When I first decided to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I walked in with a plan. I would work extra hard, whether through studying, volunteering or clubs to achieve my dream job as a dermatologist. I remember naively attending the club fair my freshman year, eager to join pre-medical societies and meet new people. Little did I know, the next three years would lead me down a completely different path.
Despite my willingness to join clubs my freshman year, I didn’t build up the courage to actually attend any of the meetings.
College felt so different than high school. I completely started over. Something about attending a meeting where I didn’t know anyone, in an environment that looked unfamiliar, terrified me. Instead of pushing myself to face my anxieties and attend the meetings, I ignored many of the countless email invitations I received, except one. I decided to go to a meeting for an online magazine called “Her Campus”. Out of all the clubs I signed up for, the only one I could find myself feeling comfortable with required writing. Although it didn’t pertain to my major, I decided to attend biweekly meetings anyway.
As classes started to pick up pace, I felt completely lost.
I didn’t like the class content at all. Chemical equations confused me more than anything I learned before. As the professor scribbled on the whiteboard, I stared aimlessly, unsure of what to write in my notes. I found myself unable to enjoy my free time because the workload from classes consumed me. My anxiety slowly grew worse and worse. I felt my heart pound as I made my way across campus to a lecture. Exam sessions often ended with me leaving the room with tears streaming down my face. All the excitement I previously felt for college faded away. Although I knew I clearly needed to make a change, unwanted thoughts took the lead. I worked so hard during high school to make sure I could one day go into the medical field. How could I just throw everything I accomplished away?
It took a few phone calls with my family and friends to realize that sticking with my current classes wouldn’t ultimately make me the happiest. Boy, talk about some hard news for me to hear. The medical field overshadowed all possibilities of a different future for as long as I could remember. I didn’t know where to start without it. Yet, each day my parents’ voices provided relief to my sleepless nights. They assured me that no matter what choice I made, they’d support me along the way. Both my parents and friends expressed endless support. Although I wrestled with the idea of change, reassurance and love waited for me on the phone whenever I felt down.
To my surprise, I didn’t need to look as hard as I thought to find something that made me happy.
Since the beginning of the semester, I consistently stuck with and looked forward to writing for “Her Campus”. Although this seemed like the most obvious answer, I still struggled. It seemed wrong to make something that I considered a hobby for so long my career. Could I really just write for a living?
After some investigating, I came across Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For the first time since I started college I felt excited for the future, not dreading it. My smile grew wider as I read about all the possibilities within journalism. I could actually help others by telling their stories and speaking out for the voiceless. For so long I thought the only way to help people involved medicine. I did not realize that through the power of words, I gained the ability to fight for real change.
I jumped for joy when I read about my acceptance into the journalism school my sophomore year. However, anxiety snuck in again. I always struggled with social interactions. I overthink whenever I speak and analyze others’ words like they contain a secret meaning. I found myself in a constant state of panic in my journalism classes, feeling pressured to raise my voice more often, yet frightened that I said the wrong thing.
To this day, I am still learning how to cope with my own feelings.
However, I learned a lot from my college career thus far. Rather than avoiding change, you must embrace it. When it comes to my anxiety, I find that forcing myself to do things that make me uncomfortable brings on the best challenge. Rather than spending my life avoiding challenging situations, I push through the short period of unease. Events that felt scary before suddenly felt easier to manage the more I exposed myself to them. College comes with many big adjustments, but it all comes down to what you make of it. Just remember that at the end of the day, your happiness matters the most.