind, and it’s a delight to look back upon these records of my more formative years months and years later.
  5. My executive control is improving noticeably. Self-awareness in me had always been a faculty that matured faster than my command of self-discipline. Finally (thank goodness), I am starting to see the distance between them close a little. Early on in college, I’d find myself painfully aware of my shortcomings but not yet able to overcome them. It would always lead to these frustrating feelings of stuck-ness, like sleep paralysis. For example, FOMO would regularly get the better of me in social instances, and I would find myself drawn to places and social situations I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. I also would have trouble mustering the motivation to exercise, to stop procrastinating, or to keep up with responsible self-maintenance. My primitive motivations aren’t less powerful than before, but I’ve improved at herding and reeling them in at will. Nothing makes me prouder than feeling like I’ve partially domesticated the giant unruly animal living in my own head.
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That’s it for now. Good luck to me!

Writer, Cog-Neuro Research Assistant @ Yale. Presenting my thoughts about self-development and life as a former college student || gloriawfeng.com