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Finding Inspiration: When Challenge Meets Determination

This semester, I signed up for five classes, I worked two jobs, and I took on an internship. This semester, I took on more than I ever have before.

I think I heard somewhere that usually one class, whether it’s online or in person, should be at least ten hours of work per week. And that really is a whole, separate crazy thing, if you think about it. It’s fairly standard for students to take five classes as a full course load, which essentially means they are taking on 50 plus hours of work per week, in addition to any part time jobs, extracurriculars, clubs, or sports that they might do. That’s more than what a full-time job would ask of you after you graduate.

For me, this meant I was doing about that many hours of classwork, plus ten hours of work per job/internship. Technically, I signed myself up for 80 hours of work per week this semester. Now, why did I do that? And what have I learned from it?

Something I found myself repeatedly saying this semester was, “this has been the hardest, most stressful semester that I’ve ever had, but it’s definitely also been the most rewarding,” and I still believe that. Did I sign myself up for a bonkers amount of work? Yes. But do I feel like a stronger person because of it? Yes. And would I do it again next semester if I had the chance? No. I wouldn’t. But I don’t say that to diminish or contradict my accomplishments. If I had to repeat this semester, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I don’t think that anyone should overload or overwork themselves. I just want to make that clear before I say this next part:if you haven’t had the chance to push yourself farther than you thought you could go, I really think you should do it. Now, that looks very different for everyone. I just mean that I gained so much life experience, work experience, and internal, personal growth by pushing myself to do things I never thought I could do.

A healthier thing to do probably would have been to just join a club or something, but for whatever reason, I really felt like the universe was telling me that this was my calling this semester. It said, “you need to prove to yourself that you can handle all of these challenges, complete them to the best of your ability, and then you’ll know there’s nothing you can’t do.” And I do believe that I came out of this semester a smidge closer to fearless.

I feel less intimidated to really go for a big internship or job and I feel equipped with the knowledge and tools to nail that interview, thanks to my Work U opportunity. I knew that I was organized before, but now I know that I can handle some next-level time constraints. I know that I can hold myself accountable and set my own deadlines. This semester, I wrote, hands down, the most difficult essay I’ve ever written in my life, and I feel very proud of it. And I know I can do it all during a pandemic.

Now, I said that I wouldn’t do it a second time and that’s true. I think I learned that I was stretched a bit too thin. I prefer to be able to give each of the things on my plate the appropriate time and attention that they deserve. This semester, I felt myself becoming that person who forgets to respond to messages or emails and I even totally spaced an assignment or two because of my sheer workload. And that doesn’t sit well with me. Although I love a good challenge, I also take pride in quality work. And even though I didn’t produce anything this semester that I’m ashamed of whatsoever, I think I was teetering on that line.

So, going forward, I think I’ll just take on enough to challenge myself and then be okay with saying “no” to the rest. And that brings up another good point. Taking on so much also taught me how to say “no.” Now more than ever, I think I understand where my limit is. I know where that sweet spot of giving it my 110% effort lives. And I think I’ll stay right there.

My message to you is this: please, please, please challenge yourself to do something you never thought you could do. Because I promise you that you can. When I was younger, I didn’t think higher education was even an option for me. And, taking a note from Karson Schenk, I know that ten year old me would be over the moon to know that I will be graduating with honors next semester.

I truly believe in the idea that when challenge meets determination, a glorious kind of pressure happens, like the kind they say is required to make a diamond. It’s not the kind of “stress” pressure that I mean, it’s just the pounds per square inch of life that gives you a momentum, a drive that maybe you didn’t even know was there before, and I think it must be activated by proving to yourself that you can.

So, after you take a well-deserved break, get out there and find your 80 hours per week thing—not literally. Just get out there and find that thing that you really want to do, but think you can’t, and just try. Make little milestone steps on the way toward doing that thing, whatever you need to do to prove to yourself that you are worthy, you are capable, and you are determined.

 

-Trisha Kangas

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