More than any other schooling experience, my time at Stern has been a real journey. Through the teachers, the classes, and friends both in and out of school, I have been molded, and perhaps molded myself, into a richer, more mature, more self-assured person.
One of the first things I've had to learn was not to compare myself to anyone else. Someone else's success is not my failure. In fact, it has nothing at all to do with me, even if I did not "get" whatever the other person "got." Regardless of what any other person gets or how far any other person goes in any pursuit, I can only get as far and do as well as my efforts and talents allow.
The more you look at what other people are doing in comparison to what you are doing, the more negative feelings you will conjure up towards that other person. Trust me, it's not at all worth it. Feeling those things won't change anything. All it will do is make you frustrated and annoyed at both the other person and yourself. You'll resent the other person for doing well and you'll resent yourself for not performing to your potential and for feeling resentful towards your friend.
Yeah, it's frustrating not to get as good a grade as you want, especially if a friend does better than you in school. It's disappointing, and even somewhat depressing, to wish to get chosen for something and get passed over in favor of your friend. Such things bring competition into places where there should be none. But when such things happen, instead of looking at yourself and feeling resentful about all you're lacking, it's good to realize that you do have talents and that you have a lot more to go in order to reach your potential.
On that note, you always have the chance to grow more in your talents and stretch out your hand farther towards your potential. A grade is not a brand marking you forever as the limit of your abilities. There is always room and opportunity to strive for higher accomplishments. So you don't succeed today. That's okay. There's always tomorrow. Or next week. Or next year. Or even the next decade. Today might be someone else's moment, but one day it will be yours, too.
Something else I learned is to stand behind my own words. After all, if I don't stand by myself, who will? If I don't feel confident in what I'm saying, why should anyone take me seriously? Or believe in my ability to get anywhere or accomplish anything? If I write disclaimers before all my stories, it means I don't believe in my own writing! Am I going to be afraid of showing myself to the world forever? Or am I going to stand up and be confident that my opinions count, too, and that they're just as valid as anyone else's?
Sometimes people say things about you that aren't necessarily true or super accurate. Sometimes you even say things about yourself that aren't exactly accurate just to please or pacify someone else. But why should you? Why shouldn't you stand true to who you are?
I'm pretty intimidated about leaving the safety of school and stepping out into the "real" world. No matter what anyone says about the difference between the different stages of schooling (elementary, high school, college) or how on your own you are throughout school, there is always, always, always a difference between being in school and not being in school anymore. School is a place we all know by heart. We are all experts on The System. We can hold that system in our hands and mold it like clay to fit our needs. It's a system we've run around in, tripped over, and learned to balance just right. We know where all the lines are and just how far to push them. We know where we stand when we're in school - any school.
But I don't know the system outside of school. I don't know what is expected of me, where the lines are, or if I can even push them a centimeter. School is like a maze that we can feel our way through instinctively until, suddenly, it is not a maze any longer but a series of passages - some that are well known and some that are secret only to ourselves.
The outside world, to me, does not seem like a series of passages at all. From afar, it looks like a vast, seamless ocean of...a lot going on. There are new rules, new lines. It's a totally new game. I feel like I'm being pushed into the middle of a game of capture the flag and I haven't even been told who's on what team.
But the thing is, when you don't know the rules, if you know yourself then that's at least a start. If you don't know yourself or what you're getting into, that's tricky. Then you could be completely molded by whatever choices you make. Of course, you're always going to be somewhat colored by the environment you're in, but having a strong idea of who you are, what you like, what you believe in, what you approve of, what you wish to stay away from...that can help bring some direction, probably. At least - then you won't lose yourself in the vastness of possibilities that are out there. Or, it makes me feel better about it, anyway.
One last thing I'd like to write about here is facing the world with a positive attitude. I have so many friends who either always seem to be in a good mood or who don't let bad things bring them down. I admire them so much for this. Something I'm really working on is not letting things get to me, or get to me enough that it ruins my whole positive perspective on life. I really believe that if you face the world with a smile, the world will smile back. It's just something I have to learn how to do better.
Anyway, I don't mean for this post to hit anyone over the head with lessons. These are merely things that I have found valuable, but of course each person is different and each will find different kinds of inspiration and different ways to bring meaning and purpose into their lives.
And no, that was not a disclaimer. :P
(Originally posted here.)