Once upon a time, I was a young high schooler with big hopes and dreams for my college career. When you flash forward to the present day I am a senior in college whose senior recital is in two weeks and is getting ready to student teach in the fall. Where did the time go? And when did I start going to bed at 9:30?
As I look back at my time in undergrad there are both a lot of things and hardly any that I would do differently. Firstly, as I’m sure a lot of musicians wish, I wish I would have practiced more my first two years. I practiced a lot, but when I finally figured out how to sit down and focus I progressed in my studies faster than I ever had before. But at the same time I’m very happy with how I balanced school, marching band, homework, practicing, and doing human things like eating and spending time with friends. I knew coming into my undergrad that I didn’t want to spend 8 hours a day in a practice room and feel intensely guilty if I did a minute less than that; I wanted a well-rounded life where I could do well in school and in ensembles but also form lifelong relationships that would help keep me emotionally balanced. Conservatory life wasn’t for me and I am so glad I chose to come to a public university. Now I can honestly say I excelled in my school life as well as had a happy social life, which is something I will always be incredibly grateful for. One thing I maybe didn’t excel at though was believing in myself.
Throughout the majority of my junior year, imposter syndrome hit me like a freight train. I had always fought to be a humble person who didn’t try to push their achievements in everyone’s faces, but during this time those attempts backfired and turned into crushing self-doubt and misery. Coincidentally this was also my busiest year I had so far in my undergrad, balancing attending classes, homework, practicing, being on work crew, teaching private lessons, and teaching a senior citizen flute ensemble, just to name a few things. I was so busy that by the fourth day of the fall semester I was behind on homework. I felt fulfilled, but by the end of the day I was so bone-crushingly tired that I relied on frozen meals for dinner most nights and fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. The influx of responsibilities and work is likely what caused my imposter syndrome to sneakily dig its claws into my back and whisper “but are you really good enough?” My junior year was the year I struggled the most emotionally and felt the most isolated from the “me” I knew was somewhere deep within. I missed her and I wanted her to return, desperately. I don’t write any of this to seek pity, but instead to hopefully help those struggling with imposter syndrome to loosen the claws in their back and quiet the whispers in their ears. The mantra I repeated to myself was this:
“You are where you are for a reason, and you are who you are for a reason.”
Different things will work for different people, but this is what helped me become myself again and feel comfortable in claiming my accomplishments. Although I wouldn’t change a lot about my time in undergrad, handling my time with imposter syndrome by giving myself more grace and more credit is the biggest thing I would want to change.
At the end of the day, I feel confident in saying I had a wonderful undergrad experience. We wouldn’t appreciate the sun without the rain, and I wouldn’t appreciate the good times if I didn’t have hard times as well. Being at peace with what has happened in your life is a fantastic way to care for yourself, and I would say I have done that. Now, if only I could stay up past 9:30...