Where is the syllabus for life?
In case you need one, here’s one from a one-month college grad.
There are many things I miss about college, but I think syllabi are the things I miss the most. If only there was a guideline and a reading list for life, I’d take it.
In fact, I was known for my careful critique of the syllabus. For me, it was a social contract between professor and student that demanded to be honored. There’s nothing like knowing exactly when everything is due and exactly when there are no classes.
One of my biggest pet peeve — particularly in general education classes — was the time wasted on answering questions that were in the syllabus. I took it so far as to make sure that everyone knew that I did not audibly give out information that could be found in the syllabus. I was so passionate about this that I wrote a whole spoken word poem about it.
It was easy to pretend I had it all together, when all I had to do was insert all the due dates into my Google Calendar and make sure I had enough time to get everything done. It’s crazy to me that I feel like the syllabus is a luxury now.
Life doesn’t hand you a syllabus.
In fact, this is the longest class I’ve ever had.
24 hours long! 7 days a week!
Read Your Syllabus
I’m not asking for an easy way out. But I think there are a few things I am considering as an alternative to bashing my head into a desk like this Spongebob gif.
And I did promise some of my friends who will be graduating in my May that I would give them a syllabus for life. So what I am about to share will be sort of a public manifesto — A manifesto because 1) that is such a cool word and 2) I need some kind of motivation.
But if you’re looking for a syllabus for life, you can borrow mine.
Find something you enjoy waking up to.
I don’t miss getting up early for 7:45am classes. I don’t even miss 9:05am classes. But so far, I’ve found myself missing those hours between 6–10 when I got stuff done.
I’m not saying you should get up at 5am every day just for the heck of it. But I suggest you find something you enjoy waking up to.
I still haven’t found my thing yet — the thing I enjoy waking up to do. As I write, I am still figuring out these things for myself.
Plan something fun to look forward to every week.
I’ve seen this on a couple of articles about post-graduate depression (which is a very real thing and if you suspect you might have it or will, look into getting help or at least reading about it). It sounds ridiculous, I know. But it has helped me a lot.
So far, I’ve had something fun planned at least once every two weeks, since I find that “fun” often requires funds.
Remember that there are no stupid questions.
Every once in awhile I stumble on a question that Google cannot give me an answer for. Sounds unimaginable.
As much as I love learning and academia, I struggle to ask questions when I am in doubt or confused. The shame and fear associated with being perceived as “stupid” is very real. In school, I was always thankful for that student that asked good questions in class. Even if it was to clarify something the professor said. Now if you’re wondering who to ask these questions to….
Reach out to your “professors.”
They might not look the same, but they are out there. Someone or some people in your life have mastered one or two of the tasks you are struggling with right now. Swallow your pride and ask for help when you need it from people you trust.
You might be able to ask people who’ve “taken the class before,” but not everyone who has “taken the class” is an expert.
Don’t fall into the trap of comparison.
This is so hard to do in our social media age. But if it helps you, take a break from it. Better yet, try and do that while staying in touch with people who journey with you through life. Social media doesn’t provide us the context behind photos and statuses shared. The moments before and after what’s been captured and shared are often a mystery.
Don’t compare your inside with someone else’s outside. (I wish I could remember where I’ve heard this.)
Create your own reward system and benchmarks.
When you pass a class, it’s easy to track your progress. You just have to look at your audit. In fact, there are specific rewards when you do really well. But life’s rewards are often much more ambiguous. As you are making moves to better your life, you have to celebrate yourself — hopefully in healthy, non-self destructive ways.
I know not everyone enjoys writing as much as I do, but even if you have to use your phone to record a few notes, find a method that works for you.
Forgive yourself for failing and try again.
This lesson is important for those who struggle with failure, those who are used to As and Bs. Those who have never grasped the term Cs (or Ds) get degrees. I think success is important, yes.
But I think failure is important, too. Especially if you are used to excelling. Failure teaches you what you’re not good at. Where your weaknesses are. In college, on an audit, those weaknesses are much more apparent.
Analyzing failure in real life is harder to do, especially while trying to practice self-compassion. Ask yourself if you could have done anything differently. If you’re able to try again, do so. But if not, learn from your mistakes and move on.
Someone should write a book about being a good loser. I think it’s one of the best life skills we can acquire. Because if it’s one thing I can promise you, at some point you will lose. But it shouldn’t stop you from getting up and trying all over again.
Trust me when I say that I am still learning this. In fact, the failing part isn’t the hardest part for me, it’s the recovery. But I think what helps me break out when I get caught ruminating in failure is the realization — from inside or from an outside source — that my identity is not found in failure or success.
You’re not as unprepared as you think you are.
I think this is the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome. As someone who likes to study, when I get anxious, I go into research mode. (If you know anything about the Enneagram, I have strong 5 tendencies.)
When I am in research mode, I can sometimes overwhelm myself more. It’s the equivalent of cramming — which I have never been good at.
The day before I moved on campus, I stayed up til 3am packing and repacking. I was so sure I was going to forget something. I could hardly sleep. Whenever I closed my eyes, I would think of something that I would forget and I got up to make sure it was packed.
Ultimately, I did forget one thing. I also acquired things as I needed them. But I still fight against the need to be prepared. Coming into this season, it was so hard for me to believe that I was the slightest bit prepared. I have had my fair share of sleepless nights, wondering what I will do and who I will be for the rest of my life.
So far, that lost sleep has not garnered any results. Imagine that.
But I keep reminding myself that, regardless of the many things that make me feel unprepared, there are ways that college has prepared me for this new season. Writing this has helped me gain some needed perspective.
The syllabus isn’t perfect, be open for revisions.
I’ve seen some great syllabi in my day. While it is a social contract between professor and students, they can sometimes be revised. Professors will sometimes realize they’ve made their exams weigh too heavily on the final grade (jk, I wish) and decide to reprint.
As a student, I’ve had many moments when those due dates — that I inserted into my Google calendar — somehow slipped my mind. Or maybe I got caught up with so many activities and needed more time. Those extensions I’ve received have been the equivalent of grace extended for me.
I am not saying that life gives extensions. But since you’ll most likely be the one who makes the syllabus for your life I suggest you give yourself to be open to change and a little grace.
Here’s a completely graceless and satirical spoken word about the syllabus, written by sophomore Rose.
Originally posted on Medium.com on January 30, 2018.