The only thing I can remember about my high school graduation was the feeling of never wanting to step foot in a classroom again. There was a slight problem with this sentiment, though. I wrote a personal statement and an honors essay, paid my fees, and declared my majors. The graduation pamphlet spelled out my fate: I was set to attend the University of Iowa this coming fall.
It was difficult coming to terms with the disillusionment I felt toward something I had been so eager for only a year prior.
During my senior year, perfectionism dictated my attitude on every homework assignment, test, and project. I turned academics into a challenge of trying to consistently earn high grades when my focus should have centered on learning. This left me stressed and burnt out by the end of the year. The thought of writing another paper made me want to pull out my hair.
Adults in my life assured me that college is a completely different experience. To an extent, I knew that. College brought with it the freedom to choose what classes to take and when to take them, which could give me more time to de-stress. Trying to think about all the potential free time didn’t help ease my nerves about being in a classroom again. I had four years of classes ahead of me, I couldn’t go to college feeling this way. I wanted to get back the excitement I felt when touring the University of Iowa’s campus and speaking with the students there.
So, I made it my goal to use the summer to find a passion for school again, as ironic as that was.
I started small with summer webinars. I reasoned that being familiar with UIowa would help me feel a little less stressed about going. I tried jotting down notes while I listened and couldn’t help but pay specific attention to a couple of details. The university offers study abroad programs as far as Greece and Australia. The honors program allows students to receive honors credit from standard courses by completing a paper or special project. Underground tunnels connect a couple of the dorms so students wouldn’t have to worry about going outside in the winter to reach dining halls. While these things may seem minuscule, they brought little sparks of enthusiasm for my upcoming experience at Iowa.
I looked for all the student publications at Iowa. Before high school ended, I started to have doubts about going into journalism and creative writing. I became too critical of my work to the point where I nearly stopped writing outside of school essays by the time my senior year ended. I thought looking through publications I could join at Iowa might help me find motivation to write again. There were so many student-run literary magazines alone, I felt like I had struck gold. From Inklit, which focuses on highlighting undergraduate work, to Patchwork, which aims to bring together a community of people from diverse backgrounds, the choices seemed endless.
These student publications brought back an excitement for writing and gave me hope that I could start my own one day.
I started trying to write every day to get back in the habit, allowing myself to create without judgment.
Getting over burnout wasn’t as linear as I expected it to be. There were days when I assumed I had recovered only to struggle over writing a couple of sentences. For all the moments over the summer that I felt eager and ready to go, there were equally as many spent terrified of going through the same stress as before, now in a new city with a smaller support system. I remind myself every day not to get frustrated and to use my experiences from high school to make a healthier environment for myself in college.