It’s funny. You apply to college, and from the moment you start thinking about which college to choose, you are drowning in advice. Your parents, your friends, older siblings and every college student you meet have some token of wisdom for you. I loved the advice, truly, I did, but it took me until this day to realize the advice I needed to hear 673 days ago was never told to me all at once, and it is to keep calm, stay positive and get what you want.
Although it seems like standard advice, something along the lines of “try your hardest,” “have fun,” or “believe in yourself,” it is custom tailored to my needs. No one could’ve found the right moment, right phrasing and right place to give me this advice so it would stick in my brain. These three phrases had to come from the bottom-up.
Keep calm means trying not to stress out during times when I am sitting by myself on a Friday night and watching Netflix, but seeing photos on Facebook of my friends at a party.
Keep calm does not mean never stressing out, never getting upset or never freaking out because emotions like these usually help push me out of my comfort zone. Instead, I try to take those pings of emotion during times when I feel left out and unappreciated and add perspective to them. I try to ask myself, “if something is making me upset here, how do I want to make it better?” Usually, if I am able to take a step back (which I am often not), I realize that where I am is pretty good, and the feeling slowly goes away.
However, keep calm also means not overanalyzing a situation. I find myself wasting nights thinking about what I should’ve done, what I could’ve done or what I would’ve done in hindsight, and it is always a waste of time. Sometimes worries and problems are simpler than you believe, and with all the hustle and bustle of college life, stuff goes away quickly.
Next, I am going to try to stay more positive.
I hear about the importance of confidence from my friends, bosses, parents and professors, and all say to “fake it until you make it.” But, I have found that confidence is actually only half the battle; the other half is a positive outlook. For example, I am currently working on pitching personal Chicago-based stories to national publications. Yet, every time I send a pitch to an editor, I do it with low hopes and expectations. Even though I am confident enough to TRY and get the attention of GQ and The Atlantic, I am not positive enough to believe it will really work. I am starting to believe that this lack of positivity is hurting the product, not allowing me to see small victories and hurting my enjoyment of the process. And just like people can sense confidence and respond well to confidence, people can sense and respond well to positivity.
Finally, I shouldn’t allow myself to be so calm and so positive that I stop working and reaching for more.
I want to strike a balance of being able to say, “ I am in an amazing place right now, and am proud of myself, but I don’t want this to be the end of the journey,” and I don’t know how to do this yet. As an ambitious guy, working to get more and more comes naturally. But, if I am hanging out with my friends and thinking about how much happier I would be if I was with another group of friends or in a different location, it ruins my current experience. Hopefully, as I work at all three of these pieces of advice I will be able to strike a balance.
Yet, this is the best advice for me, and not necessarily for you. If you are a more outgoing person than I am, a more introverted person than I am or a more ambitious person than I am, this trifecta of advice won’t work. It took taking the advice from my friends, family and classmates, and finding how it fit into my life. No college experience is the same, so the advice we all hear shouldn’t be the same either.