BYU students are flooding back to campus to start the new semester, and whether you’re a freshman getting the JKB, the JSB and the JFSB mixed up or a university veteran deciding which textbooks you can get away with not buying, the start of classes usually brings feelings of instability and uncertainty.
This is my last semester at BYU, and you would think I would be able to seamlessly get back into the swing of balancing classes, work, church callings and friends every time I get back to Provo after being gone all summer. But this is so not the case.
I’ve been here a long time and every semester I end up juggling everything and dropping a ball here or there; I make it to the end and through finals just fine. At the end of every semester things worked out. But I’m a homebody, I like being at my parents’ house every summer and, I admit, I resist change. So after traveling across the country, the first two weeks of each semester wading the waters of new roommates, co-workers and professors, the instability and overwhelming doubt in the pit of my stomach puts me in a constant state of simmering panic that occasionally boils over; I spend most of that time literally sick from stress.
Now, I realize I’m a little extreme. Or a lot extreme. But most students feel those nervous “butterflies” now and again at the beginning of new semesters. It’s because the stakes are higher here, and they get higher each semester. The choices we make the farther we go through college will have a greater influence on our five- and 10-year plans. Many of the choices we are making now will impact us for our entire lives. No wonder the thought of making these decisions makes me ill.
Freshmen, you aren’t in high school anymore. Your parents aren’t there to tell you to do your homework, go to school and participate in church. Sophomores, you have to pick a major on your own and that decision has one of the greatest impacts on your experience at BYU. You’ll spend an enormous amount of time with classmates and professors in your college, department or program. Your field of study impacts your future career choices. Juniors and seniors are finding internships, fellowships, making connections to find career opportunities and deciding if higher education is even the route they should take.
Then, some of the personal relationships we make here will last our entire lives. I always call my close group of friends here my “BYU family,” because that’s exactly what they are. Our bonds are extremely strong, so when some break it’s crushing. The loss or betrayal runs deep. Our romantic relationships have more weight because we know at BYU, many students are at least keeping an eye out for a potential spouse. When we make ourselves that vulnerable and it doesn’t work out, it’s heartbreaking.
The stakes are higher and the consequences more severe. However, the rewards are greater, too.
We are at the point in our lives when we are choosing what we are going to be, what we will study, what we will do to earn a living. But more importantly we are deciding and solidifying who we are going to be. When it’s late at night and, as one of my religion professors liked to say to me, it’s “just you and your jammies,” who are you?
That’s the most important thing at stake now that we are solely responsible for our choices. What will make up our character? How will we define our lives? You’re deciding how you’re going to live your life.
We can be passive students in our education and just get by, or we can understand the material and the life lessons our professor inevitably teaches us if we pay close enough attention.
We can slowly fade away from our faith or we can stand on our own in our beliefs and work to find what our faith means to us in our lives.
We can be the type of friend and significant other that quits and runs when a relationship requires work, or we can be depended on and have the strength and courage to maintain lasting relationships.
As this semester starts, we should make sure we aren’t just going through the motions. We should be figuring out what we stand for, who we want to be and how to become the person we want to see in the mirror.