Growth in college is an exponential curve, and what I have found is that it cannot be equated or compared to growth in any previous stage of my life. As the end of first semester drew to a close, I could not help but think “Wow, was I not a different person at the beginning of freshman year? At the beginning of sophomore year? At the beginning of this very semester?”
Second semester freshman year I thought I had it all figured out. I was on my own, I was doing well in my classes, practicing the piano a lot, and I had a few close friends. What I did not realize then was that there is so much more involved in being independent than just organizing your schedule, remembering to do your laundry, or working a job. As I have grown up these last few semesters, I have come to think more about the way I am living my life and why I do the things I do. If there is anything I have needed more than anything, it's resilience. Some things I have learned:
1. Managing Relationships
I did not realize how much being on my own would change the relationships I had with people. In high school, most people have the comfort of a home network. Their friends are people they see in school or hang out with on the weekends, and that’s pretty much it. In college, your friends are the people you live with, eat with, and craft your life beside. Managing this kind of closeness is honestly a puzzle, because it means finding that sweet spot where there is a satisfying closeness in your friendships while still giving yourself and everyone else the space to be themselves.
When I first came to school, I had a work ethic like no other. I spent all my free time in the practice rooms, working towards what I thought would make me the happiest. Some days I shame myself for not having that same work ethic this year, but then I remember that sitting in a practice room for 8 hours is neither productive nor enjoyable. In the last couple of years, I feel that I have learned to slow down and be more patient. Everything outside the practice room informs what I create within it. I practice less these days, but I work to make my practice more meaningful and efficient. Being a pianist is not a race to learn as much repertoire as possible. I have found the self-compassion to quit practicing when my brain has lost the ability to help me out with it, and to allow myself social time, leisure time, and other types of learning.
3. What am I doing with my life?
Once upon a time, I used to check my grades. Maybe it is good to do that once in a while, but these days I think more about what I am learning and how I will actually be able to apply this in the world. It feels so good to just work hard and learn as much as I can in the field I am interested in, rather than play the “omg I have to study for this test so that I can get an A because it’s 20% of my grade and if the other 80% of my grade is an A- then I need at least a 94% to get an A in the class!!!” game. At some point, grades became less central to me, and it was replaced by value and priority. I want to think of how I can use this to make others’ lives better and not just my own. It is a long unanswered question, but at least I am pondering it.
4. Growth Mindset
The only way to survive is to grow and adapt. I have learned how to not get stuck in a single image of myself and who I think I am. For example, I feel that I have developed more extroverted qualities this year after a whole lifetime of considering myself a strong introvert. We are not stuck in what we think we are, and it is pretty awesome to think that every experience we are having is an opportunity to learn and become a greater person.
5. Closing doors, opening doors
In high school, we were required to take math, science, English, etc. etc. etc. So many requirements to fulfill – and a huge handful of those requirements completely unrelated to our future occupations. College is a time to focus in on the things we want to do and want to learn. However, it is also a time to open our eyes to things we did not expect to be interested in. There are so many subjects I have dabbled in during these last few years – some of which I tried out and figured were not my thing, and some of which I pursued more seriously. Some of the completely new things I have tried during college: the organ, piano tuning, psychology classes, French, and now I am actually enrolled in LaunchU Business Program (a subject for another blog post!!). There is not one single and set path for the future, and that’s kind of incredible!
I am sure I have learned a great amount more, but these are just some of the thoughts that have been running around in my mind lately. There is nothing quite like throwing yourself into something and knowing that you might end up a completely different person once you make it to the other side.