What they can’t teach you in school

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Our intrepid author procrastinating schoolwork circa April 2015

For someone who constantly seeks perspective and guidance from others, I am exceptionally bad at listening to perfectly good advice. I know I’m not the only one with this problem. There wouldn’t be an entire industry built around self-improvement if society could collectively swallow its pride and admit that outside perspective is important. In a culture where self-sufficiency is equated to happiness, how could we not all struggle to take good advice?

If you ever find the answer key for life, send a copy my way; I’m not going to pretend I have all the right answers.What I do have is a great deal of experience in royally screwing up. Here’s what I’ve learned, and I hope it’s helpful.

  • College is about a lot more than getting a degree.
    My biggest regret about college is not taking advantage of all of the resources that Career Services and my department provided. There are so many networking nights that I didn’t even sign up for because I thought it would be a waste of my time. There were many workshops on how to find jobs that I didn’t attend almost entirely out of laziness. I threw away these opportunities because I didn’t think I wanted a career in writing. Even if you are certain you’re going on to get your Masters in a completely different field, I highly suggest attending these sorts of events. Plans change, and you don’t want to be left behind in the lurch.
  • You can’t make a person change.
    This is a noble mistake to make, and one that I am very guilty of. When someone you care about is hurting themselves or others in some way, it’s hard not to intervene. Just remember that once you’ve laid your feelings out on the table, it’s all in the other person’s hands. There is nothing you can do to make them change. Change (or at least a change that lasts) has to come from inside of a person. As the child of an alcoholic, I know how easy it is to feel responsible when a loved one won’t make a change. I urge you to let go of that self-blame.
  • You don’t need to keep negative influences in your life.
    At some point in your life, you’re going to meet someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart. A good example of this is the fair-weather friend. You know the one: the girl who says how much they care about you and  how much they love hanging out with you, but never seems to text you or check in unless they need something from you. These people want all of the benefits of friendship without having to return the favor. Another example is the friend who always pressures you into doing things you’re uncomfortable with.It doesn’t matter how minor the thing may seem; if someone isn’t respecting your boundaries they are not a person who deserves your time.
  • The number one person in your way is you.
    I’m not discounting that everyone has varying levels of physical and intellectual ability, nor that everyone has varying access to resources. There are some parts of life that are out of our control, and that’s totally okay. What I’m talking about is that little voice in your head that says, “don’t even bother”. I can’t be the only one who missed out on lots of amazing opportunities because I was too scared to even try. Hell, I almost didn’t apply for a raise at my unfulfilling part-time job because I was certain they would choose a teenager over me. It took an army of my coworkers supporting me to get me to toss aside that fear and self-doubt and ultimately snag that 25 cent raise. Even if you don’t have a team of cheerleaders backing you up when you try and talk yourself out of new opportunities, I sincerely hope you fight against that uncertainty. You deserve it.At the end of the day, all of this is pulled directly from my own experience. These revelations might not ring true for you, and that’s totally okay. We’re all still learning how to get by. I wish you all the luck in the world in coming up with your own truths.

    All my love,

    Katherine Wheel