6 life lessons I learned from my toughest semester ever

Wow.  It’s been a while.  3 months and 12 days!  103 days!  I could go on with the conversions, but my point is that there hasn’t been a post on here in too long.

The gap in semi-interesting thoughts spawns from a semester that was perhaps the most difficult I’ve ever taken at Penn State.  Classes gave me trouble that I didn’t expect, and there were plenty of sleepless nights and less-than-wonderful days.  I hate taking breaks from blogging, because it’s one of my favorite things; alas, the things you do for an undergrad degree.

However, I learned so much from the past 15 weeks that I thought I could combine some of it into a post to celebrate the return of your favorite (and perhaps only) fake blonde, sunflower-loving, engineer/blogger girl.  So, here it goes: 6 life lessons I learned from my toughest semester ever.

1. You don’t have time for toxic friendships: I’ve talked before about how to spot and handle a toxic friendship, but this advice gives more perspective on that post.  When you have limited extra time to give to people, you want to give as much as possible to those who make you feel good about yourself.  And of course this isn’t to say that just because you don’t talk to all the good people in your life all the time that you’re subconsciously saying they aren’t worth your time.  This point focuses more on giving people who don’t add to your life less attention.  Especially when you’re stressed, you need really good people to fall back on and tell you things are ok.  That’s what’ll get you through.

2.  Rejection is inevitable, but it feels amplified when you’re stressed: When you’re working so hard for something and it doesn’t end up working out like you wanted, it’s easy to become more discouraged.  It can make you feel like you’re ill-equipped to handle what’s being thrown at you.  When you’re stressed, your judgement is clouded and you aren’t thinking like normal.  Moderate rejections and closed doors feel like crises, and it’s hard to shake off.  But, the key to getting through this is using perspective.  Look at your track record–you’ve prevailed over rejection before, and all that one closed door means is that you’re meant for a better opportunity.

3.  Sleep, meals and exercise should be scheduled like a class: You’re not a robot.  You have basic needs that help you function at your best.  It can be easy to cut out one of these components, because you might not see immediate consequences like you might if you miss an assignment or don’t study for an exam.  Consequences in your health take longer to appear than two class periods.  This is something I struggled with, because sleep and exercise are usually the first to go when I have too much work.  But, good health is what’s going to take you beyond those assignments, and poor health has lasting effects.  But, penciling in a bed time or a 30 minute exercise session and sticking to it could fix this–it’s something I’ll try (and probably write a post on) next semester. 🙂

4. Showing you’re a leader isn’t “how many leadership roles can you take on”:  Instead, it’s “how well can you do in the ones you take on.”  This goes back to the value of your time; you could spend your time being mediocre at a bunch of things, or you could be really impactful in fewer things.  This concept isn’t revolutionary–I’ve seen it be used everywhere, but it’s really relevant here, especially when you’re managing an operation.  It’s different from a class, because if you take on too much during a semester, you’ll just get lower grades (read: yourself).  But, in a leadership role, if you don’t have enough time to dedicate, you risk affecting an entire operation (read: other people).

5. If possible, don’t make major life decisions when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation: This ties into our talk about rejection with clouded judgement.  Try to wait until things have died down until you make a life-altering choice.  This way, you’re making sure that your stressors aren’t influencing your decision, because in many cases, the decision’s consequences last longer than the effects of the stressors.

6. Try your best: You might not ace every class.  You might not get an amazing performance review every time.  You might not get the internship you’ve been wanting forever.  But, you’re trying, and that’s where you should be proud of yourself. Sometimes, we set our expectations for ourselves higher than we can actually achieve. Even if you don’t reach your perfect-world goals, you’re still achieving so much.  When you try to improve yourself, whether it’s with school or exercise or anything else, you’ll create a better version of yourself than you had yesterday.

Sincerely,

Calla

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