Nine Lessons to Keep in Mind
Deklin Fitzgerald, Editor-in-Chief
Being a Sophomore in college is scary. Just over two years ago I was starting my senior year of high school. Counting down the days until graduation. Now I am two years from graduating college. My freshman year is as stereotypical as they come. Crappy and long. Thus, these are nine lessons to keep in mind as your semester progresses.
With all of the turbulence of midterms drawing near and the chaos in Upton-Hastings, I wanted to take a minute to compile this list of lessons I have personally learned from my freshman year, here at USM. Now, keep in mind that these lessons are unique to my experience and are to be interpreted to your liking and taken with a grain of salt.
Now, you don’t have to ask me to explain, for you to understand that college season is a turbulent but exciting time of anyone’s life. Whether you are a college student, a family member, or even an employer. It is important to understand that this is a common phenomena. I was in many of your shoes last year, and you will be in mine in coming years. Thus, these are nine lessons I learned during my freshman year.
Take accountability for your actions
The reason this lesson is at the top of my list is because I have made my fair share of mistakes, especially in this past year. I have found that even if I can’t forgive myself, I should acknowledge and take accountability for what I did. Sometimes it doesn’t happen immediately, but it happens. It is one of the most important lessons I have learned from this past year. Thus, I am not going to sit here and tell you that it is important to do it immediately, but take the time you need to analyze and acknowledge what happened. This stage can last anywhere from a couple days to as long as several months, even a couple years. It is entirely dependent on the type of person you are. I have found through trial and error that taking accountability has only supported my internal growth. I acknowledge that I have made mistakes, I still do. I am human.
Don’t let the past define you, let it create you
The second lesson, and don’t let this lesson confuse you, because growing up I feared I would become someone… or something I didn’t want to be. I feared it to the extent I made mistakes, it took me coming to college to understand that everyone makes mistakes. Mistakes are normal and they are natural. Understanding and taking accountability for your happy little accidents is an important step in growth. That being said, we all have stuff from our pasts that scares us. So don’t let the past define you, let it create you. What I mean is let what happened before college shape how you grow. Analyze those happy situations and take what you have learned and apply them going forward.
Don’t be afraid of being straight to the point
The third lesson is something I am still learning, being the Editor of the paper plays a huge role in how I learn it. Ultimately, I don’t know if I would call myself a boss or leader. This is a lesson I will be learning, even after my tenure with the paper. I have realized that there will always be a conflict where the cause is miscommunication from all involved parties. It is worse as a boss, because there will be staff members who have conflicting ideologies, who aren’t afraid to stand their ground. As the Editor-In-Chief, I realize that having clarity is important not just between your editors, or equivalent, but between yourself and your staff. In addition, I have found that being straightforward about what you, as the boss, need for the job. Is vital as it is clear and direct and that means your point is heard. Nevertheless, always be accepting of constructive criticism and the thoughts of your staff.
Treat everyone fairly, but respect your support system
Something I have learned from my time here is that the friends you make become a part of your found family. A support system both on and off campus. Growing up I was raised on a “treat everyone with respect, no matter what” ideology. Now, as a child this was a good mindset. It called for respect. But… as an adult, I have since learned that there are some bridges that are meant to be broken and some roads that are meant to be left unpaved. Because, and believe it or not, there are some who don’t want to see you succeed as much as the next person. Thus, and for my fourth lessons, I understand that this is an ideology that might not resonate with you. Thus, treat everyone fairly, but respect those who have shown their support for you.
Pick up a part time or full time job, on or off campus
In high school my family attempted to baby me. I couldn’t do anything to build my credit until I was 18. I couldn’t be a teenager, unless I told them everything on the agenda. I was restricted from working more than 15 a week during the year, with midterms and finals being no work, all study. I went into my fall semester with a nasty grade II concussion. For the duration of the semester I wasn’t employed nor was I doing much besides 13 credits and part time at the paper. To say the least, I suffered. My lesson is to find a part time or full time job either on or off campus, not just to pay the bills. Also to help pass the time. Come my spring semester I was doing 16 credits and 16+ hours a week at a restaurant, in addition to part time at the paper as the Web Editor. I ended up fairing the same academically but I felt more organized with how chaotic my schedule was. That being said, college is a unique experience and should reflect what you want out of it. So I am not going to tell you to get a job. I will say that it helped me tremendously, I heavily regret the ideology of taking a semester to settle in.
Set time aside for yourself
I know for myself, I often have forgotten to set aside time for self care. Especially after a long and exhausting day. There are days I come back and just want to crash onto my bed and hibernate until the semester is over. Thus, everyone’s definition of “Self-Care” is different from person to person. Some would define it as taking extra care of yourself hygiene wise, others might include doom-scrolling social media to dull the pain of the day, others might include spending time with friends or pets. I know for me, it is returning to my dorm after an exhaustingly long day, dropping my stuff on my bed and just spending time with my cat. No matter how you spend it, just remember that time for yourself is just as important as your academics.
Heavily vet everyone you meet
This lesson is exactly what it sounds like. Some have quoted me for telling them that “I see hundreds of people a day, and dozens of them I know”, and it’s true. This past year I created many relationships with students, staff, and faculty. I hold high esteem and respect for each connection I made. That being said, this lesson has helped me tremendously. From a professional point of view, last year we didn’t have a big staff and my previous editor-in-chief didn’t have the time to meet every person with explicit interest in the paper. Going into the summer I made it my goal to meet each and every person who had interest in the paper. Not just to give them a human connection, but also it helped fulfill my personal goal of knowing each and every member of the paper. Today, we have a staff of over thirty students (editor included). From a personal perspective, I have made friends and lost friends this past year. I have trusted people that meant nothing but harm and the latter for people who wanted to help. With the passage of time, I learned to be careful about who I let into my circle. I deliberately take the time to get to know any candidates so I am aware of who they are internally, before something happens. Now, you are different from me. So all jokes aside, and take this lesson as you will. Heavily Vet Everyone you meet.
Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance
Growing up and even coming to college I was not used to asking for help. I still feel uncomfortable when I have to ask someone for help. Especially when it comes to my finances. Whether it be financially, academically, physically, etc. This is a lesson I had to learn very quickly, or I would have drowned. Now I am decent academically, but I attribute some of my success to utilizing resources on and off campus. Whether it’s Advising, the Career Hub and Peer Career Guides, Disability Service Center, the Oakhurst Food Pantry, etc. That being said, it is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed and fall behind in any course, so don’t be afraid to reach out and see what is offered to USM students and specifically tailored for each student.
Don’t forget to have fun
Now, it might seem cliche to have this lesson at the bottom of the list; but I swear It has meaning. When I came to USM last fall, I found an entirely new group of friends. Some of whom I don’t talk to anymore. Others, I am frequently in contact with. What I am saying is that the people you meet will be in and out of your life. To date, I have been enrolled with this university for over a year. I have experienced a great amount of situations but I have had fun in the process. I have more knowledge and experience than I did a year ago. I have an amazing set of friends of whom I regularly commit shenanigans with. Whether it is a freshman or sophomore, junior or senior, faculty or staff, etc. College is supposed to be one of the best times of your life. You are supposed to fall down, you are supposed to make mistakes, you are supposed to “experiment”. All that matters in the end, all that will be asked is if you were active and if you got that degree you spent several years on. Thus, all that truly matters is that you don’t forget to have fun.