Oberlin Blogs

3:5 Reflections on Another Semester Down

December 23, 2013

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

PRAISES!! IT IS THE END OF FINALS WEEK. FALL SEMESTER '13 IS OVER!! But actually, congratulations to everyone that has survived this semester. You did it, you beautiful smart person you. I am overjoyed that this semester has finally come to an end. I now have a chance to let my mind condense, sleep, eat whole meals again and be back in a real city with all its fancy glory. My comfy bed, wonderful family and friends are a short trip away and I am more than excited to get back to it all. In the meantime in between time, I wanted to reflect on my 3:5. In case it is not super clear, this ratio refers to my completion of three semesters of college with only five left to go.

A few weeks ago my Posse mentor asked my posse to reflect about our semester, and out of combined creativity and laziness, I wrote my reflection in fifteen one-line bullet points. For this post, I pulled out five of my favorite thematic bullets and supplemented them with my own experiences and quotes by notable African American figures whose words I feel speak largely to the insight I have gained being at Oberlin thus far.

Goal Setting
"You measure the size of the accomplishment by the obstacles you had to overcome to reach your goals." ~Booker T. Washington

I have always been the type of ambitious person who loves the thrill of saying I did it or the experience of growth I get from not achieving a goal. My family raised me to believe that if I speak something into existence, it is as good as done. Over the years I have come to cherish this mentality while simultaneously realizing that every accomplishment is not easily attained. Rather quickly, I noticed that Oberlin is a humbling place in the sense that everyone is super fantastic and incredibly smart. There will always be someone doing something that I wish I could do or seeming to just be doing better than me all the way around. To top it off, I am always going to have my personal challenges that make "succeeding" all the more difficult. Yet, I still continue to set big goals because I know that it is the journey that makes it worthwhile and not necessarily the end result. Lately, I have been setting small, progressive goals and then putting in work. In this way, I am far more appreciative of the path that it took for me to arrive at my destination and I am in a better position to share my experiences and motivate others.

Support Systems
"That's how we do it in the black community; we give back to the people who made us who we are. We never forget that." ~Snoop Dogg

Arguably, Snoop's words might not stand true for everybody and that is cool too, but for me no truer words have been said. My support system is everything to me and I can never talk about my lifework and successes without mentioning their immeasurable contributions. On campus, my circle of support has made rough days full of life with their smiles, laughs, and radiant spirits. We have pulled all-nighters together, engaged in sing-alongs during dinner at A-House, discussed the philosophical meaning of life in dorm lounges, groaned about mounds of homework in Dascomb, watched silly vines on study breaks and even crowded around the TV on Wednesday and Thursday nights (for American Horror Story: Coven and Scandal, respectively). I will never forget these moments because they have been foundational to the many quality relationships I have built this semester. Honestly, I am so fortunate to have built a bridge of support that expands from home to Oberlin, but the people that I have in my life are amazing and they have made surviving the Oberlin journey so much easier.

The Struggle
"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." ~Lena Horne

The struggle bus is real. Everyone has a seat on it, but they might not tell you that they too own a lifetime pass. One thing that Oberlin has taught me outside of the classroom is that every person wears their reality differently and will express it as such. My experience with stressful times/personal bad days/moods/struggling has been to seek out a close friend and just vent. Some of my friends know me well enough to offer the option for me just to vent and for them to not respond. It is a good way for me to achieve the emotional release of venting and worry less about the problematics of the situation. Despite the reality of the struggle, though, I encourage everyone to remember that you are not alone. Everyone is going through something at some point. It is not about what you are carrying or any of that, rather how you choose to carry it. To add to Lena's words, I also think it is about how far you decide to carry that load; some things just might be worth letting go.

Forever Trying
"I really don't think life is about the I-could-have-beens. Life is only about the I-tried-to-do. I don't mind the failure but I can't imagine that I'd forgive myself if I didn't try." ~Nikki Giovanni

*Snaps for Nikki* Life is no fun if it always starts with "If only I had tried...," and personally I do not make an effort to shape my life in that way. Oberlin has a way of bringing you to that mythical fork-in-the-road place of should I or should I not, and after a little time here you will undoubtedly find yourself being in the former lane. Personally, I have enjoyed life more when I thought I could do something and went for it, regardless of how it turned out. At least I know I tried, and if it was my time, then, I was blessed enough and ready to receive it. If not, that is okay too, and the decision to either try again or let it go will come at a later point in time. All in all, I guess I am just trying to save my eighty-year-old self some grief when I look back at my life and what I have been able to do. I am willing to invest in my conception of happiness now, and that starts with making an earnest effort each day.

Deep Breaths
"You have a right to your thoughts and feelings. Your feelings are always valid." ~Iyanla Vanzant

Entirely related to the struggle bus concept, everyone has a right to their subjective opinions and respective moods. Sometimes you are going to have days where you just literally cannot--all the extra commentary you receive from outside sources can slide to the left. I get it. I respect that. Do you. However, be accountable for it. Take a deep breath, go for a run, meditate, take a mental health day (aka do not go to any classes or work), shut your phone off for a few hours, take a nap, or anything that is going to help you de-stress and get back in the saddle. Life is stressful, and after three semesters here I have definitely learned the hard way that I cannot be everything to everybody. Even more surprising to me, nobody is asking me to be that way. But invest time in yourself to regroup and touch base with who you are. Nobody will be pressed that you needed alone time.

Well, now that we have come to the end of my reflections I would like to wish everyone a happy holiday and an incredible New Year!

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