It's Okay to (not) be Okay
This piece is a collaboration between Alexa Di Luca and Amelia Cacchione, telling two stories of junior year. It’s Okay to not be Okay, by Alexa Di Luca, is bolded and It’s Okay to be Okay, by Amelia Cacchione, is not.
In the beginning of the fall semester, I attended a resume workshop in hopes of buffing up the content that I was advertising about myself to future employers. I went in feeling pretty confident about my resume because I’ve had a several jobs and internships throughout high school and college that I’m proud of. After a few seconds of looking over my resume, the blonde, mid-twenty-something-year-old from the career center gave me a cheesy grin and two pieces of advice that I wasn’t ready to hear.
Advice Part 1: “You should have a GPA listed under The University of Michigan,” she said in a slightly confused tone.
Students are supposed list their GPA to display their level of intellect and hard work, but I left mine blank because I don’t have a GPA. That’s right, I’m a junior and I have no academic record at U of M. This is because I’m a transfer student and this is my first semester here. At U of M, I’m basically a blank slate.
Everyone asks why I decided to transfer colleges and the reason is simple, my old college wasn’t a good fit for me on too many levels. Even though I wanted this change, it doesn’t mean that I expected it to happen. All through my life, I saw myself going to the same college for four consecutive years because that is what you’re supposed to do. Freshman and sophomore year are when you get your feet wet as a student and junior year is the year that you’re capable of fully jumping in without drowning. This is every student’s favorite year because they’re comfortable and confident in almost every area of their life. These were two things I wasn’t.
I noticed it when choosing which playlist to listen to on my fifteen minute walk to class. As I stood in the elevator, I scrolled through my recently played music to find that it was all playlists of upbeat, pop music. Frustrated, I scrolled further down until I found a playlist of moody alternative rock. When the first chords struck, I was stepping out of the door and hit by a gust of wind. Overcast skies were the perfect setting for my dark song choice, but something wasn’t clicking for me.
Being a junior in college is weird. You’re not quite independent, not quite dependent, and often advocating for yourself feels like yelling into a void. My first two years were hard. My life had felt like it was speeding full force ahead and there was some fuzzy wall I could see in a distance I was constantly scared I would hit. It was expecting the worst while still accelerating because why not just keep pushing through if things are kind of okay, right?
I paused my music and walked to class in silence. With time to think, I did a sort of mental check in. Since I had been back at school, I had been getting a good amount of sleep. I had generally been staying on top of work — I might have submitted an assignment an hour before it was due but it still got turned in! I was keeping up with friends, doing yoga a couple times a week, and staying away from super unhealthy foods when grocery shopping. I frantically searched my mind for something to be wrong. It was uncomfortable, unsettling almost — I had forgotten how to have pride in myself.
Advice Part 2: “For junior and senior students, we recommend that they remove all of their high school related items,” she said while making light pencil lines under the high school jobs and experiences I had listed on my resume.
This was a wakeup call for me because it meant that high school didn’t matter anymore. Of course, my high school academic performance, jobs, internships and extracurricular activities were what helped shaped me as the college student that I am now, but apparently that didn’t matter to future employers.
I’ve been given another blank slate. The majority of my past doesn’t matter, but everything that I do in now is what matters.
So, I decided to do everything. In addition to being a full-time student who works a part time job in a library café, I joined six clubs. I’ve never been an overachiever: in high school, I was part of three clubs and at my prior college, I was part of the school newspaper and nothing else. At U of M, I had severe FOMO. I felt as if I would be missing out if I didn’t try to make up for lost time. I was stuck in the mindset that I had missed out on half of my college years here at U of M, which meant that I had to catch up and pack in double the number of clubs that I would normally have chosen.
At the club fair this year, I panicked and signed up for almost every publication they had to offer. The “Are you a freshman?” comments only slightly bothered me as I worked my way from table to table of unfamiliar faces because I was focused on one mission: making up for the clubs I missed out on joining freshman and sophomore year.
After my inbox was flooded with applications to fill out and invites to weekly meetings, I decided that I had to narrow it down. I was accepted into three publications, and I joined an additional two magazines and one community service group. At the time, I thought that this was narrowing it down because as someone who wants to work in the magazine industry, these publications were great resume fillers to hide the emptiness of my first two years of college. Besides my urge to fix my bland resume, I also wanted to gain more experience writing for various publications to strengthen my skills as a writer.
There is nothing romantic about dealing with shit. Feeling as though you’re stuck in a place you don’t ever see yourself progressing from is scary. However, there is something to be said for taking a moment to reflect. Even if you’re not totally there yet, there are always little victories. I had been celebrating the little victories along the way. What I had failed to do was take a breath and look at the bigger picture.
On top of transitioning to a new school, a new state, and basically a new life, I had packed in tons of new things into my schedule. Now, as I’m about halfway through the first semester of my junior year, I realize that trying to make up for lost time is not an effective strategy. It’s better to accept where you are and to make the most of your time. This means that I have to accept that I’m a “born again freshman” in the sense that I’m at a fresh start again and that I have to take it one step at a time as I would for any other blank slate in life.
The past few weeks, I’ve been listening to my favorite pop hits as I walk to class. I’ve started writing lists of things I’m thankful for and continued celebrating victories big and small. I make my bed, keep my room clean, and eat an apple a day. Occasionally, fleeting images of that rapidly approaching wall will flash across my self-conscious mind. There’s a nagging voice that tell me I’m faking it all, and soon enough my life will come crashing down around me. To that voice, I’ve learned to say it’s okay to be okay.