“UCLA LOVES TRANSFERS” was plastered all over my new campus as I attended orientation. This gave me a sense of reassurance and belonging, also mixed with feelings of anxiety, insecurity and excitement—an interesting emotional cocktail. Here I was, this was my new reality.
After two years of working harder than I ever had in my life, I finally transferred into my dream school. I was preparing for a journey that I never anticipated would change my life as much as it did.
I entered community college two years earlier, in hopes of accomplishing goals and finding my happiness. You could say I became somewhat of a perfectionist. I planned out my first two years of community college to a “T.” I took all the right classes, worked two jobs and found time to decompress. Thanks to my college dance classes, I found a new passion and a way to escape from the stresses of life. I would step into the dance studio, and all my worries would disappear. I’d immerse myself in movement and passion, a true way of expressing myself.
Yes, I was very busy during these two years, but most importantly, I felt genuinely happy. I found a seamless balance. I was responsible, independent, confident and content. I felt that my life, at the time, was perfect.
But perfect isn’t maintainable. My first quarter at UCLA proved this true, as I saw my life fall apart before my eyes.
I moved into the transfer dorms and was ready to embark on a new adventure. Bright eyed and bushy-tailed, I started the quarter with high expectations. I was ready to make new friends, explore the city and excel in my classes.
The first two weeks of school were a little tease of happiness and belonging. I made a plethora of friends in my dorm and sorority. Everything was different and exciting. The days were lengthy, filled with navigating the massive campus and meeting intriguing people. As the sun set over the skyline, I longed for my tiny bunk bed. I would trudge up to the seventh floor of my building and make a beeline for room 743. After unlocking my door, I’d exchange a few words with my roommates and climb into my stiff bed. Although my room was tiny and my bed still didn’t feel like my bed, I was grateful. I’d stare out the window at a million-dollar view of the LA skyline and the Pacific Ocean. I’d feel at peace.
Fast forward a month after orientation.
Week three and four rolled around and all hell broke loose. I was up to my neck in school work and did not have time to decompress. Worst of all, my bed still did not feel like my bed. I longed for my old life more than ever. I really missed dancing. I really missed working. I really missed my friends at home, family and boyfriend.
It was time to visit home. I needed a break from the constant academic and social pressure. My mom pulled up in front of my dorm, and I lugged my giant laundry bag into the car. My laundry was a good way to represent my life; my clothes and life were both desperate for a deep cleaning, yet I seemed to have lost the time for both. My mother was eager to hear about every little thing. Distraught,and lost, I held back tears as I told her that it had been the hardest few weeks of my life. I had never been challenged academically at this level. I had never been surrounded by so many people yet felt so alone.
My fifth week of college was one of the most emotional weeks of my life.
In the midst of midterms, my physical and mental health was at an all-time low. I began to hate the dorms as I never had any privacy or time to think. I felt like a bird trapped in a cage restricted from flying gracefully and reaching its full potential. I was overwhelmed and confused, so I pushed everyone away. I dropped out of my sorority, ignored my friends and broke up with my boyfriend. I isolated myself and focused on my studies because grades are the most important thing in life, right?
College sets such a high standard for students, causing us to lose touch with the big picture. We are all fixed on being “the perfect student.” Juggling classes, clubs, internships and jobs is nearly impossible. As we attempt all these activities, we suffer from exhaustion and anxiety. We, as students, need to remember there is so much more to life than being, “the perfect student.” We cannot lose touch with ourselves.
I cannot lose touch with myself.
As the quarter went on, so did I. The campus is enormous, riddled with nearly 45,000 students. I was surrounded by 45,000 other human beings, yet still felt so alone. As I walked down Bruin Walk, the campus’ main path, I looked around. Students tread around with their heads down and their headphones in, letting the music drown out the rest of the world. I realized, I was definitely not the only person who felt alone. My feelings were normal, I told myself with a motivating push.
Perfection is not possible or attainable. I once thought my life was perfect, but there was a flaw in that. In order to follow your dreams, you must fall first. Without a downfall, there will be no lessons to learn. Community college was a breeze. I had time for myself, my grades, my job and relationships. In a way, I felt this new chapter took much of that away. However, there is only more good to come. Being at my lowest low has given me the opportunity to look up, and see the end goal at the top.
Finally having the time to reflect on this past quarter, I have come to many conclusions.
- No matter how busy and stressed I am, setting time aside for self-love is essential. I plan to dance twice a week this coming quarter. This will allow me time to decompress, organize my thoughts and express myself.
- It is important to make time for relationships. Cutting people out of my life in my mini “pre mid-life crisis” was not the answer. Luckily, I have rekindled things with my friends and boyfriend, realizing how important they are to me.
- Nothing is perfect.
As I prepare for this winter quarter, I am going in with different expectations than before. I know how much I will be challenged this time. I know how important time management will be. I know I need to put myself first and take time for my physical and mental being. With the many ups and the downs, perfection is not the goal. The goal is to take in more life lessons and continue to grow into the person I am destined to be. College is a crazy, beautiful process. The perfectionist I once was, will no longer be, and that is for the better.