We all know that Lion King song. “Hakuna Matata…. it means no worries for the rest of your days, it’s your problem free philosophy.”
But that’s just not feasible. Unfortunately, Disney is not the only one broadcasting false expectations.
A good portion of my K through 12 schooling focused on how easy life would be if I just followed the steps that would prepare me for life in the real world. The phrase “getting into a good college” became a mantra, a piece of bacon dangled in front of students to salivate over. Get a perfect GPA. Participate in extracurriculars. Do tons of community service. Stay awake in class. Study for the SAT/ACTs. Take AP/IB classes. Go above and beyond to stand out. Never be late. Always be focused…if you want to “get into a good college.”
Frankly, I don’t find the build-up really compatible with the reality of college.
A little healthy worrying and good expectations are what are really important to survive college.
In high school, school ended the moment I stepped off the bus. Then, I was free to do whatever I pleased; watch TV, go to dance class or hang out at a friend’s house. The world was my oyster as long as I finished my homework sometime before 7 a.m. In college, school and classes are no longer synonymous, which is wonderful, but it makes having honest expectations necessary.
College didn’t shock me; it wasn’t a “whole new world.” I came into college thinking that with time everything would fall into place, but I was wrong. There’s always something going on at the University of Maryland. College requires a little bit of planning and a whole lot of patience.
It was fun, but sometimes it got really overwhelming. I kept trying to meet these expectations and, as the semester continued, it felt like I always had to play catch-up with my classmates, my family, my friends, and even my fellow Terrapins.
Now here I am, starting another year, and I’m already overwhelmed, struggling to make time for all the activities–such as writing for a publication like College Magazine–that I hope will get me where I’m supposed to be. No one wants to feel left behind, but not everyone has the same objective, and we certainly can’t all take the same path to get there.
The key is to set good, feasible expectations so college can be fun, enjoyable and beneficial.
Unfortunately, the other half of setting good expectations is accepting that comparison to others is practically inescapable.
Last year, I was still figuring out how to balance classes and clubs and friends. While I struggled, nearly everyone around me just did all of that effortlessly. Ultimately, I found myself frustrated with all the things I thought I should have been doing. It felt like everything was going to be that much harder just because I failed to meet these arbitrary expectations. Looking back that sounds pretentious, like I was playing the “anything you can do, I can do better” game from recess, but that’s not true either.
As a young woman, there are endless expectations attached to my everything. It’s not easy to separate out realistic expectations that I set for myself and ones that have been set for me, like these:
Step outside of your comfort zone sometimes. Try to go to at least one Maryland event a week. Be kind. Spread happiness and positivity. Use the word bungalow as often as possible. Find new ways to brighten someone’s day. Always look “presentable.” Respect everyone, but don’t be surprised when people don’t respect you. Don’t be emotional – and while you’re at it, don’t be too opinionated either. Never frown – it’s unattractive. Live life to the fullest. Always try your best, but your best has to be the best or you should’ve tried harder. Love yourself, but here are all the reasons why you’re not good enough.
It’s a “tale as old as time.” People’s perceptions of me are important. I’m not bothered by what others are doing. Instead, I feel a constant uneasiness that I will be the odd “woman” out.
At college, it’s irrational to think that there will be “no worries.” But that’s okay. The biggest part of having good expectations is finding your own path without worrying about what everyone else is doing.
One of my favorite sayings is, “The greatest skill to have is to be able to appreciate others’ value without questioning your own.”
I think that is much better advice than “Hakuna Matata.”