I am the first person in my immediate family to attend college. This was a big deal. My parents felt like I was undergoing an opportunity they never had.
My first semester was full of the normal challenges and questions: Am I going to gain the "freshman 15"? Is this going to be hard? Can I live with my roommate?
I was told college would be hard, tedious, and that I would have to sacrifice a lot in order to keep up. I had this picture in my mind of studying at the library until 3AM and frequently pulling all-nighters. A few weeks into school and I was anticipating these hard deadlines and stressful studying sessions.
But then the craziest thing of all happened...I was bored as hell. You read that right. In fact, I was so bored that I just grew lazy. I always got my assignments and homework done almost immediately after class, and then I was left with hours upon hours of nothing to do.
By midterm, I was hungry for something that I wasn't getting from my college experience. I was hungry for a purpose. Being a "college student" didn't make me feel like I had a place in the world, or that I could use my skills to help in a bigger way. Even though I was breezing through classes with excellent grades, I considered dropping out because I thought my time and money could be better invested elsewhere.
I decided to wait and make my final decision during winter break since I would be at home and could talk to my parents about it. While I was home, I decided to work some extra hours at a retail store that I'd been working at since I was sixteen.
Right before Christmas, my manager pulled me to the side and mentioned how the current assistant manager was leaving for another store and her position would be open.
"Lindsey, I know you are only 18 and you just started college, but you should just think about it. You have a natural entrepreneurial spirit and excellent leadership skills. I would be willing to work around your school schedule."
Chomping at the bit, I couldn't wait to say yes! But I decided to check in with my parents and my advisor for some advice.
My parents were excited at the opportunity, but feared my grades would suffer. I remember my dad saying, "School comes first. Work should not be a priority right now."
As for my advisor, well, she just thought I was crazy. "There is absolutely no way you can work a full-time job and attend classes full time without your grades suffering."
But against my advisor and my parents, I decided to take the job. I knew that, for me, in order to even stay in school, I needed to have a purpose outside of being a college student.
This, of course, didn't come without sacrifice. I had to completely change my schedule. I was bound to taking certain classes because that's what fit with what I had. If I got a "work call" during class, I sometimes had to step outside and take it. I wasn't really involved on campus. And some of my days were extremely long--I'm talking 16-18 hours.
Despite the sacrifices, I found purpose. This purpose truly carried me through college. I was able to use the skills I acquired in college in real life, in practical ways. I learned how to budget and actually started paying off some debt while still in college. I built leadership skills all while learning new communication methods. I was able to practically apply what I was learning in my public relations class to the store I was managing. I became eager to take work opportunities or create new ones. I even realized my love for entrepreneurship and dreamed of owning my own business.
Looking back, I am so glad I did not take the advice of my advisor or my parents. Sometimes, you have to take your own advice, even when the odds are stacked against you. While their intentions were good, they were based out of fear--fear that I would fail, fear that I wouldn't get good grades, fear that I would essentially drop out of school.
But you see, I wasn't afraid of those things. I decided to take a walk with fear. Sure, the fear was always there, but if I let that dictate my entire college life, I would have most likely been afraid to even go after a job or start my own business. I, instead, believed that failure presents options too. I believed that if I failed, there would always be something else I could do, a lesson I could learn, or another path I could choose. My life wouldn't stop. And neither will yours.
Not everyone fits into the normal mold of academia, and that's okay. Instead of trying to keep up with what everyone else is doing or comparing yourself to your classmates, follow the path that feels right to you. Or better yet, create your own path.