Here at UCLA every person you speak to has a ”plan.” Your peers somehow all top class rankings and burst at the seams with talent and resume boosters. When geniuses James Franco roam the halls as professors and incredibly accomplished classmates like Simone Biles and trailblazer Ralph Bunche sit in the same seats you do, you start to question how you belong in the same crowd.
Even the general population seems to succeed at higher rates than normal. Most people at UCLA tell you that they aren’t doing much of anything. “Oh you know, I feel like I’m not doing enough. Compared to everyone else, I really should be doing more.” They immediately follow this (possibly false) modesty with a long list of accomplishments: three internships and a job at the Dean’s office, followed by their positions as the head of an honors society and the president of Student Government. The worst part? They still maintain their whopping 5.4 GPA and a healthy eight-hour sleep schedule.
When I first moved here, I constantly compared myself to others. Every step I took in my time at UCLA felt wrong compared to the intimidating footsteps of my classmates. Classes challenged me more than I had anticipated.
Whoever convinced me to take a GE Cluster course had to be part of a larger conspiracy that worked to make the lives of freshman miserable. GE Cluster 70, a.k.a., The Cosmos Cluster, had exams that must have come through a wormhole. Each question was designed to wreck the hopes and dreams of innocent college students.
After experiencing failure after failure, I didn’t feel the same type of motivation I saw in my peers as they sprinted easily towards their goals making college and, in extension, life seem easy.
They raced for presidencies, CEO positions and worldwide fame. Worst of all, they actually crossed the finish line. But I had trouble simply finding the starting line. It seemed like growth happened to everybody else except me, and I didn’t know how to handle that. And so I did what anyone else would do in my situation…
You could say I panicked. I spent huge portions of my time applying to Model UN, The Marching Band and even the Beyonce Club. I needed to do everything and anything. Even if the group didn’t interest me, I signed up for it, telling myself that it would be worth the resume boost. And for a brief moment, I felt like things were okay.
However, I quickly found that the feelings of inadequacy still lingered in the back of my mind. My activities didn’t align with what I wanted for myself. They took up all my time, leaving me with no chance to find what I wanted for myself. That exacerbated my problems and left me unfulfilled. It took me getting my first C on an exam to realize that things needed to change.
So I forced myself to sit down and make a list of priorities. I didn’t necessarily have a game plan, but I knew my objective. I started applying for and accepting positions that I felt aligned with what I wanted to do, but really winging it all the way.
The takeaway? Game plans provide a false sense of security in an ever-changing world. As a student, you have better ways to spend your time than comparing yourself to others and building a life around a resume.
Is my own path forward clearer now with these realizations? No, not really. But now I have the reassurance that at least I’ll be happy knowing that I’m doing what I want to do.