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  • Writer's pictureKaitlyn Widener

Second Semester Already?

It has been a minute since I have sat down to reflect on my life. I initially started this blog to talk about my experiences, but I've gotten caught up living in the moment, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, I haven't had time to think back on how long it's been since I've taken a minute to write about my life, and I think it's about time I make some updates.

The last time I wrote for this page, I was in a rough place. Life was looking up, but I was still facing reservations about the changes I was going through. It has been five months, and I am pleased to update potential readers that my life has improved considerably since the first semester.

Failure to make reoccurring updates about situations as they were happening is something I've come to regret, but life got busy, and I was managing my work, school, and social life. I did not have time to write for the pleasure of doing so, but I hope that has changed.

Many unexpected things have happened since September. I switched friend groups, I got my heart broken by a boy, I put a down payment down on an apartment, and I finally quit working the closing shift at my minimum wage job. My life is a mess most of the time, but good things have come from several difficult situations I have faced.

Switching friend groups was not a terrible thing. I have found people who genuinely care about me and my wellbeing. I might not see them all day, and they make sure to check in on me even if they're busy with their classes. My mental health has improved considerably since befriending people who have helped me find myself. I am now the crazy, spunky, and loveable individual I've always wanted to be. At least, I seem to believe so. I still love the first friends I made on this campus, but I am grateful I have found my people. I adore my friends and hope they remain in my life well past our freshman year. I am looking forward to the memories we might create when most of us move into the same apartment complex next semester. Until then, I will reflect on the memories I have already made and the ones I will continue to make before the summer break. Meeting my friends was one of the good things that happened last semester, but I'm no stranger to the difficulties freshman year poses to people who are not prepared.

Skipping past some of the drama that occurred in the fall (talking about that boy will only make me angry), I want to bring attention to navigating college classes after doing school primarily online for the last two years of high school. I did not expect college classes to be so difficult. It wasn't that the course load was worse than high school; it was the fact that I genuinely had to apply myself to learning for the first time in about a year. I breezed through my senior year because school systems were unprepared for pandemic learning. I was excited to get back into the classroom and have some sense of normalcy but found that the work drained me more than it used to. It didn't help that I occasionally worked past 3-5 in the morning, but I thought it was necessary to support myself. Applying myself in school was much more difficult when I wasn't getting the required sleep I needed. My classes were courses I was interested in, but I found myself dreading getting up because working twenty-five to thirty hours a week while being a full-time student drained me both physically and mentally. I was tired. I was depressed. It was hard to see the positives in life when all I wanted to do was not exist in it.

Starting this semester, I knew I could not do that to myself. I set my college schedule to get out of classes early in the afternoon and made my availability for work to where I get off before 11 pm every night. That simple change has improved my state of life considerably. I'm no longer sleep-deprived. I have more time to do my schoolwork. I finally feel like I have enough free time to do things with my friends, and I am happier than I have been in a long time. I never thought I would make it this far, and I admit I am proud of how far I've come.

It has taken a lot of work to get where I am, and in no way am I satisfied with my progress. There are many aspects of my life that I need to continue to work on. However, I still want to detail what I did to help improve my outlook. By sharing the few things I did to improve my lifestyle and mental state, I hope to help anyone who might come across what I have written.

Changing my life around started when I finally came to terms with my feelings. During winter break, I realized I wasn't satisfied with how I was living my life. I decided the best thing to do to improve my mentality was to work on myself and heal the parts of me that needed attention. Starting a good routine was rough, and even now, I can admit I've fallen behind on my schedule, but at least I am trying. I've come to understand that sometimes trying is the best you can do. Improvement looks different for everyone, and some days are more challenging than others. One day I might not get out of bed, but the following I'm taking a nice long shower and remembering to brush my teeth. I like to recall each improvement, and even if one day I take a step back, I know at least I'll try to take two steps forward the next time I get a chance.

There is one thing I know that has helped me make the most changes. That just so happens to be journaling. Every single night I sit down for at least one hour and journal the most memorable things that occurred that day, good or bad. I detail how I felt or what I want to see change. I write the most significant aspects of the day. Not only does it let me connect with my inner self, it helps me express emotions I used to bottle up. I end the journaling hour by writing my favorite thing about the day in the margins, and once I close the notebook, I feel much better about myself and the day I had. While I know that journaling will not work for everyone, I still would like to encourage some individuals to give it a chance. If you're not the type to voice how you feel, journaling helps you feel heard, even if it's just for your eyes only.

Some other things I've tried are more cliche. I've partly given up listening to sad music. Songs that I used to help me express the negative emotion started putting me in bad headspaces. Removing gloomy tunes from my playlist and searching for musicians that sing positive messages and affirmations has changed my life. If I start my day by listening to empowering music, I tend to remain in a good headspace for most of the day. That is a difference from where I was during the fall semester. All it took was reflecting on a bad memory, and I'd find myself seconds away from a downhill spiral and nowhere to turn. I am much better off than I was, and I credit several things. It all started with wanting to make that change and getting there was an uphill battle every step of the way.

While changing my taste in music and journaling was progress in mental work, I also decided to work on myself physically. That meant I needed to set a good routine. To do so, I utilized the great friendships I've made. My friends don't believe in leaving someone out when eating breakfast or dinner, and their invites and motivation to help me get out of bed in the morning have helped me considerably. Breakfast at 8:30 before class has gotten me out of bed and prepared for my morning classes. I am grateful for the support my friends continue to give me even if I'm being difficult because I've had a bad day. On top of a daily routine, I've also started going to the gym. It has taken a lot of effort, and I still haven't dedicated myself to going more than once or twice a week, but at least I'm trying. That is all that matters.

To take my progress at face value is to see how many things I've accomplished since I've gotten to college. While my improvements might be small, I know they are helping me get closer to where I've wanted to be my entire life. I don't just owe it to myself to keep trying. Making that understanding helped me make the choices I have. Life is just a little sweeter when you want to live it.

The advice I've offered on this page is from my own experiences and might not help every individual, but by sharing the small accomplishments I have made, I hope to help someone strive to push themselves. I was once a frightened individual who had no hope for a future, and now I'm moving through my second semester seeking an education towards the career of my dreams. It does it better. To anyone struggling, there will always be someone who can help you.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline


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