What I’ve Learned This Year - Ariel

By Ariel Benjamin on September 13, 2013
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The answer to what you should not pursue may seem so obvious, yet it is so easily forgotten and overlooked: do not pursue perfection. Perfection is a myth that will drive you crazy. It will make you feel bad about everything, and make you find faults in everything.

When perfection is your goal, you will feel worthless and everything around you will seem worthless. I know that sounds depressing. The sad part is many new college students begin college life with this “perfection syndrome.”

I am very grateful for how my college life has turned out so far. This school year has taught me to pursue opportunities to develop myself in every situation. There is always something to learn.

A rough start

I was ecstatic about college life upon my arrival at Vanderbilt University, yet my doubts quickly began to develop. The “exciting” city of Nashville turned out to be not so exciting to me. The gorgeous Vanderbilt campus didn’t have what I thought of as the “college feel” (i.e. it didn’t look like Princeton). The people at Vanderbilt were so different from me that it was overwhelming. The dance program wasn’t good enough.

I hated the “college bubble:” the exclusion of college students from the “real world.” I constantly compared my new life to life back home and found one fault after another.

I had trouble attending one of my classes because it was boring and pointless to me. This attitude trickled down to my other classes.

If the topic was “insignificant,” I zoned out. If the class material that day was “insignificant,” I didn’t attend. I didn’t know what I was going to do about friends because the people here were just too different from me.

Despite this fact, I ended up meeting some people and we inevitably became a “clique.” However, the more we spent time together, the more we saw each other’s flaws, as well. I doubted that we could truly be friends as we struggled to maintain a friendship with people who were so different from one another.

The complaints were endless to the point where I considered transferring, which triggered my wake-up call. Sure I struggled with the thought of slowing my progression in dance, but what else would I be leaving behind if I transferred?

Opening my mind

The people in college are very different, and that’s what makes such a great community. I began to open my eyes to the amazing collection of students and professors with unique pasts, experiences and goals. The people were not the problem, the problem was our attitudes. Many of the freshmen had to learn, all too quickly, how to adjust to other people who they did not understand.

While some professors may not have matched my interests, other classes were rewarding in ways that I cannot even express. Guided by an English professor here at Vanderbilt, I discovered how deep my passion and development for writing could really go.

If I were to transfer, I would be abandoning all these advantages and going off to another place that would most likely be the same or worse. If I kept the mindset that I should abandon every situation that doesn’t seem perfect for me, I would have continued running from every challenge I faced and would never have been happy.

In the end, learning to turn the critical eye towards myself helped me to better myself and sustain rewarding relationships with the new people that became a part of my life. It’s much easier to be happy if you are determined to find rewards in any situation.


Check out the following videos where our writers share their most
important piece of advice to their fellow students:

Sharayah Le Leux: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9qvMYFOogA

Ariel Benjamin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idSlfYUCq_s

Jordan Sweigart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4CV_J9zjRVo

Megan Lynch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUDIvjeadS0

About the Author

Ariel Benjamin

Ariel Benjamin

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