My first semester of college has changed me a lot as a person and a student. I have had to change my habits a lot while being here whether that be keeping my room clean for my roommate or having to keep in mind how writing in college requires more thought and care than what I did in high school. The course epigraph, “You can’t just fly on off and leave a body,” from Song of Solomon taught Milkman, the protagonist, that we can’t run away from our problems and act like nothing ever happened because the problems will follow us. They will eat us alive until we step back and address the problem you are dealing with. My interpretation of the course epigraph now would be that I can’t throw myself fully into my new school and life without taking the time to step back, relax and make sure that what I am doing is healthy for me rather than causing me more stress and anxiety. The harm and care portion of this course brought me to that conclusion. My grades are probably the most important thing to me while being at college and I pride myself on having good grades and always doing the best I possibly can. I have come to realize that I have the ability to put too much pressure on myself to maintain good grades and the efforts I make, while I am putting care into my coursework, are harmful to me and my mental health in the long run. This experience has become eye opening to me in my first semester and I feel like I have the ability to connect it to many parts of this course.
My view on the course epigraph has been given a whole new meaning since the beginning of this semester. In my first goal setting essay, I said, “you cannot move on with life and forget about everything you have left behind,” (Goal-setting essay). While I still feel this to be a true interpretation, I have now realized how my views have changed throughout the first semester of college. It is important to not forget everything we left behind, but it is even more important to take a step back and prepare yourself for the changes you are about to face. As I said before, Milkman realized that we cannot move forward with our life until we address the things that are holding us back. During the story of Song of Solomon, Milkman and Guitar see a peacock and are talking about it. When Milkman asks why it can’t fly very well, Guitar says, “Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down,” (Morrison). The message I received was one of success. If you want to succeed, you need to find the best way to do so and get rid of any of the negativity you face. My negativity was the stress I put on myself time and time again that prevented me from reaching my best abilities during this semester. I put so much pressure on myself to get the best grades I possibly could, and I definitely could have achieved that in a much healthier way than I did. I would spend hours a day studying for a test that was a few days away. I would stay up all night the day before just to cram for a few extra hours. It may seem helpful at the time like I need to do this studying in order to perform the best, but in the long run I was absorbed with stress and anxiety. It affected my mental health greatly on top of the fact that I am already living a new life with people who I haven’t known for more than a few months. It was a big adjustment in general and adding that extra unnecessary stress into my life did more harm than good.
While I did experience many hardships in my first semester of college, I was also able to grow from the experience. Milkman was always focused on the past rather than the future, “It was becoming a habit-this concentration on things behind him. Almost as though there were no future to be had” (Morrison). I often found myself guilty of doing the same thing when I didn’t do as well on a test as I thought I should have, and it would affect my performance even more. I thought that even though I was so stressed all of the time, what I was doing would help me in the long run. Over the semester I grew to realize that overworking myself, while it occasionally may help my grade, does more damage to my mental health than any benefits it gave me and focusing on the past did nothing but stop my success in the future. I would stay up too late studying and be exhausted every morning, leading me to not do as well in my classes as I was capable of. I wouldn’t eat as much as I should. I would work out to try and relieve some of my stress but working out and not eating enough is never a healthy combination. I’ve grown to realize that what I tried the first half of this semester wasn’t going to work for me and wasn’t the best possible way for me to achieve what I wanted. I began to study more in advance for my tests. I made sure that I ate meals because good studying isn’t done when we have no food to fuel the brain. I continued to work out at the gym at school, but I no longer did that on an empty stomach, so it was more beneficial to me than hurtful. I started caring for myself rather than thinking I was taking care of myself and actually causing harm. My stress levels didn’t fully go away which can be expected by a first-time college student experiencing a lot of new changes, but they decreased significantly. I believe that the growth I endured during my first semester made me a better student and person as a whole.
Geneseo as an institution prides itself on the idea that from the very beginning students should, “reflect upon changes in learning and outlook overtime” (Nov. 19 Class Notes), and I believe that my experience this semester proves that. I began the semester off by doing what I thought would work best for me with study techniques and the way I was living in general. As the semester progressed, I realized that what I had been doing was no longer working for me and decided that I had to change my techniques. I took a step back from throwing myself head on into college life and thought about how what I had been doing to produce the outcome I was receiving was affecting me and whether it was helpful or beneficial. I had to change my ways. I could no longer wait till the last minute to get my work done or decide to cram a few days before my test and be fine. I had to become more responsible and put more time and effort into my work. Once I began to do that, the results I was getting reflected my efforts. My grades on my final exams this semester were better than any grade I got all year because I started studying 2 weeks in advance instead of a few days. Each day I would spend a few hours on each subject that I had a final in so that by the time the finals arrived, I was prepared and all I had to do was go over a few key concepts. I was well rested before each final as well which made a big difference in my performance. As in From Here to Equality, where “reparations” were made to slaves and families of slaves who lost so much, I made reparations to my mental health and my grades by taking different approaches and trying new things.
Throughout the duration of this first semester, I have grown a lot as a student and a person. I experienced a lot of harm, mistaken for care that I was putting upon myself. The long nights, bad eating habits, and hours and hours of studying that I thought was me caring about my grades and success as a first-year college student was actually hindering my experience and causing me harm. As a result of this though, I was able to grow and realize that what I was doing wasn’t beneficial to me and my success at all. I was able to step back, see how what I was doing was affecting me, and make the change that needed to be made in order to make me as successful as possible. Milkman’s interpretation of the course epigraph, “you can’t just fly on off and leave a body” (Song of Solomon), was that you have to take responsibility for your actions if you ever want to move forward. This gave way to my interpretation which I believe truly did help me this semester. In order to be the best version of myself, I can’t throw myself straight into the fire of college and wing it as I go. I need to step back, look at how I am handling myself, and make sure that it is helping me rather than hindering me.