Preface: In college, you will make mistakes. That’s not a question. And to be honest, it’s the best low-risk environment to make those growing pain mistakes. But these aren’t the errors I’m discussing today. There are some bad situations that you might find yourself in that can make your whole college experience turn sour. This is totally avoidable if you learn what I’m about to tell you.
Trust me on this one, girl. Let me show you how to save you from yourself.
The easiest thing to do in college is get caught up. If you’re not sure what that means, I like to define it as getting so entangled in a situation that you lose all sense of its reality. It occurs most often in your relations to the people around you. The “situation” can be just about anything from a problematic romantic relationship, petty drama, or finding yourself in a social circle that’s killing your inner peace.
You live, eat, breathe, and sleep college for months at a time. There’s no break from it. It seems like there are hardly any chances to escape from the daily strains of impending deadlines, extracurricular responsibilities, emotionally volatile relationships, and things that are just generally waiting to threaten your stability. Your problems are intensified because it’s difficult to see outside of this tiny world you’re in called college.
This is a deadly combination that can create an environment perfect for getting caught up. At peak stress, things and people you normally wouldn’t give the time of day are suddenly allowed more influence on your life than they should have. It’s easy to get wrapped up in some craziness when you can’t grasp any larger perspective on the situation. Your judgement skills might fly out of the window. You may start acting foolish and making decisions with no forethought.
While there are a lot of external factors that can contribute to you getting caught up (people trying to start drama, guys playing with your feelings, friends trying to involve you in their problems, etc), the reality is that it’s really hard to justify blaming anyone but yourself for getting into dumb situations. It’s your responsibility to keep your head above the water.
If you’re going to college this Fall, you might think you’ll never get caught up. Maybe you were the type to stay out of drama in high school or you anticipate being around more mature people in college that won’t instigate issues for you. Yeah, I thought that too.
Plot twist: College is just a more stressful version of high school, especially Freshman year. Don’t underestimate its ability to throw you for a loop. Nobody has matured that much in the short 3 months between graduation and orientation. The real difference is that there is little to no adult guidance in our daily lives. We’re overworked kids running loose with little to no coping or interpersonal relationship skills. I could write a whole other post on how ill prepared high schools send us off to college when it comes to dealing with life outside of academia. The potential for getting yourself into some shit you never anticipated is exceptional.
I am typically known to be a wise, calm, and level person. Then I was met with internal and external conflict that I had never experienced before, and it shook my whole existence up. If you don’t already have a system in place to protect you from whatever b.s. comes at you…Good Luck Charlie!
Fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson (even though it was the hard way). Now, I’m going to share what I know with you. I came up with 5 cardinal rules to keep you from getting involved in any mess that might throw you off track. Getting caught up looks different for everyone, but these tips are applicable to just about every situation.
Don’t Get Caught Up Rule #1: Stay Woke
No, I’m not talking about keeping up with the life and times of this problematic world (although that is extremely important, too). I’m talking about being constantly cognizant of how you are situated in any environment or space. This is not always a physical space. Your relationships, your academic standing, etc. are all areas that you should be aware of how you’re faring in them. Relate them back to your goals and desired standard of living. You probably had a purpose in mind going into college, make sure everything you’re doing aligns with it. This is how you keep your perspective and wits about you.
Ask yourself these questions when looking at the different aspects of your life:
- What type of energy and vibe am I getting from the space I’m in?
- Are the people around me acting in ways that I know have the potential to be problematic in my life?
- Will the decision I’m about to make get me closer to where I want to be?
- Is this relationship or environment making me happy, contributing to my growth, or adding to my life in a positive way?
- What is my relationship with this person? Am I expending free emotional labor in the form of friendship, emotional support, pleasure, social capital, or solving all their problems and gaining nothing in return? Is it time to adjust how I interact with them?
- Am I where I want to be academically? How is my performance? Is it conducive to achieving the goals I’ve set for the semester/year?
This will help you stay ahead of the game. You’ll start seeing bad things and messy people coming from a mile away and be able to dodge them. People who have the potential to lead you into a condition that does not align with your goals will not be given a space to do so. Staying woke will also help you weed out what is most important. You won’t allow trivial situations to get out of hand when you keep the bigger picture in mind.
Don’t Get Caught Up Rule #2: Never Use The Rough Draft
When trying to solve a problem, you should rarely go with your knee-jerk reaction. It’s almost always the wrong choice, especially if you’re being driven by emotion. If you peep something that’s made you upset, wait until you’ve calmed down to handle it. Think through all the choices you have carefully. In most cases, there will always be multiple ways to deal with something. Your emotions simply cloud the ability to see them clearly, and you’ll act irrationally.
Work through your emotions until you’ve established concrete feelings on the situation. Perfect your argument, know exactly what needs to be said to a person. When you’re ready to approach the problem, you won’t be so easily manipulated into falling back into its traps. Also remember that every action doesn’t always need a reaction. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is just to remove yourself from it.
Don’t Get Caught Up Rule #3: Find Your Lane and Stay In It
You’re on a path that’s always going to be completely different than the next person. You cannot do what other people are doing and expect the results to function the same way in your life. Not everything that’s good for your friends is good for you.
If you can keep yourself from being heavily influenced by what others are doing, you’ll be in the clear. Stay on the track you made for yourself. Keep your eyes on your personal goals and hopes. You’ll find that the shenanigans your peers get into from a lack of focus and pursuit of the “now” are never worth it.
Don’t Get Caught Up Rule #4: Keep Tabs On Yourself
This is the internal part of staying woke.
Some of y’all are the type to know everything that’s going on in Karen from down the hall’s life but can’t bear to spend 5 minutes with yourself and your own thoughts.
The biggest mistake you can make is not creating a space to regularly evaluate yourself. Buy a freaking journal and use it. Unpack your mood and feelings. Sometimes it’s not until you attempt to put into words what’s going on inside that you truly understand yourself.
For a while, I thought I was too busy to do this and went about my hectic college life without taking the time to assess how things were affecting my energy. I ended up in a very crippling environment that was picking away at my emotional strength until one day I found myself breaking down in tears and couldn’t understand why. Journaling as often as you can, but no less than every week, is key to protecting your energy and maintaining stability. As soon as you catch yourself feeling some type of way, you can put your finger on what’s causing it and make the right adjustments before it’s too late.
Don’t Get Caught Up Rule #5: It’s Not Their Business
There are some things you should just keep to yourself. Be smart about the people who you entrust with your personal problems. The truth is: 60% of the people you talk to probably don’t care about your problems. The other 40% are glad you have them. That squad you just formed a few weeks ago and know hardly anything about their lives outside of college…they don’t need to know all of your business.
Rumors and “so-and-so said” gets out of hand fast. Nobody can pull you into the vicious rumor mill if you don’t throw them a line. You want to have as much control over a situation as possible and that starts with who you choose to entrust with information about your life. If you must get something off your chest, either go directly to the person you’re having issues with or vent to someone who is far removed from the situation.
I think I’ve figuratively talked your ear off for long enough now. Whether you’re just going to college or are looking for tips as you enter another year of college, I hope these rules help!