Things I Should Know By Now

We’re so, so close to the end of the semester, I can feel it in my bones. It’s that sense of almost-relief. (Tuesday is truly going to be my favorite day of the year.) It’s also that sense of hindsight-is-20/20, and I can see all of the things I really fucked up on. I’m going to share them with you here, so that if I start back down this road next semester, someone will be around to point back to this post and say, “KaLeena, for pete’s sake, STOP.” Now, this is a reflection-type post, so it’s going to be long (think “novelist”), and probably really boring, so I don’t blame you if you choose to skip this post in favor of doing more entertaining things.

  1. I am easily distracted
    Whether it be a new book, a new website, a new story–if something comes into my life that doesn’t immediately stress me out, I will drop all of the things that stress me out an focus on the new toy. It’s only when the new toy breaks (or ends or whatever) that I will go back to focusing on the things I should have had in my line of sight to begin with.
  2. I shut down, deflect, and pretend everything is okay when I’m overwhelmed
    TAs from three classes have emailed me and I haven’t responded. Passerby ask how school is going and I give one of three answers depending on the person: “awesome,” “meh,” or “it sucks, but oh well.” My incredibly wise mentor-type-lady has tried and tried and tried to get me to face up the things that overwhelm me, to say “no” to taking on extra projects, and to make time for sleep. I always nod and pretend to give in, which isn’t fair to her or me, because we both know it won’t happen.
  3. I don’t have the life-work-school balance down
    I thought by 23, I would have the time management skills of the personal assistant to the President. I would get laundry done and hit the gym before work (yay, going to the gym at 1am!), work my 40, 50, or 60 hours, go to class, settle in with some iced tea and finish my rewrites on the novel, bust out a term paper or two, and still have time to meet up with my friends for a wildly irresponsible Tuesday night (“irresponsible” here means “playing Cards Against Humanity sober until 11pm”). Somewhere in the mix, I would clean my room, find a way of earning auxiliary income, see all the local music, read a book a week, sew myself a new wardrobe, and develop a Starbucks addiction like all the classy people.Needless to say, Real Life KaLeena was like, “Oh, right . . . I’ll do that stuff tomorrow.” Real Life KaLeena is still waiting for tomorrow to get here while Ideal KaLeena is taking kickboxing lessons so she can beat up Real Life KaLeena.
  4. Always buy the goddamn textbook
    This was probably my biggest mistake this semester, and it comes from a place of pure stupidity bred by unrealistic expectations of college. I started my college career at a junior college, which I loved, but which was also easy. Buying the textbook was a waste of my hard-earned money, so I only did it 1) if there was literally no way around it or 2) if the class was fascinating and I wanted to keep the information around (sidenote: at last count, I have 10 math textbooks, two books on mathematical theory, and two pocket-sized workbooks for math on the go). This is not an effective mindset for university. I passed on buying/acknowledging the textbook for two of my classes, so the professors passed on passing me. I can see now how that was totally my fault.
  5. It’s okay not to live up to other people’s expectations
    I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. I was the compliant child that rarely got in trouble (except when Grandma made hamburgers for dinner; hamburgers are nasty). Knowing how to make people happy, going above and beyond to ensure people are taken care of, is what made me a good waitress and a great customer service agent. However, other people’s expectations can also weigh me down and become just as stressful as any project.

    Here’s the thing about other people’s expectations: they put you in a little box, and half of the time, they’re perceived. This means the expectations aren’t even real.

    I’m going to spend a little more time on this one because it’s one I need to drill into my own head. I have spent so much time stressing myself out over being the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect girlfriend or friend or sister or daughter, when most of the time, the people I was trying to please didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I ran into this a lot this semester, because I set very high expectations for myself (see item #3). This is one of those areas where it’s really, really okay to fail. And so what if you do?

    In my case, failing people’s (real) expectations means I don’t have a 4.0 and I’m not going to be the next Steve Jobs. This is okay. In fact, I’m probably happier than I would be if those were my aspirations. I just want to write a book, not revolutionize all of technology. Another item of interest: nothing I want to do with my life (unless I decide to go back to Architecture, which is a possibility) requires I complete a college degree–and 95% of my heroes never completed college. You know who did complete a college degree? Ashton Kutcher. Ryan Newman. That one really annoying professor who hates everything about academia, but has 4 degrees, a research study, and dishes out D minuses like candy. Sir Richard Branson, on the other hand, who is legitimately changing the world one day at a time, didn’t even graduate high school.

    Why live up to other people’s expectations when you can do better?

I think I’ll go ahead and end this post here, since I started to get a bit ranty at the end. I’ve been in college 5 straight semesters, which is the longest stretch I’ve done so far, and it’s wearing on me. I tend to do much better if I do 2 or 3 semesters at a time, and then take a semester break.

All of that said (and, good God, that was a lot–do you see why I’m a novelist and not a short story writer?), I would not trade these lessons in for anything. I needed to learn them, and they will make me a better, more resilient person down the line if I can keep them in mind.

What did you learn this semester? What are your shortcomings? What’s your Goliath? I’m starting to feel that the best lessons I’m learning in college have nothing to do with the academics. Tell me, do you feel the same way?


16 thoughts on “Things I Should Know By Now

  1. OMG yes yes and YES. Thank you so much for this post.
    I learned more about myself in college than my I did of my major.
    I wasn’t aware of who Ryan Newman was. I’ve been on the virgin site for like an hour now.
    Again, thank you for this post.


    • It just felt like something I needed to get off my chest, and I’ve had a few people email me and say it was something they needed to read, so I am very glad to have helped.

      The Virgin site is amazing, right? Sir Richard Branson goes down as one of my ultimate heroes. He was making innovations at 16 that a dreamer like me can barely conceive even now.

      Thank you for reading, Sal!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is a great post! I think it is so important to look back at something after you have completed and find what you can learn from! I would have to agree with all of your point (Except no. 4 – I managed to make it through with the minimum amount of textbooks purchased…)


  3. I love your post. Finally, now I am visiting your blog.haha Anyway, I totally agree with No.5. Especially, my parent does not allow my major, drawing until now. This is because they think art could not any money. Too old fashion and conservative. I am still struggling with it, but I will continue my works. I think people should do what makes them live happy life, not for others’ expectation. ( Sorry, you are just writer and my grammar is terrible…. haha)


    • No apologies! I understand what you are saying, which is more important than the grammar. 🙂 I am glad your parents are allowing you to pursue drawing! Your doodles in class are better than what I can draw most of the time. You will be very successful, and your parents will be proud.


  4. I really enjoyed reading your third point about not living up to people’s expectations. I think this is important as sometimes people get molded into thinking what they should do and not what they want to do. I think another pitfall of mine is acknowledging it’s okay not to live up to your own expectations! Not that you shouldn’t succeed but it is okay to change those expectations and not always stick to that “life plan” we envision for ourselves.


    • I think one of the best things Cyndi said this year was at the very beginning of the semester: you should be going in an revising your goals at regular intervals. It’s so true. I have 5 goals written on my ceiling from 2 years ago, and only 3 are still true for me. Change is just part of life, and that’s what makes it amazing.

      Thank you for reading!


  5. I was scrolling by seeing what I felt I could relate to and discuss when your words about always buying the textbook popped out to me. I do not know what condition it is that as students we feel we can conquer everything and anything at the beginning of the semester, and assume that that will remain true when finals come and projects begin. This semester I even tried specifically to avoid this issue and forced myself to get the two textbooks for a class – only problem is, I lost one of them. Moral of the story, don’t buy the textbook?


    • Maybe don’t lose the textbook? (I had a similar issue a few years ago–I lost my graphing calculator mid-semester when taking multi-variable Calculus. Found out about 6 months ago that my then-high school aged sister “borrowed” it for class.)


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