10 Things About Senior Year and the End of the Challenge

It’s Day 40. Wow. The time has really flown. I’ve pre-scheduled this post (I’m in Atlanta at the moment!) and will write a longer reflection on the Worry-Free Challenge when I return home. I wrote this post mid-September 2014, and I think it’s only fitting to post it now as the semester has drawn to a close.

10 Things I Want To Remember About Senior Year

1. The thrill of moving off-campus and living (almost) by myself for the first time. The excitement and nerves the first few days. How proud I was cooking my first few meals.

2. How much I’ve grown since freshman year. My first semester here was exciting, stressful, and full of pressure I put on myself. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I know in five years, I’ll look back and laugh at my silly self for thinking I know so much more. I want to remember senior year as slowing down, breathing in, taking time to assert myself and to stand up for the right things. I want to remember not being a pushover.

3. I want to remember working my ass off and falling asleep, exhausted, so grateful for my quiet room. I want to remember looking on at some of my best work of my college career in journalism. I want to remember pushing my limits and taking risks.

4. I want to remember all the times friends and family have pulled me out into their circle and said, through their hugs or sitting through hours of talking, “Hey, I love you. You are a valuable person and your accomplishments do not make up who you are.”

5. I want to remember all the chats over late-night tea with my dad. I want to remember the stories he’s told me hundreds of times about being an entrepreneur, of not being afraid to fail, that there’s no shame in working hard at something difficult, and failure does not mean you will never succeed. I want to remember drilling anatomy with him, of us laughing over stupid mnemonics, of me saying, “The future is terrifying,” and of him saying, “You’ve been at the top your whole life. I have no doubts that you will succeed at whatever you want to do.”

6. I want to remember all the times when I called my mom and vented, and she listened and gave me the truth. I want to be grateful for her help, for helping me live where I am today, for supporting me and letting me do my own thing. I want to thank her for inheriting that stubbornness, that classic Irish bulldog that is in me, however faint. I need that spirit now. I want to remember: “This too shall pass.”

7. I want to remember quashing my fear and taking risks. I want to remember throwing myself out there and pitching myself. I want to remember being proud of everything I’ve accomplished. I want to remember this belief in myself that has never felt so concrete before.

8. I want to remember this year as a healthy year. I want to look back and say, “Hey. You really took care of your body this year. You put your health first and your older self will thank you.” I want to remember making a conscious effort to breathe, meditate and be thankful every day, because the health of your mind is just as important as your body.

9. I want to remember time spent with those I love. Regardless of where we are in the future, whether we’re together or apart, I want to remember everything with laughter and grace. I want to remember staying up till four a.m. being goofy, hanging out and playing Kan Jam, looking at farm animals and staring in awe at the countryside. I want to remember the sunsets that are so beautiful I want to squeeze my eyes shut and make me remember the first time I walked home with my first group of college friends. That sunset made me feel like I belonged here. I want to remember when my friend visited and we drove through the mountains, talking about life and how fleetingĀ and scary your 20s are. I want to remember making stir frys with my boyfriend in the wee hours of the morning, of waking up to the sound of pouring rain next to him, and being grateful for the bond we’ve shared, being so thankful that someone has seen into who I am and still loves me.

10. More than anything, I want to remember all the good times. I want to have stories to tell my kids someday about my amazing college experience. And it can’t be amazing unless I make it happen…so this year, I want to remember making it happen.

Day 40 Mantra: Make it happen.

The Pursuit of Happiness is Futile (It’s More Optimistic Than You Think)

Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com
Lucille Ball quote via incompletemagazine.com

Somewhere along this past year or so, I felt like I lost a part of myself. I could never put my finger on exactly when this happened, but this loss — my mojo, my juju, my passion — chipped away at me slowly.

Some days, I missed it more than others. Most of the time, I tried to stay so busy that I didn’t feel its loss at all. It’s hard to be introspective when you’re hustling and studying constantly.

I love learning. I’ve always thrived in school. It was my thing, the way other kids has sports and dance. I immersed myself in reading and knowing all the right answers. School gave me this kind of power, at a young age, that I could never achieve in any kind of (coordination needed) sport.

Yet, I couldn’t understand why this schedule was making me completely miserable. I was doing well in my classes and enjoyed the subject material — but every day felt the same. I felt like a total drone. I’d felt like I’d lost my sense of purpose — and it felt likeĀ  more than senioritis. I didn’t know how to deal with falling out of love with school.

It was burnout at its finest.

Now that I’m taking some time to reflect (truly reflect) on what brings me contentment. I’ve always chased after success, thinking success is going to make me happy (spoiler alert: it won’t!) or at least catapult me to the next level of contentment.

I’ve realized some things, chief among them: the pursuit of happiness is futile. I may be a realist, but I don’t think this is necessarily a pessimistic outlook. The fact is, life just happens, and you’re not so much pursuing it as you are just flying by the seat of your pants, trying to adjust before life shifts and you have to deal with the Next Thing.

Maybe I should rephrase this. Chasing after what might make you happy is like a lottery ticket. You don’t really know. But the things that make you happy right now? Those are a sure bet. And I’m not talking about the instant gratification of someone liking your photo on social media, or even the joy a sale at your fave shop (New York & Company, I’m looking at you…) can bring.

Confession of a control freak here: I’m all about finding a path. Toss me some sort of Life Plan and I get all excited about how bright my future will be. But life doesn’t work like that — the prospects of a future might excite me, but it’s so important to stand back and take notice of the good in your life right now before life takes me to a different place.

Day 4 Mantra: Don’t wait for happiness — experience contentment right now.

Little parts of today that made me happy:

  • Finding a quiet corner of the cafe to read with a cup of coffee
  • Strolling down the street, enjoying the last bit of good weather before winter settles in
  • Bumping into a friend
  • Listening to a thought-provoking podcast (I’m binge-listening to Radiolab, and today’s episode was Translation)
  • Inhaling the scent of fresh laundry
  • Journaling
  • Cleaning my room
  • Lighting a coffee-scented candle
  • Watching the sky turn dark
  • Gulping fresh water
  • Flopping on my bed and taking a moment to stare at my ceiling

What made you happy today? What are some things that ground you and reignite your mojo?