Appreciating the Journey

“Yeah, we’ve made it this far. And you know we’ve got your back, through the good and the bad.”

 

The lyrics come from one of my favorite songs. I’ve played and replayed it so many times this year, it probably deserves its own Spotify playlist. Hearing it always encouraged me and lifted my spirit during stressful times. This song reminded me to take a moment to appreciate the fact that (through the good and the bad) I’m no longer where I started. I’ve taken a journey, where I’ve grown, learned and changed along the way.

Now that we’re fast approaching the end of the school year, you might be scrambling to prepare for your finals, writing these last few papers and trying to finalize what’s next for you in terms of summer plans. It’s so easy to forget to enjoy this one big truth: You’ve made it this far!

You’re just a few weeks away from finishing your very first year at Ohio State! That is a significant and very special accomplishment and it’s okay to feel proud of yourself. I’m proud of you and I know that our entire Ohio State community is proud of you. You’ve faced all kinds of new difficulties, stresses and hardships this year, from financial, to emotional to physical, but you persevered. That is amazing and you are amazing!

It’s also okay if your first year wasn’t absolutely what you imagined it was going to be. All the steps you’ve taken and all the decisions you’ve made up until now have allowed you to get to this point! Whether your first year has been great or on the rough-side,  know that you matter. You’re more than your grades and achievements and the fact that you are here is something to be very proud of.

As we come to the end of the school year, and you start reflecting on how far you’ve come, here a few things to remember:

1. Keep an Open Mind about your Major/Career

If you weren’t certain about your major this year, or if you’re still considering changing majors for next year, this is completely normal. It took me until the beginning of my junior year to find the right major for me, and I couldn’t be happier with the way things have panned out. Keep searching, keep asking questions and keep an open mind! Everything does not have to be decided within your first year.

2. Consider What You’d Like to Improve on for Next Year

Would you like to become more efficient in managing your time?  Be a little less or more involved on campus? Improve your study habits? Consider how this year went as you reflect. Think about how that reflection can possibly turn into goals for next year, for example—making sure to go to the fall involvement fair, reaching out to professors early on and using a planner to keep all your classwork and notes organized.

3.  Give Thanks

Take a little time to say thank you to those who have helped you during your first year here. That could be a great group of friends, family, roommates, floormates, your RA, a professor, a commuter liaison and more. It’s never corny to write a thank-you note! Showing gratitude goes a long way and it will mean a lot to those who receive it!

4. Get Rest

Think of the summer ahead as an opportunity to rest, rejuvenate and take time for the things that are important to you. No matter where you’re going this summer, or what your plans are–be sure to take some time to relax and enjoy the season!

Remember, you made it this far! I hope that in the busyness of this season, you can take some time to really let that sink in and appreciate all that your first year has been. Congratulations and keep going! We believe in you, I believe in you and your fellow Buckeyes believe in you!

“And you know, we’ve got your back, through the good and the bad.”

The Powers of Reflection

Congratulations! You have successfully made it to your second semester here at Ohio State. And now that syllabus week is over, the work begins.

I had a rough first semester at OSU. I didn’t have many friends, I didn’t want to admit to my parents that I was having a hard time, and I didn’t do well in classes. I ended up skipping classes to watch Netflix and sleep in and rarely left my residence hall. I ate a ton, did no homework and didn’t study and I ended up coming home for winter break 20 pounds heavier with a terrible GPA. Luckily, I had wonderful parents who, although disappointed, did their best to help me move forward instead of dwelling on the past. We spent a lot of time that winter break trying to figure out what went wrong and how to help me get back on track; and through that experience I learned how amazingly powerful reflection could be. I went into my second semester with a new outlook and ended it with a 3.5 semester GPA.

You have all more or less successfully completed a full semester at OSU and believe it or not you are now a veteran! You now have a pretty good idea of the in’s and out’s of college so why not put some of that knowledge to use? You will do so much better this semester if you take the time and space to reflect on what went right and what went wrong.

I have a little reflection activity (it takes about 30 minutes) that I want to share with you. I’ve started, weekly, going out by myself to eat or putting on some background music and lighting a candle in my room and just thinking. Below I’ve written out a way that you can engage in a similar activity that helps with mindfulness and goal-setting.

Reflection Activity:

Think back to the first days on the Ohio State campus: moving into the dorm rooms, meeting new faces, your parents moving your stuff into your dorm room. Remember how your room looked when you first stepped in. And how it looked when you were done with it. Remember saying goodbye to your parents, and spending the night with your new friends and roommates.

Fast forward through Welcome Week: all of the activities, the whirlwind of people, the cheers, the crowds, getting used to campus.

Now it’s the first days of classes: remember rushing to find your first class, pulling out the Maps app on your phone to find Arps Hall. Remember returning to your room at the end of the day exhausted but satisfied because at least you now know where your classes are.

Keep going fast-forwarding through your semester, letting your mind snag on the important parts, dwell on them a little before moving on. Try writing some of those moments down to remember them. Remember the good things and the bad things. Continue until you finally get to winter break. Imagine all of the things that went right last semester. What did you do well? When was your first success? How can you keep that up this semester? Write this stuff down.

What went wrong? What did you improve? What could you have done better in? What do you need to change? What can you do to improve? Write. It. Down.

Now look and think about everything you just wrote and thought about. What goals do you have for this semester that could hit on those points you just wrote down? Write those down and put them on your phone or hang them in your room.

Those are your goals for this semester.

Self-Reflection Through Self-Expression

You’re about to make it through your first year of college in one piece (knock on wood). That’s a big deal, so give yourself some credit! My freshman year was so opposite of what I envisioned coming out of high school; it was actually one of the most challenging years of my life–socially, academically, psychologically, you name it. Despite the tough times, the real problem was that I–like countless others–tended to push the bad memories off to the side and focus on the good. However, I’ve learned the times I grew the most as a person were the times I was barely holding on. If you look back on the year without rose-colored glasses, you can really discover what worked and what didn’t, helping you to be cognizant of those things the second time through this fall! 

Now, there are many options for self-reflection. The great thing about it is that it’s for yourself, so you can make what you want out of it! Here are a few ideas to get you started:


Journaling

Claaaassic.

When people think of self-reflection, journaling is often the first thing that comes to mind. It’s a great way of getting thoughts onto paper and allows a space of unfiltered reflection. If you’re feeling super crazy, you could buy yourself a nice notebook and some sweet pens, too. 


Poetry

I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it, but I think it’s time I show it.

I’ve recently found poetry to be a really cool way of expressing what I’m feeling in an abbreviated form. The extra attention it takes for word choices and having to think through things like rhyme and rhythm (or not!) helps you to think about what you’re feeling and what you’re trying to say.


Music

“Lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go…”

Whether it’s putting sound to poetry, playing your favorite tunes on your favorite instrument, or just indulging in a few emotionally engaging songs, music as the universal language is a fantastic way of expressing and experiencing emotion without ever having to open your eyes!


Visual Art

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Whether you sketch, paint, photograph, etc., a visual representation of what you’ve been experiencing throughout your first year is a powerful way to express your feelings. It’s not an art contest; it’s for your own self-expression, so don’t be too critical on yourself if you aren’t the second coming of Michelangelo!


Whether you had the best year ever, or the worst of all time, reflecting back on it while it’s still fresh in your mind is something that can be helpful, rather than bottling it all up. Expressing yourself in some form can help you to know how to build upon your success this year, but just as important, how to take what you’ve been through and grow and learn from your shortcomings. Once you’ve taken the opportunity to look back and discover where you’ve grown–and need to continue to grow–you can look to the future with confidence that you’re a better version of yourself because of it. 

I recently wrote a poem about my first year struggles and how I dealt with it. If you’re interested, you can check it out here!