College is something which you spend all four years of high school – if not longer than that – preparing for. It’s a huge turning point, a milestone, in anyone’s life.
So you’d hate to have life throw a wrench right in the middle of all of those plans.
Believe me, I know. In early August I suddenly found myself in the hospital recovering from brain surgery – just ten days before I was supposed to leave for a study abroad semester in Ireland.
That’s definitely what I call throwing a wrench into things.
Through my own experience, though, I’ve learned some helpful lessons about dealing with the unexpected when it gets in the way of your college and life plans. I’d like to share three of those lessons with you.
Number One: Stay Positive
When something really big and serious interrupts your perfect plan for the next four years, it’s really easy to fall into negativity. It’s really easy to feel like nothing is going the way you want and everything is falling apart.
Don’t lose sight of the big picture. No matter how important the moment seems, the future is always bigger. In my case, I was in the hospital for a little over a week. At the time it seemed huge, but it went by so quickly that now I have a hard time deciding whether it really happened or not.
There are lots of ways that you can help yourself to stay positive in a difficult situation. One way is to avoid the urge to pull away from friends and family. I know you’re feeling really awful about everything, but honestly the love of people who care about you can lift your spirits so much.
Don’t stop doing all of the things you love, either. My hospital stay was brightened immediately the first time that I started writing again. No situation is so big that it should be able to rob you of who you are and what you love. Difficulties pass, but your friends, family, and passions are most likely going to stick around for quite awhile.
Look for good things in bad ones. How could living through a problem like this help you somewhere down the road?
Having brain surgery gave me more experiences to write about. That’s something that every writer needs!
Number Two: Accept Help
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve been getting more and more independent over the past years and loving it. You’re just about to step out from under your parents’ umbrella for good – and the something leaves you flat on your back again. Perhaps literally.
It’s hard, especially if your “unexpected interruption” includes health issues which make you unable to perform tasks you could easily do before. It’s hard to accept help. No one likes it, especially not college-aged students. We’re finding our independence for the first time and enjoying it. It’s hard to submit to people getting things for us or helping us cut our food.
I would suggest, though, that we honor our families and friends by giving them this opportunity to help us. Our leaving and becoming independent adults is much harder for them than it is for us, often times. It only makes it harder if we continue to push them away. Besides, it’s very possible that we do really need help in times like this. Trying to do everything ourselves can be detrimental.
Number Three: Be Flexible
Warning: things may change! Yes, you had your plans all worked out, but there’s really nothing that you can do about that, now. Often the way that we plan things out isn’t really the best for us, anyway. When life gets in the way, the only thing you can do is be flexible with the changes and move on.
Think of it in an exciting way. Perhaps new choices have been opened up for you because of this little bump in the road.
Maybe taking a gap year will allow you to earn more money for college and have more opportunities once you get there. Maybe there’s a class that’s only offered every other semester (or year) which you’ll now be able to fit into your schedule. You never know.
The point is that it’s no use crying over spilled milk. What happened is done, and there’s nothing you can do about it now. I spent far too long in the hospital dwelling on how things could have been instead of how they were.
Now that I’m in Ireland, I still don’t totally understand why I had to put off my departure by two weeks and Skype into my first class, but I’m pretty sure that someday I will. I do know that the unexpected delay gave me more time with my friends and family at home before I left, which was something that I needed even though I didn’t realize it.
Make it a point to look for good things like that in the situation when your plans are interrupted before or during your college experience.
Yes, it’s frustrating when plans we’ve had for months don’t work out the way that we wanted, but in the long run it may be better.
After all, without the darkness, we’d never be able to see the stars.