We've all been there: feeling helplessly trapped or stuck in an corner with an unavoidable reality or deadline staring us in the face. College especially can cause that feeling of being trapped.
The going over an essay for the sixth time at 1 a.m. when you've been staring at it for the past hour...and it's due that day.
The helpless feeling that it's all too much - that you really, honestly, truly can't do it. Don't want to do it.
I can't count the number of times I've wished for a "Pause" button for Life. It'd make things so much easier...I think sometimes the most overwhelming thing can be realizing how much you have to do and that you don't have time to panic or really think it out and carefully, methodically plan everything out.
It's like that moment when you have to jump out of a speeding car that's about to crash, or pull over to the side of the road because a police officer has waved you over, or stand up in front of everyone to give a speech, or go out of stage and start the play, or answer the question put to you by the teacher while the rest of the class stares...there's no chance to slow down, take your time, accustom yourself to the idea, and ease in to it. You just have to hold your breath and jump. You have to go ahead and just do it.
I went through a roller-coaster of emotions my first semester. It was a time of wonderful friends and new experiences, but also a great deal of stress. I was - and still am - in a rigorous Honors program which is very rewarding but also extremely challenging, especially in the first semester. There were many, many late nights when I cried over essays and assignments because I was so tired and overwhelmed with the sheer scope of everything that had to be accomplished.
No extensions, no time-outs, no pulling the covers over my head and ignoring
And I missed it so.
I'm a creative soul who needs art and beauty and expression to flourish and breath. I don't do well without it. So being bogged down with essays about Socrates, political candidates, ancient literature, and lectures was simultaneously challenging, but mentally + emotionally draining. I felt like my creative juice, my creative joy was slowly but surely being sucked out of me.
I felt...squashed, for lack of a better term. Very small and very flat, as though I was being hammered by weighty, intellectual matters that demanded my full attention and energy, leaving nothing for my blog or my writing. But things really did get better and I learned a great deal along the way. If I had to go back, I wouldn't change anything, except offer this advice to my freshman self.
What To Do If You're Feeling Trapped or Stuck:
1. Stick It Out
You can do anything for three and a half months. That's what I kept telling myself. And I've never regretted a second. I am so grateful that I came to Baylor. It is such a special part of my life that I know I will never forget.
2. Find People Who Will Encourage You
College is a difficult adjustment - just like any stage in life. Surround yourself with people that you can vent to, whose shoulder you can cry on or who you can go to for a hug after a long day.
3. Look for the Opportunity in the Challenge - Even If It's Hard To Recognize
My first semester was the most difficult and trying experience of my life so far. There were so many times when I almost gave up or thought I couldn't do it...but somehow, by God's grace, I managed one foot in front of another.
"Never be afraid to fall apart
because it is an opportunity to rebuild yourself
the way you wish you had been all along."
~ Rae Smith
And now after the fact, I'm so thankful for that experience. I learned so much and grew so much - challenged and forced to stretch. And I'm better at learning when I need to say no.
4. Use It To Take a Good Look at Yourself
Why do you feel stuck? Because you know you can do so much more? Because you don't know where to go? Because you can't leave? Because you don't think you're capable? It's these periods that teach us the most about ourselves. Just like you grow closer to friends when they confide in you, we grow closer to ourselves, get to know ourselves better when things are stressful...we start to realize what we want, what scares us, and what we can actually accomplish.
5. Don't Be Afraid to Dream Big
Dreaming big is not unrealistic - it means being hopeful and open to the wonderful possibilities in life. I would never have come to Baylor if I hadn't dreamed big. I never would have directed multiple Shakespeare plays or started a blog, or decided to pursue a photography or theater costume class if I hadn't dreamed big. When you dream big, you're telling God, "I know You gave me ability to do great things in Your name. And I want to be my best, my boldest, and my brightest for You."
6. Pray It
It can sound cliche and over-repeated. A good amount of the time, I don't like hearing it - but God's got you right where He wants you. And if you pray it, He WILL show you the way.
7. Make Your Change
That being said, eventually, at some point, God's going to open those doors, clear that way,
Change can be frightening. But sometimes, it's the good kind of frightening. You'll never know if you don't try.
Take it from Edna.
Make college a time to try things - to embrace change.
And then, before you know it, you're no longer in that corner, trapped. You've made that step.