Reminiscing on my first year at Vassar

Yesterday I finished my last final and in doing so closed the chapter on my first year at Vassar. After such a long day I expected to want to just rest and forget the stress of the past year, but now that it’s completely over I can’t help but think back over all of the ups and downs that I went through this past year. When I got here, I thought that I had everything figured out. I knew that I wanted to go to Med-School and I thought I knew what I wanted to major. I had a grand plan that I had thought out for months. I’d even planned out things down to my extracurricular activities. Even after all that, I guess that life simply forces us to change so that we can grow.

My first semester was full of struggle and fighting to find what I wanted to do. From the very beginning of my time here, I fought to keep the plan I’d thought out. I knew that I wanted to swim, and refused to let it go even when I realized that it was too much. I struggled with the thought of letting go of one of the things that had helped define me for so long. I thought that if I let go of the team that I’d spent so much time, I’d end up feeling entirely alone. I wouldn’t only be giving up one of the activities that I thought helped to give me a reason to get up every morning, but I’d be losing the first family that I’d found at Vassar. Yet when I was forced to give something up, I grudgingly accepted that I had to give up swimming.

In the same manner I fought to hold on to  my gaming and the family that I had in that world. I have been an active gamer for years, and I didn’t think that I could just let go of another huge piece of what I thought defined my personality and character. The group of people I played World of Warcraft with had grown to be more than just a group of online friends to me. They were the family that helped me release stress and frustration when we killed internet dragons together. They were the friends that were always there, and who seemed to listen to all of my problems no matter what new issue arose in my life. Eventually I was forced to give up more of myself to continue with the life that I thought I wanted and needed, and my gaming habits and the friends it had gained me through the years were the next to go.

At this point I fell into a state of minor depression. I’d given up almost everything that I enjoyed and that I thought made up what was me. I couldn’t stand dealing with any issues because I began to feel entirely alone. The person I relied on most to help me began to falter here as well, and that only made things worse. She went from being my best friend who I went to with all my problems to someone who I hid things from because I didn’t want anymore problems or issues to arise. I was afraid of my life and afraid of losing any more. I didn’t want to let go of her because of how much she’d meant to me for so long, but I knew that it was only causing me more harm to keep holding on. As life would have it, I eventually found the strength to let go of her entirely.

Although I knew that letting go of all of these things was necessary, without all of them I felt like there was nothing left of me. Everything that I’d once done to give my life meaning was gone. The major aspects of my life that I enjoyed I’d had to give up, and I was left feeling stuck in a vortex of emotions where I couldn’t find a solid ground to stand on. I wanted to give up on everything and just proclaim to the world that it didn’t have to do anymore. I’d lost my motivation to keep going and had no one to push me towards it again. I was like that for months, yet some voice in the back of my mind endured and repeated the same thing everyday, ” Get back up and keep going.”

I knew that in that state I was the emptiest form of myself that I could be. I started from there and began with small things to create meaning in my life again. My first step was simply to be happy to anyone and everyone. I’d held anger and frustration in me for so long, and I wanted to let go of it all. I was tired of lashing out at people at taking out my frustrations in ways that hurt others. At first it was hard to keep a smile on my face. I couldn’t stand feeling like I was pretending to be something I wasn’t, but progressively that smile became real.

I continued building on myself by opening up to the friends who I’d shunned for months. I wanted to reignite all the lost relationships. My family, my friends back home, and my new friends at Vassar. I wanted to reintroduce myself to so many people and show them that I wanted to care. I spent so much time on the phone with my family; I caught up with my siblings and made it clear that I wanted them to tell me what was going on in their lives. I started talking to friends I hadn’t spoken to since Graduation, and many of them seemed so happy to hear from me. I loved having those feelings of knowing that I had so many friends back. The shadow of loneliness faded.

I began to try new things on campus with all the new people that I’d opened up to. I joined the Quidditch team and the Ballroom Club. I met two amazing groups of people who both pushed me to be the happy person I wanted to be. I found myself laughing again and doing things I would have never pictured myself doing before. I’d never truly tried dancing before, yet I went dancing multiple times a week all through my second semester. I loved getting on the dance floor and learning new moves that seemed so amazing. In the same manner I loved going out to the pitch for Quidditch practice and playing such an amazing sport. I loved that I had the ability to push myself there and work towards becoming a greater player, yet the people on the team added a factor of fun and silliness that I hadn’t felt from swimming in years.

Going through all of this breaking down and rebuilding showed me how little I really understood of myself or the life I wanted. I spent so much time focusing on a set path that I’d set, but I now think that I need to learn to change my path to grow around what life throws at me. The journey is infinitely more important than the end.

I can’t even put to words how much my first year at Vassar has meant to me. I went through so much struggle and pain to find happiness in myself, but I found it here. This school has given me the opportunity to rebuild myself and grow into a bigger person than I was. Despite having poor grades first semester and feeling that I could have done better academically second semester, I am glad with what I did learn my first year. The information I gained on who I am and what being happy means to me is something far more important. I’ve grown as a person in ways I would have never done if I hadn’t been willing to let go of the parts of my old life that held me to a stubborn mentality. This ending is only the beginning to so much more. I can’t wait to come back to this campus in the fall. Right now I am looking forward to the remainder of my college years more than I ever have.

For now, I’ll head home and wait though. Good bye, Vassar. I can’t wait to see what else you have to teach me.

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Pride

Having recently graduated from high school, I can say with confidence that it was a special kind of hell. It was a place where while I went by choice, I regretted being there every day for some new reason. Yet I pushed through it, enjoying all the good times to be had.

I found pride in every success, it was amazing to see a report card with all A’s on it. The grades weren’t what I was truly proud of though. My pride came from knowing that I’d mastered a subject. When I got an A, to me it meant I’d learned everything I could from that class.

Through the first few years of high school it seemed like the classes were just too easy. Because of that ease in material, I found a competition with my peers to be exhilarating. Yet, as the years went by it seemed like more and more of my peers became concerned with the grades over the knowledge.

Copying on homework was one thing, yet many of the people I loved to compete with began to copy on tests. Our small test by test competitions had become more a matter of class rank to them, and I had no wish to participate in that type of race.

A few of my close friends joked that I was hit with Senioritis my junior year, but I was simply disappointed in what I saw around me. I began to lose interest in school simply because the system seemed so corrupt around me.

Despite all the nonsense that I saw around me, I took pride in knowledge and moved away from the petty competition of rank. I kept to my honor and valued the work I did put in. Even though I knew I was just becoming lazier with my disillusionment, I still put in the work where it mattered to me.

My junior and senior years in high school showed a great slump in my academic performance as shown by grades. I knew that I was doing what I wanted though, my test scores and my understanding of the classes I enjoyed was just as great as ever.Even as I saw my peers cheating in AP classes, I stuck to what I believed in. I refused to fall prey to the mentality that everyone was doing it so it was ok.

I caused my situation to be harder than it should have been simply because I sought a challenge. I was always pushing the envelope with my teachers, even taunting a few of them to make the work harder. But even when I the work got extremely difficult, I wanted to succeed simply of my own knowledge.

Somehow I find more pride in knowing that I finished on my own than knowing that I finished. I couldn’t care less about the ranks and the games involved with high school. I think it was an interesting experience to work through so much that I didn’t agree with going on around me. I worked from my knowledge and my understanding, and never looked for an easy way out. And despite the fact that I was a terrible student my last two years, I’m happy with the experience as a whole.