I have always performed well in school, and I won’t lie, I relish in it. I am most comfortable in the classroom, and I enjoy the recognition and affirmation from family and teachers for accomplishing a job well done. As a kid, classmates often told me I should become a teacher myself. Although I was a typical Type A achiever (and a goody-two-shoes, as some classmates liked to call me), I was not a student who joined every club.
Throughout my life, I wanted to learn more than I wanted to be in a bunch of extracurriculars.
When it came time for my college decision, all I knew was that I didn’t want to be a teacher. The choice was daunting, especially because my idealist side always imagined me in every possible role. “Maybe a biologist. Maybe a photographer. Yeah, those would be fun,” I would think to myself.
I attended community college and joined the student newspaper as a writer and, later, the editor-in-chief. In journalism, I found an engaging and fast-paced world that allowed me to never stop learning. It was just what I sought. Now the decisions were easy; my transfer to Drake University for a journalism degree was a no-brainer. It was thrilling to see my future become clear, but I never pictured the shock waves headed my way.
I expected some culture shock in the beginning.
I was about to move away from home for the first time, so I anticipated the tears and the loneliness. But the ever-present campus phenomenon of “Drake Busy” was a roundhouse kick to the face. The term describes the idea that excessive busyness is the sole indicator of college success. I knew it was trouble when, within the first week of school, I felt crushing pressure to be active in all the ways that my new peers already were. I saw students juggling multiple jobs and student organizations, in addition to schoolwork and personal lives. As a student used to having confidence in the classroom, this new standard threatened my identity as the “good student” and exacerbated the generalized anxiety I lived with since high school.
“I only have two years here. I can’t do all of this,” I often thought. For a while, that was all I could do to cope with the weight of “Drake Busy.” I spent my first semester reeling from intense doubts about my professional and personal worthiness. When I compared myself to the seemingly elite students around me, there was nothing there.
The thing about my anxious thoughts is that they trick my mind into believing lies like “You’re not good enough.” A part of my mind realizes those thoughts are not rational or true, but that message is a whisper compared to the bombarding shouts of doubt. As a witness to this battle every day, I have learned that sometimes it just takes time to chip away at my mind’s inventions. While I still grapple with the concept of “Drake Busy,” it taught me how to handle my everyday experience with anxiety.
In time, I realized that I needed to stop living in a reality that wasn’t mine.
I had to recognize that my experience as a transfer student was different but nonetheless valuable. In fact, the outsider perspective was helpful in confronting “Drake Busy.” I watched people who were trying to do too much at the expense of their well-being. I wanted to shake them and say, “Why do this to yourself?” This movie played out every day on campus. The moral of the story? Just be yourself.
After my first semester at Drake, embracing this cliché meant not only being myself but also being happy and proud of that person. Thanks to “Drake Busy,” I discovered self-acceptance and a renewed desire to learn and challenge myself. On the days I succeed in balancing acceptance and ambition I am most motivated and passionate, and it’s in those moments that I see how anxiety helps me as much as it hurts me.
I will always adore the classroom, but I found a lesson outside of it too.