Challenge me, again


By default, this time of year makes me think about Christmas college. Academia and thick text books. Scantron and take-home-tests. Study dates and movie nights.

I think about all of it. Because it was part of me for four+ years (+ because I took “extra” classes post graduation/diploma…that’s a whole different post though!).

And then I think over all four of those years and what each year was like during finals. I think of all the final projects I completed on time. All of the finals my sleep-deprived nerves suffered through. The amount of phone calls, frantic texts, and doubting e-mails my classmates, and closest college friends and I, exchanged. I remember the rolling on the floor laughter during study sessions in dorm rooms, sitting on bunk beds, futons, and in study rooms. Of course, I remember the sweaty palms and the self-pep talks. I remember trying to remember dates, names, theories, procedures, and my own name, class number, and student ID.

I survived. In case you were wondering. Every test was met head on. Every final project was tackled. The beginning of study week, day, hour, minute was always stressful. But in the end, I came out just fine and have the grades to prove it – positively or negatively – mainly positively.

These are all good things. I learned how to study. I learned how to strategically maneuver various forms of tests and test questions. I learned how to fight for my grades. And in all of that, I found my voice. As a student and as a person.

But there’s something I always think about when I think about finals. I think about the finals I didn’t take. The ones I sometimes think I should have taken. But opted out of. I’m talking about the classes I didn’t “add” during registration week or “add” during the “add/drop” period. And the one class I did add but dropped during the “add/drop” period. I think about that class sometimes. Dropping it was not necessarily detrimental to my academic career. I managed to still graduate with honors and a GPA that surprised even me. I dropped out of fear. Fear of failure. And I wish I hadn’t. At least not for that reason.

When I met with my advisor the spring/summer before freshman year, she told me my grades and test scores made me a candidate for a specific honors course. Without batting an eye, I wrote the class in on my freshman year plan. That was that. I was set. I was in. Except. The first day of class, I went. On time. I sat. I looked around the room. And everyone looked smarter than me. Everyone knew everything. All the other students would sail through the course. The other freshmen in the class probably had the knowledge of a senior. And I freaked out. The professor didn’t help matters. She immediately intimidated me. She insisted we use her “Dr” title because she worked hard for it and didn’t like responding to “Mrs” any longer. Tell me how you really feel.

One class period. It went by in a blur. I left the class with my syllabus and first assignment. I talked to no one as I exited the room. One assignment. I completed the first assignment for my “Dr” professor. My hands shook the entire time I typed the paper. My heart raced when I left the printed result at her office. And that was all it took. One class period. One paper. I was done. I dropped. I re-enrolled in the “regular” course. What I believed would be an easier path.

Funny thing about taking the easy road, it’s not always easier. The class I dropped into was full of nice people. Like the freshmen he taught, the professor of the course was fresh on the scene at my college. He was trying to prove himself. We were trying to save ourselves. And he was tough. Really tough. Kids cried when he returned our papers and assignments with his red pen bled across the entire thing. And I took it. I rose to the challenge. I thought it was probably normal. And I knew it had to be easier than the class I was in previously, the harder honors course I had dropped.

The thing about attending a small school is that you know everyone. Somehow, someway you know every person on the campus. Or at least you can find something out about every person on the campus. A few girls from the honors course I dropped ended up becoming some of my good friends and one, if not all three of them, told me at one point that I shouldn’t have dropped the course. Because it was actually easy and I would have been fine. More than fine. They said I would have done great.

I kicked myself when I heard that. Because I know what I went through in my “regular” and “easy” non-honors course. I know the long-nights I poured into my assignments and the butting of heads my classmates and I went through with our freshman professor. And the minute those friends told me I should have stayed in the honors course, I knew. I knew that I had run away. I knew that I had missed out on one of life’s challenges.

It’s been six years. I have been through many, many final exams. I have been up against many, many challenges. But I still remember the challenges I ran away from. The ones, the big one, that I didn’t face. I’m not the same girl that sat in the honors course six years ago. I’m stronger now. I’m up to challenges now. I won’t drop out now. I won’t pick the easy path.

So, twenty-something life of mine, I dare you; challenge me, again.

_________________________________________________________

I ask. You answer.

  1. Have you ever backed down from a challenge?
  2. Do you think people let fear dictate their actions?
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