We can’t save the world in one semester

May feels like a hot coffee in the middle of a sleepy winter. It wakes us up, reminding us of the good things that can happen when we break out of our day-to-day routines. Feeling the sunshine on our faces and smelling the just-bloomed flowers on the way to the library make finals just a little bit easier, because we know there is something truly special waiting for us when we walk out of our final exam or submit our final paper. 

Sometimes, we walk out of the lecture hall or the library feeling absolutely liberated, ready to jump into summer. But other times, there is something lingering within us that makes the great weather a little less sweet, and that is the sense of unfinished business. It is one thing when we have filled our semester up with classes that challenged us, broadened our perspectives and empowered us to the point that when we let the door close on our way out of our final class, we felt ready to leave. But sometimes we take a class that we think is going to do this- empower us, teach us the skills we have wanted to gain since we graduated high school- and it doesn’t. We leave feeling as though we are a black sheep, and while everyone else is thanking the professor profusely for a perspective-shifting semester, we sit in the back, wondering why a test run in what we wanted to pursue was so… difficult? Or maybe just not as interesting as we had hoped.

So many students say the same thing about classes within their major: “I always do the worst in the classes I’m supposed to do the best in.” Business majors falling flat in Intro to Marketing, and English majors being told they need a better grasp of the English language. When we feel we aren’t smart or passionate enough to go into the field we were supposed to be smart and passionate about, how do we move forward into the next stage of our life?

College can sometimes trick us into thinking there is one route to making the change we want to make - whether it be for ourselves, or for the world around us. Some things are so omnipresent in our thoughts that we know we want to pursue them for sure. And particularly when we have an end goal of improving the state of the planet, knowing what we want to work on is one of the best feelings. So that is why it can feel so awful when we become unsure of our abilities to make the change we know is necessary.

But the presence of our worst self doubt is proof of further opportunities. We feel envy at the success of others because we know we can succeed, even though it isn’t happening yet. But we should feel encouraged. While we often don’t see the work going into someone’s success, it is there and just as full of tribulations as our efforts. Thus, we have to be confident in our ability to, essentially, mind our own business. There are so many paths to change, and our disappointment in our performance in one doesn’t mean we are any further from our goals, simply that we are closer to finding what we truly excel at. And fortunately, when it comes time to collaborate with those who have been succeeding at making change in our environment (aka our future peers and bosses!), our story of confusion and exploration will not fall on deaf ears. We have all experienced this struggle to develop our strengths. Figuring out the best way we can better our planet- and our futures- takes longer than one weekend of cramming for finals, and while we might be out of time to study (whoops), we have all of the time we need to learn about ourselves.