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Back to School Stressing

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Also Known As - working on being Pragmatically Optimistic

My junior year of college started yesterday. I've just started the second half of my undergraduate experience, and while I want to be over the moon about it there is this lingering sour aftertaste.

I'm growing up, and as inevitable as is it is, it's incredibly scary. I'm facing the world as someone who has truly kissed her childhood innocence goodbye. I find it crazy to think about how much I have changed, and grown, in a year.

Peer Mentors help move Freshman into HPU and host sessions for them during welcome week

I got to be a peer mentor this time around - something Dad always thought I'd be incredibly good at. He, and the rest of my family, were in the car with me when I got the email freshman year that I had been accepted into the program. It was during family weekend, and the smile that split my cheeks was so wide that it almost hurt.

But, I didn't get to be a peer mentor last year because of the beginning of the end. I had to pull out of the program a few days before it started, move in a few days after I was supposed to. These few instances weren't the end of the world, in fact I was still trying to convince myself that things were going to get better, they had to get better.

Now, having come out on the other side of things, I realize I shouldn't have built up so much in my head. Shouldn't have ignored the warning signs and told myself everything would go back to normal soon. I needed to be more pragmatic, more of a realist.

In all honesty, because I refused to even consider the other side of things, I fear the outcome dulled my optimistic outlook on the world around me.

On the wall of my sophomore year dorm, a sign read "HPU Year 2, the best is yet to come"

There was a quote that I hung up on the wall in my sophomore year dorm - on one of those slotted signs you can buy in target. With care, I pressed each little black letter into place during move-in to spell out "HPU Year 2, The Best Is Yet To Come."

God, it couldn't have been any more wrong.

I guess that's why the beginning of this semester comes with a little more anxiety then any other year has. September 3rd is quickly approaching and it is like a cold pit is settling in my chest in preparation. There's no avoiding it, it will be upon us eventually.

There are moments I wish I could go back to the girl I was. Where the biggest event on the horizon was sorority recruitment and starting actual journalism classes. Who was excited to have her own bedroom in her dorm, who couldn't wait to write for her college newspaper and enjoy being in person for classes again.

There are moments I wish I could go back to the girl who thought her father couldn't die of cancer. He was Scott Ralls for crying out loud. He was the strongest man I have ever met, coupled with a loud voice and the inability to give up or back down. He was an unmovable mountain who stood up for what he believed in and wouldn't give up fighting.

And to be clear, he never gave up fighting.

As much as I miss the girl I once was, it's foolish to think that the girl could ever come back. Bits and pieces of her are still inside of me, and sometimes I see them break through to the surface. However, some things just change you as a person.

I've been working on it though, to help integrate pieces of that girl into who I am now. To not feel guilty when one of those pieces of the old me makes it's way to the surface. To dust off what I find of her in the rubble, and carry them with me like a prized possession.

My Junior Year Dorm

Growing up doesn't mean forgetting. Moving forward doesn't mean moving on. These are things that I must force myself to remember because I know in my heart that the last thing Dad would have wanted was for me to not go out and enjoy my life. He would want me to dive right back into college head first and put myself out there.

That's not to say I'm not allowed to have those days where I just need to be alone with my thoughts. Or those moments where I let out the anger and disappointment in him not being around to hear how exhausting moving in the freshmen was or how much fun I had at the FDOC dinner with my sorority. It's crummy not being able to tell him those things.

But there is no denying that he would be over the moon happy for me.

So, walking into Junior year, with a smile on my face and some cautious optimism in my heart, I have three main personal goals.

  1. Forget my room key and Student ID a lot less (the first part will be rather easy since the key is on my car-key lanyard now, however I hate to inform you that my ID is currently on the desk in my dorm as I write this from main campus.)

  2. To be kinder to myself, allow myself to feel the bad emotions, and not hate the fact that I am still going (and growing) through it.

  3. Enjoy Junior year. Make some new friends, try some new things, and remember that Dad would be proud of where I am today.

I hope I can accomplish these, and the many other goals I have and will set for myself. I also hope that last year's sign was right, and the best is yet to come. Maybe this year's motto should be, "HPU year three, everything's going to work out for me

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