High school was easy. Besides for a few places where math tripped me up, I really never had to work at it. Even stressful periods seemed to be a breeze back then. I enjoyed small challenges, like 8-page A.P. History papers and extemporaneous essay and speech contests. Even among panic attacks and stress and concerns like test scores and college, it all seemed so fun and easy.
Now I’m realizing how hard things really can be. I have no study skills, and the concept of doing homework ahead of time seems foreign to me. I used to be the student that waved off everything…the one who got everything done with time to spare. Now, I’m that student that gets a text with a question about a paper and I respond with, “What paper?” College is hard, and I didn’t do a whole lot to prepare myself for it in high school. At least, not in the traditional means of developing study skills and time management capabilities.
What I did learn in high school is helping to compensate for that, though.
I learned dedication. I learned not to give up. I learned work ethic. I learned determination. I learned to follow my passions. I learned to count on my friends. I learned to be the best person I could. I learned these things in classrooms, to a point. However, most of that education happened outside of my classroom. It happened when I was caught up in the blur of planning a National Honor Society fundraiser. It happened when I was tutoring kids during band class, before hopping into my car to make the bus for my soccer game. It happened when I was dazed into a machine-like productivity in the days before our FFA chapter’s first ever awards banquet. It happened when I was completely overwhelmed with excitement to leave high school, but still found a million and one ways to stay lodged firmly into that community.
I never thought of that as learning. I thought of it as doing. I thought of it as fun.
I may not be the best at doing homework. I may not have superior note-taking skills. I may not be the 4.0 student I was when I graduated high school, but those other lessons have really kicked in.
And, while I struggle with some things, I’m finding that “hard” doesn’t always equate to “bad.” I may sit in the lab working on a project that leaves me completely overwhelmed and feeling defeated, but there are few things that beat the moment when you’ve realized you got it right. There isn’t much that can replace the feeling of accomplishment that you get when you do something you thought you never would.
It’s easy to say this now. It’s easy for me to sit back and say all of the challenges are worth it in the end. It’s simple to think about the end result, and overlook just how emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting the “during” was. I won’t always be able to feel this grateful.
However, in the past few days, and even the past few weeks, I’ve found myself doing “the impossible” more often. I never could have done these if it weren’t for those lessons I learned when I was busy “not learning.”
College will not get easier. There will always be things that seem impossible for me to do, to handle. However, as I go, I hope that these instances will continue to make me stronger. They’ll continue to be the lessons I learn when I don’t think I’m learning.
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” — Walt Disney