One of the smartest, most driven people I know is my niece Chelsea. She was accepted to and graduated from a “college in high school program” in which they complete the entire high school curriculum in a year. In the program, most students have a Bachelor’s Degree nearly completed around the time most other people her age are just graduating high school. She has always been mature, sweet, considerate and is an amazingly positive influence on my children. She is a gifted student and writer. I am blessed to have her in my life. I have asked her to share her perspective on achieving balance as she approaches her college graduation at the age of 18. I know you will enjoy this as much as I did.
THANKS MOM, DAD, & COFFEE
Guest Post by Chelsea Baer
Sitting in a small coffee bar on a rainy Thursday, completing what is my last course toward my bachelor’s degree, I can’t help but reflect on the past four years that brought me to this point. Graduation was looming, a mere three weeks away. That ordinary August day symbolized the culmination of four years of blood, sweat, and tears and I couldn’t wait to walk across (hopefully without tripping) the university stage and take the diploma which symbolized my greatest achievement to this point.
College for me, though, was more than learning theories and memorizing court cases. Through my college experience, I began to form my own opinions about the world around me, as well as gained the skills necessary to succeed in other aspects of life, such as dedication, motivation, and moderation. None of this would have been possible without a support system in place — which prompted the thank you note adorning the cap I’ll be wearing on that day.
First starting out in college, there is a lot of pressure to not only maintain a 4.0 GPA, but also engage in extra curricular activities, parties, social groups, and Greek life, all while trying to build your resume and look your best to your future employer/professional/graduate school admissions board. It’s enough to send even the most level head spinning. While I would love to say I rose to the challenge immediately, brandishing a full stock of number two pencils as my armor and hunkering down with the inevitable mountain of notecards, this was not the case. The first year and a half of my college career was full of sleepless nights, severe anxiety, and littered with a couple nervous breakdowns for good measure. I had to learn how to learn, as well as how to balance my life so that I didn’t end up having gray hair, wrinkles, and a Xanax prescription about 40 years to soon.
Balance is not something that can ever be truly mastered, but the goal at which we have to aim ourselves. I started by lowering my course load and commitments to school, allowing me to come up for air. Oddly enough, a part time job helped tremendously in balancing my life. When I was at work, school was off the table. All I had to do was focus at the task at hand and commiserate with my coworkers. It also provided me with the resources to relax, whether that be through shopping, salons, or going out to dinner with friends. The biggest lesson I learned, however, was that trying to balance school in with the rest of my life didn’t mean I was less motivated — there was a degree of moderation in my education that could be achieved without losing work ethic or dedication.
Most college kid stereotypes include the dreadlocked, crop top wearing, hippie toting idealistic agendas and a burgeoning drug addiction. While Im sure you could find a person fitting this description, it hardly encompasses the majority of the student body. Instead, college provided me with a look into how diverse the world is outside my previous societal bubble. As classeschallenged previously held social norms and informed us about different theories and events that had shaped our world, I found myself enthralled. Often times, I’d spend hours of my own time debating with friends in coffee shops or having heated debates while studying, whether it be about the pros and cons of the current president’s economic policies or which Australian animal is better than the others. After years of having to care about what brand of jeans youwere wearing or what car you drove, it was great to find a group of people where I was accepted and enjoyed spending my time.
I never would have survived all four years of schooling with my sanity intact however, if it weren’t for the team of people supporting me along the way. My classmates became comrades as we prepared together for the battle that was finals week. Our supplies came in the form of colored index cards and highlighters and we buried ourselves in study rooms and coffee shops, refusing to come out until everyone was trained and knew the concepts cold. College set the foundation for friendships that could last a lifetime, and only strengthened existing friendships.
Blood is thicker than water, however, and my family made up the biggest component of my support system. My poor mom and dad had to put up with me through the entire experience — whether that meant listening to me rant about whatever test I was sure I was destined to fail that day or having to read my papers written in the tedious language of academia. They alsoprovided me with encouragement and a reality check. While school is very important, it is not the only thing in life. They saw to it that I went out and “smelled the roses” whether it be with friends or family.
A wise professor once started his class saying that these ten years of our lives determined how easy or difficult the next ten would be. With a portion of the first ten years completed, I take comfort in the idea that I can pave my own future and have been smoothing out the road for my future self. While I still have many years of schooling and milestones in life ahead of me, I know that I can take what I learned graduating from college and look forward to the new experiences that lie ahead of me.