Semester Out Of Order (Part 2)

Lessons from a semester off during a pandemic


Along with the more practical life lessons that came with working full time and apartment hunting, came a lot of realizations and revelations about myself and how I handled new and uncertain situations. I know I’m not alone in taking the fall semester of 2020 off and I don’t regret it for a second, but with any major decisions in life, there is fallout and payoff, and I will continue to reap the rewards and deal with the consequences. The only thing that I and anyone else in the same boat can do is keep moving forward. 


With my decision to take a leave of absence came some support and some consequences. One thing I kept hearing from family and friends was that I had made a thoughtful decision. I was going to skip over the semester of primarily remote learning, keep myself safer from Covid, and well, give myself a mental health break from school. I had never known what life was like without the stress and structure of classes, homework, and assignments. Though there was always a voice in my head that nagged at me for “falling behind” for not being “strong enough” to continue with school and I had to deal with that voice too. 


 Possibly the hardest aspect I had to grapple with was that I would be graduating “late.” I had to face the consequences of putting myself behind the rest of my class. I was going against the grain in society’s race to input students and output workers in a timely manner. While I developed a healthier way of looking at it, I know that I know come May it will be hard to watch everyone in my class graduate without me. But I will still be a part of the class of 2021 as will be graduating in December. 


Our society has indoctrinated us into thinking that there is a cookie-cutter mold for how life “should” go. You go through primary school learning how to learn and getting to dabble in a lot of different subjects and fields, then you arrive at college and are supposed to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. As humans, we’re still developing and learning at that point, and all of a sudden we’re expected to be all put together and know exactly what our future should look like. We are supposed to keep up with the pace at which society tells us to, this does not have to be the case. 


Turns out life is a little messy and things don’t always go as planned as the entire planet learned last year. I had to make a decision and go “off course” from what I had planned and turns out that’s what life is about, doing the best you can with what you have. And in time I was hit with the realization that I’m not running a race that society has made me think is the end goal. It’s ok to run my own race at my own pace. There is nothing written in stone saying I had to graduate in May of 2021. 


We are all doing our best. Life is not a straight line in which all of your goals are reached right on time as when you planned them. Sometimes it takes a left turn, and sometimes a right, and what matters is that you keep going. Keep striving forward despite the setbacks and the comparisons to others. You are not a prisoner of your past, you always have the power to act on the present and shape your future.