A Blurred Line Between High School and College

by Angela Lee //

“3….2….1…. happy graduation!,” is what I used to think you would say as you graduate high school. Taking place at a seemingly random time in the afternoon, my last day of high school felt insignificant in comparison. I remember going to my upperclassmen friends’ graduation, excited for it to be my turn. I recalled their last day of school; seniors took photos with each other while being chased by school staff on their golf carts. The four years that I spent in high school were all leading up to the moment where I would get that experience, yet, in an instant, it was all taken away from me. Without closure from high school, the feeling that I had truly left high school was delayed. My college freshman year experience, however, was interesting, to say the least.

Taking college classes with a high school mindset was not the move. I expected the transition from high school to freshman year of college to be like climbing 10 floors, but it felt much more like climbing a never-ending stair master in the gym. I felt like I was suddenly pushed into the ocean without ever having taken a swim lesson. Cornell was supposed to provide that swim lesson, too. 

Every morning, there was a new mountain of work waiting for me. The moment I got back into bed at night, I was too tired to enjoy my alone time and fell right asleep. The next morning the cycle would repeat. The worst part of the endless cycle was that I felt like I wasn’t achieving results from the hard work I was putting in. My mental health was at the lowest it had ever been. Tears streamed down my face while I studied because I thought that crying was a waste of time; I constantly skipped meals using my mealtime to catch up on classes. My favorite song, Fix You by Coldplay, didn’t even seem to ease my mental distress. I remember my friend facetiming me while I was in the middle of my breakdown, forcing me to smile. My friend’s intentions to comfort me did not succeed.  

However, I realize that constantly comparing myself to my peers was what was both dragging me down and motivating me to do better. Everywhere I went, it seemed that everyone was talking about the number of credits they were taking or how long they spent studying for an exam. The only way to break the cycle was, ironically, to be back in my childhood bedroom. Completing my school work at home, sitting at my desk with my diffuser on with eucalyptus essential oil, and burning the candle that I got in Korea during my trip a couple of years back were comforting. Thanksgiving break was the best time to reflect and learn how to work without comparing myself to my peers. It made me realize that all the pressure I was feeling and the constant comparison to others were just in my head. While finishing off my first semester of college at home, I made three realizations that would allow me to be in a much better position this semester. 

  1. Your friends become your family
  2. Having a growth mindset is key
  3. And I’m still trying to figure the last one out