I am not the “I” in the title of this post. Rather, the title comes from the first sentence of a Facebook post by a staff member at my school. The post moves me and makes me think, and I want to share it with you.
Here is her post, and my responses to her, and to you, after it.
Today, I made a college student cry. I won’t get into the specifics, but I had to have an extremely hard conversation with him about consequences and it truly scared him about his future. It. Was. Heartbreaking. My job has always been to uplift our students and help them to see their true potential. I’ve been proud to be the person they turn to when they need to practice their pitch, think through an exciting idea or weigh out a tough decision. I’ve helped countless students network their way into their dream jobs and have also given out countless hugs when others didn’t get their dream jobs. On most given days, I love my job. Today was not one of those days though. Watching a 22 year old shake and cry in front of me is not something I ever want to relive. After speaking with the student about their situation, I learned that he is taking 20 credit hours this semester to try and graduate on time. He is also working 20-30 hours per week at his internship and being taken advantage of because he’s too nice to say no. Yes, he made a bad decision (which was why he was in my office), but it’s likely because he’s overwhelmed, underappreciated and just…tired. I truly feel that he is this way today because there is just too much pressure on college students to be the best. To succeed in college now, you don’t just need a high GPA. You’ll need that, involvement in numerous clubs (preferably in a leadership capacity), have multiple internships, spend your free time attending networking events and practice your interview skills until they are perfect. You also need to get very comfortable with making your future decisions extremely early on. We have finance companies that are coming to recruit students for internships over 16 months before their first day on the job. Accounting companies are asking students to commit to their junior year internship before they are even declaring their majors during their sophomore year. The pressure to succeed is so high, students are terrified throughout their 4 years of college and continually asking themselves, “Am I doing enough?” When did all of this become normal? When did getting your first job go from something exciting to something so stressful that it affects every aspect of your health? What can we do to change it? I don’t know what the answers to these questions are. So for today, I gave my student a tissue, a hug and a promise that if he ever needed my support again – I would be there.
I know many of you are feeling overwhelmed, underappreciated, and tired. And under a lot of pressure. To the extent that I contribute to that, I am sorry.
My FB friend asks, “What can we do to change it?”
What can I do? I can remind myself before every class, every test, every assignment that this is not your only class.
What can you do? You can forgive yourselves for not being perfect. When the voice in your head asks you, “Am I doing enough?” You can answer it with a simple yes. You can take care of yourselves, and each other.
A few years ago at graduation, Jane Miller spoke. Her message sticks with me: Run Your Own Race. This is the single best piece of advice I know.
And one more thing on this topic, from the Run Your Own Race file.
The year we moved to Boulder, Son #1 was in fifth grade. In his new school, everyone did a science fair project. Well, everyone and their parents did them. A typical display is shown below, left. My kid’s display, below right. Was he doing enough? Was I? Yes. Yes.