Column: A big fish in a huge pond
Students who have experienced popularity success in high school sometimes come to the realization that college is a much bigger pond than they expected. But being a relatively small fish isn’t so bad, because it gives us a chance to grow.
It’s easy to forget about our failures once we become successful individuals. We fondly remember the bliss, the praises and the glory that comes with our triumphs. We forget that, before our success, we were once at the bottom, learning and adapting in order to get ahead.
We invest our blood, sweat and tears, longing to come out on top. When we do, we tend to forget about the path that we walked in order to get there, and that’s dangerous.
Entering the Main Gate Square down by University Boulevard. sent chills down my spine because it reminded me that I have to start over from the bottom again.
As a freshman coming from a rural town, I’ve accepted the reality that my past accomplishments will be dwarfed by other freshman from larger cities, not to mention the upperclassmen in the university.
The thought was daunting, as I have always held myself to a high standard when comparing myself to my peers.
It wasn’t long until I saw students who easily outclassed me in music, academics, sports, etc. My ego took a blow and I questioned my own abilities.
My performance in one class reflected those doubts and my focus dwindled. It was hard to accept that reality. But had I not swallowed my pride, bouncing back would’ve been impossible.
A phone call from my parents was what I needed. With their help, I realized a few things: First, it’s important to not compare yourself to others. In doing so, you end up losing sight of what you want to achieve and instead get hung up on what others are doing.
While it’s healthy to look up to others, focusing on yourself puts you in the position to work to your own potential—not somebody else’s.
It’s important to know that, as much as the American forefathers preached it, not everybody is created equal. That guy is good at lacrosse, you’re not, and that’s okay. We shouldn’t spend four years of college comparing our mediocre traits to someone’s best. Instead, take pride in what you are good at and improve on what you’re not at your own pace, not someone else’s.
Second, humility is a trait that most people under-value. Upon bringing ourselves down, we open ourselves up to the possibilities of learning anew. I used to think I knew everything in mathematics, but listening to my professors and my classmates showed me that I have such a long way to go.
It wasn’t such a bad thing because they made math interesting and fresh again.
I picked up on so many things here at the UA once I opened myself up to the possibility of learning, instead of being prideful and close-minded about it.
Tying in with the previous tip—being humble allows you to view someone as a positive influence rather than competition.
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People can inspire you to be better, rather than obsess over the fact that they are better.
Give yourself some room to grow. If you thought you knew it all back where you came from, you should know that the UA offers an environment that encourages you to always be on the lookout for something new.
At first glance, you might see someone who simply out-classes you, but remember that you don’t have to compare yourself to them.
As Theodore Roosevelt once said: "Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Instead, look to be inspired. Learning humility and taking the opportunity to learn from others are both paths that might give you a new perspective.
All in all, it’s okay to accept that you simply aren’t where you thought you were.
While it’s not okay to settle for mediocrity, you should always know that there is someone else who’s better—it gives you something to shoot for.
Should it not work out, it’s fine because out of all the fish in the sea, there’s only one of you.
Follow Andrew Alamban on Twitter.