We all know the story of Arthur, the man who pulled the sword out of the stone (or anvil, depending on which version you followed), and who thus the people proclaimed to be the rightful and worthy king of Camelot. A fine story, one, I’m sure, many other little girls envisioned for themselves growing up. Except that when the modern version happened to me, when I logged into my UCLA portal to find their “Congratulations!” letter, I felt the joy and success for about—oh, 30 seconds?
No joke; anxiety settled in far too quickly for my liking.
The ugly whispers crept in; no stupid Lebanese girl who’d lucked her way through community college and been away from America’s systems for so long could do well in a school like that. They made a mistake! My letter got switched with someone else’s! But the next day came and still that acceptance letter glared back at me through my screen. The only difference this time that it didn’t congratulate me anymore. It taunted me. It seemed to be saying, “Let’s see how you screw this one up.”
Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah, but everyone gets anxiety about starting a new school! Your fear must be warring with your excitement!” No, not really. University doesn’t end after a small trial. I hardly felt just frightened of my first day or setting up my classes for the quarter. My fear centered around failing halfway through. The fear of not making it to the end turned every day into a new challenge. I woke up the day after my acceptance terrified about whether financial aid would help me. Once that got settled, it turned into whether or not I’d get the classes I needed. After I managed that (God bless those orientation counselors), I worried that the workload would prove too difficult, and when it didn’t, I worried about the simplicity. I surely misheard the assignment, or forgot to write down the extra requirement or the computer cut my PDF short.
Starting to get annoyed?
Well, imagine how I felt! Stuck in the dark means being constantly aware of every tiny scuttle up a tree or broken branch. With the already low chance that, as a transfer, I possessed of getting in, and fresh into the American college system, it seemed too good to be true, so every tiny thing felt like a threat. The worst part of it for me felt like never really taking a day to enjoy just being a college student. I pride myself on being an organized person, I never postponed my work till the last second. You know that girl that always needed to set her essay on the professor’s desk first, like she had something to prove? Me.
Despite it all, I didn’t feel like I should be going anywhere.
The English department sent out emails for poetry readings with free pizza, museum visits and fascinating lectures that I constantly look for now as a graduate. I never went. I always worried that it would somehow cut into my studying time. In my mind, it always felt like time I could spend finishing up that—looking back at it—really unurgent essay. If it didn’t cut into that, it cut into my decompressing time. What if I needed those couple of hours to just read or enjoy myself, and going anywhere would cost me my rest, thus leading to my ultimate academic plummet?! Frustrating, to say the least. The most I ever did? Join a French club in my last quarter; but, being so unused to social events at the time, I barely interacted with anybody.
I went in with no training.
Listen. Don’t be me. I never learned to love life and all was well in the end. I look back on my time as an undergrad with a lot of regrets, almost all of them having to do with how little effort I put into just branching out. My “AHA! I AM THE WORTHY KING OF CAMELOT!” moment escaped me, but I’m getting there. I only wish I started a little sooner.