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Listening to My Inner Compass (aka Don’t Hit the Pause Button on Happiness)

Listening to My Inner Compass (aka Don’t Hit the Pause Button on Happiness)

Would it surprise you to hear that attending 3 different colleges for the past 4 semesters has taught me a monumental life lesson? 

This is what’s transpired:

  • UNC Wilmington
  • Mitchell Community College
  • UNC Chapel Hill
  • UNC Wilmington

Why did I do all this jumping around? Simply put, I thought I needed to put my happiness on hold and attend a prestigious, highly ranked college in order to make it in life. If I had a UNC Chapel Hill degree, everything would be easy for me in a fictitious future I was imagining. Jobs and promotions a cinch…my resume would be outstanding because of the name of that school on a piece of paper. This idea popped into my head that first semester at UNCW and I set everything up with the goal of attending that school from that point forward.

In a whirlwind, I left my new found best friends and school I adored to attend community college back home. I did this so I could complete my Associate degree to make it easier to transfer to UNC if I got in. I took 7 classes and waitressed in my free time. It was not fun. I was so depressed. Even though I made the decision, I felt lost, wondering why I had left a place I loved, people I cherished, to wait to hear from a university I built up in my head. Yet I still kept telling myself it was the "right thing to do." I didn't think about the atmosphere of the school, massive school population or huge campus. I didn't even contemplate if I would like it…I thought only of the prestige and that “I would be set for life.”

I received news early May that I got in to Chapel Hill. I opened the letter and read "Congratulations" and then cried. Half of me cried because I was proud of myself, all of this sadness I endured leaving Wilmington was somehow "worth it." Then I cried because I didn't want to go…a big part of me was hoping I wouldn’t get accepted so I could go back to UNCW, where I wanted to be. However, everyone around me, including myself, kept saying, "It's UNC, you HAVE to go! 

So I went and it was a mixed experience. The classes were rigorous, which I liked. I loved my roommate. The campus was pretty. Franklin Street was neat. Sports were fun. I made some great friends. But I felt out of place and didn't like my life there. Doubts were creeping in; I realized I’d done everything based on what I thought would be “best” for my future, even if that meant I wouldn't be content for years. It occurred to me that everything I had ever done in my life based on happiness seemed to work out wonderfully, and everything I’d done because I forced myself to do it didn’t work out well.

It was a revelation…from that point forward I decided that everything I do should be based on my happiness, not societal “rules” or what others think will make me happy. The first decision I made was to go back to Wilmington. I’m typing this in the library while I look out a window at our campus. It's so beautiful; there are people long boarding and biking outside to class, the sun is shining. It's Friday, and even though it's cold, I'm sure there are people getting ready to go to the beach. It's the first time I’ve reflected back on this long journey and I'm emotional. I love this school and my friends. Happiness is what truly matters. Man, it's good to be back.

By Meg Rupp

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