Katy’s Korner: Don’t be afraid to use your safety net, that’s what it’s there for
I’m a student in the College of Arts & Sciences and I just quit a really big time suck activity. Now that registration is here I don’t know what to take. Part of the reason I quit the activity was because I wanted to have more time to take classes I love, but I’m not interested in a lot of the courses offered next semester. I’m also going to start working in a lab and don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, especially since I don’t see myself being very engaged in what I will be enrolled in. Have anything that might ease my concerns?
First of all, it’s going to be okay. You’re experiencing a transition in what is probably not just social, but also academic, and that can be super scary. It’s easy to get caught in the mindset of justification when you leave a program or activity and that’s not always for the best. Yes, you had reasons to quit the activity, but you don’t have to spend the rest of your time at Washington University proving that you made the right choice. I would encourage you to look at this as a time full of new opportunities and not just a list of boxes that need to be checked to prove to your ex-group that you made the right decision. Just because you have all of this free time to fill doesn’t mean you have to fill all of it with conventionally “worthy” things, and it doesn’t mean that all of those things have to immediately make you happier. You leave something because it doesn’t make sense in your life anymore, but what comes next isn’t always immediately better. It’s important to use your new freedom to explore.
To address your question about courses, I think this principle of leaving yourself open to opportunities applies here as well. You don’t have to take a ton of classes next semester and they don’t all have to be the best, most interesting classes you’ve ever taken. They might be, but don’t put too much pressure on them right now, because course descriptions aren’t all-encompassing. Search for classes with certain attributes you still need and explore ones you know nothing about, or add a level of intrigue to the discipline you’re majoring in. Search for classes that might not even meet any requirements but that cover something you’re interested in, and consider taking one pass/fail, or auditing it. Sign up for 21 credits, then figure out what you might love before the add/drop date next year. Plenty of classes I’ve taken at Wash. U. have had the dryest course descriptions but been the most interesting, and the other way around too. Registration is a fight to be had, so if you’re unsure, you should sign up for everything you can, then see if an in-person introduction to the courses will make up your mind.
Don’t try to fill up all of the time that the activity took up. It’s okay if it naturally happens, but doing things just to do them, or just because you can do them, isn’t a great reason to do something. You might end up being most fulfilled by the things you sign up to do that you think you might not be able to do, or maybe shouldn’t do. Doing things that get you out of your comfort zone in college is so important. You’re at a unique point in your life where you have so much freedom, but still have a huge safety net to catch you. Maybe you don’t pick up another minor and join eight random clubs to justify your new extra time. Maybe you go explore the greater St. Louis area and get more involved in the community. Maybe you make a real effort to reconnect with old friends or seek out new relationships. Maybe you devote an hour every day to meditation and unstructured creativity just to see what happens.
Sometimes we see things more clearly when we stop looking at them too closely. Broaden your gaze, and say yes to the class or club or opportunity you weren’t expecting to see. Allow yourself to deviate from the expectations.
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