Living on your own sounds great until you realize the stack of clothes on your desk chair is now falling off to the ground, that they won’t clean themselves, and you are running out of bowls to eat out from because you are yet to do your dishes. Everything usually starts off great. Habits like waking up only minutes before your classes and only choosing cheese pizza for every meal will seem efficient for that moment and you will think you have it all figured out.
However, as ‘college like’ as all these may seem, trust me when I say this, little habits like this will impact other aspects of your life, they will backlash and suddenly, one day, you will feel like everything’s out of control. I’ve been through that and I know it gets miserable. So, I write this today to tell you my story of how I lost control and more importantly, how I regained it.
My first semester studying in the USA, away from home, was a pretty good one. I needed time to get a hold of things but I was trying my best. Aside from homesickness and adjusting to their food, things were not as hard to deal with. I soon learned to be organized and creative.
I enjoyed my time by crafting or cleaning my room. I used to always keep my room pretty. There were fairy lights, bulletin boards, white canopy guarding the bed and red lights that made my white curtains look cuter. I used to have boards to plan out my day. I used to carry a planner with me (and yes, actually use it). I used to dress up well enough for my classes and never miss them.
I never missed the deadlines. Things fell into places. I was in control.
But life doesn’t always follow plans
However, the second semester was not the same. I was going through a hard time in life due to serious medical reasons. Without going into too much details, I’d say that it was a phase in my life I never want back.
My life became a mess and so was my room, my desk, and my grades. It was hard for me to get out of my bed. I always wore pajamas to class. I missed almost every meal. I stopped calling my mom every day and I loved talking to her.
There were moments when I thought of giving up until I realized giving up was not an option for me. Giving up on college would completely ruin my life and I was fortunate that I had that sense working in me at that time. I struggled with the littlest things that clearly painted a bigger picture of how I needed to make a change.
I just knew I needed to change. But change is such a big term and I had no clue where to begin.
How and where you can begin
When thinking about ‘changing’ themselves, people hesitate. Because you just don’t change yourself overnight. When everything’s in mayhem, we feel overwhelmed on how there is so much to cover and we don’t know where to begin. So, we panic and don’t do anything at all.
So, where do we begin? The secret is, with the smallest things.
You may have noticed that I focused on ‘my room’ a lot. Yes, you got the right! It is because I am the kind of person who needs her living space to be clean, to have my bed made and sometimes to have things planned out way ahead in the future (not necessarily have it done that way, but having a plan is a must) to feel that I have it all under control.
I bet this does not only apply to me. There are certain things in everyone’s life that if, gets messed up, it messes everything else up. You identify those small things, because the smallest things make the biggest differences and that’s where you begin.
Basically, I like to know that I am in control. Of course, no one can ever fully be in charge of their life but being in control of your actions is important. It is especially more so in college, where among all the unwritten journals, research papers and trying to open a club and also playing Uno with your friends on Friday nights, it can be easy to just get off track.
I never realized how much these things mattered to me until, aforementioned, my second semester in college when especially these little things were getting out of my control. And I realized that’s where one should begin.
My 9am-s were the hardest for me. Most of the days, I walked into class sick and absent minded. And the other days, I skipped those classes completely. I was barely ever ready to ‘seize the day.’ One day, I bumped into my professor before class while I was waiting for the elevator.
She looked at me and said, ‘You know, sometimes you have to give yourself credit for just getting out of bed.’ These simple words were eye opening for me at that time.
We don’t always realize how much power we have over our lives, over all the small things, small habits that make us who we are. The bigger pictures make us forget that. I realized that even though momentarily, everything looked black and white to me, that everything was out of control, the reality was different.
I needed to remember that if I tried, in fact, I can actually color the big picture because I had the small brushed that color our day-to-day lives. I needed to remember that things were in fact, colorful.
Once I came to the realization of a change needing to happen, I started doing things that I then ‘thought’ would made me feel better; things that may seem easy when I say it now but were indeed harder than analyzing Freud’s stand on unconscious mechanism.
I would have never found out that I had it in me
I started getting out of bed as soon as my alarm went off. I started going for breakfast. I stopped just throwing things around in my room. I did my laundry. I folded my laundry on time. I brushed my hair! I made myself get into the habit of going to bed early and getting up early.
I started hanging out with my friends more and communicate with my roommate regularly. I constantly felt guilty of missing classes due to sickness. So, I came up with ways to make up for it. I was lucky that my professors worked with me. For instance, I used to send in reading responses following the readings due in classes I missed. I wrote extra essays to make up for my absences too.
Sometimes, I met up with them after hours whenever I was struggling with an assignment. I once accompanied a professor walking her dog to get help with my case briefing. It was hard to force myself into doing things, but it was harder to see things not going as I would want them to.
My attempts to get things going was my way of taking care of my conscience. I made an effort to take care of the consequences of my actions. And slowly, these small active efforts paved way for everything to fall into place.
Bottom line, taking care of yourself is important. It is not easy. Being in control, is not easy but indeed is a necessity. I would say that sometimes it is important to just take a moment for yourself, breakdown your thoughts, and study yourself.
Find the small things that define your every day. And when you find that one thing that you know would help you feel like you are the one to build your own plot, you need to take care of it, you need to take control. It could just be getting up for breakfast, it could be turning in your assignments a week early, choosing salad over lasagna for once, or just making sure you are not running short in paperclips.
You might not see it now, but they can truly make the difference.
Looking back, this was quite a self-discovering journey. I would have never found out that I had it in me; I had the strength to pull myself back up. I would have never found out that how much the little things contributed to my well-being.
I learned how important it is to maintain the peace of mind when everything seemed to be a complete chaos. I learned how the smallest things define who we are and that is where you start.
Take control, right now, and you will realize what I am talking about.
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