By Moin Mubarak:
A year had passed. I was standing in front of a huge gate. A gate through which I must’ve passed hundreds of times while flashing my ID to the guard, jostling through the morning crowd, and rushing towards the classes I had no interest in taking. I stood by the gate of my college, reminiscing about the three years I spent there. It felt strange. But not for what it ideally would’ve. Instead of being overwhelmed by a mammoth recollection of memories, I was underwhelmed. I couldn’t recollect any memory. The building felt like a monument which I stared at without an ounce of emotion.
“I wasted three years of my life.” This is exactly what I thought after that moment. But now, almost a year after that day, I look back and ask myself, “Did I really not learn anything in those years?” Here is how I would do it differently:
1) I didn’t participate in any of the activities in college. I looked down upon everything as being insignificant and uncircumstantial. I failed to see the opportunity it gave me to practice and try different activities. Numerous societies, though not the top ones in the university, were good enough to give me a taste of different activities and decide which ones I liked.
2) I had a strong sense of entitlement and felt cheated upon for not getting me into a top college which I thought I deserved to be in. (Hint: I didn’t work very hard for it.). It reminds me of an entire chapter in Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” which talks about how we feel entitled to things we haven’t worked to get. How I wish it had been written before I started college!
3) Honesty. I spent an entire year enrolled in the debating society, and all I did was organise debates. Not even once did I actually take part in one. ‘I’m gathering experience by watching others and I’d start doing it by the time I’d be ready’ was how I consoled myself. It’s been two years, I’m still not ready.
4) Going to every place that allows you in with a student ID. Fests, concerts, quizzes, events, whatever, wherever it is. Expand your comfort zone. See what works for you, what you’re good at. Try the stupidest things and fail as much as you can. Embarrass yourself. This is what I’d tell myself if I could go back.
5) Seek help if you need to. This is the part I struggled with the most. Getting help from others is sometimes the best thing you could do to yourself. For me, it was a therapist that I went to for help. She was a very warm, calm and intelligent woman with a charming personality, who very eloquently started the conversation. Half an hour into it, we were like best friends. I was diagnosed with depression which I thought the doctor was exaggerating. I spent most of time wondering if my depression was real or if it was being incorrectly diagnosed. I had in-depth conversations with her about various things, relevant and irrelevant. We discussed philosophy (mainly existentialism), life, relationships, career, and anything I could think about.
However, my reluctance towards counselling made way into a conversation. I asked her if I was making up problems in my head and if I actually needed to see a therapist. I wondered if people were supposed to figure things out on their own. She simply asked me if I felt I had a problem and if counselling helped me. I answered in the affirmative and, I got my answer. She addressed my irrational notions and assumptions, and over time, shred them into pieces. I could write pages about the positive experience, and the bottom line still would be – seek help if you need it, it’s worth it.
6) Don’t let your anxiety stop you. Never forget to breathe. Use apps like Headspace to meditate. It’s very convenient.
7) “Wherever you are, be all there.”
We face many choices at the beginning of college life. Some of us get through well while others don’t make the cut. Sometimes we don’t get what we want, and other times we take what we get for granted. Many of the above points at some point may have been regrets but now slowly they’re changing to lessons from the past.