Non-academic worth


September 17, 2023

If you’ve read my recent blog posts you’ll have seen me harping on about how this year, my senior year, is different to past years. I’ve written a couple posts about my first day of school and my theme for senior year that you can check out here and here. But in this post I want to talk about something that I’ve only just started to do this year and that is setting goals for myself outside of academics.

When you’re a student, it’s easy to have your entire identity tied to what you’re studying, how you’re doing in school, and what kind of a student you are. Especially at college, yes you’re doing things outside of class, but for the most part, your life revolves around academic and pre-professional activities. From personal experience I know that carving out your own identity when you get to college is hard enough, not to mention trying to nurture an identity that encompasses you as a student and as a person while you’re still trying to figure both of those things out.

When I first got to Georgetown in my Sophomore year I was so focused on proving to myself that I deserved to be here and was capable of being a Georgetown Student that my whole identity and self-worth was based on my academic performance. Yes, I did things outside of academics and I knew who I was deep down, but day-to-day, my judgement of if it was a good day or if I was happy with myself was fully based on how I was doing in classes and exams. Looking back, I can now see how problematic that really was; it meant freaking out about every small grade and lots of tremendous highs and very low lows.

In a lot of my blog posts over the past year, I’ve talked about this idea of moving towards really living at college as a person, not just as a student. In a previous post, I talked about how one of the guiding principles of being a Georgetown student is Cura Personalis, which means care for the whole person. As I’ve moved through Georgetown, I’ve found myself being able to embody this principle more. It sounds a bit pretentious I know, and I’m sure the Georgetown administration would love to hear that, but it’s true! I feel like, this coming May I’ll leave Georgetown with some academic and professional achievements, but moreso I’ll leave here having grown so much as a person. This growth has consisted of things that have just happened over time as I’ve been going through college, like learning how to be an adult, but also because of specific non-academic goals that I’ve intentionally set for myself.

I remember last year in the fall semester I was kind of going through a rough time; not academic related, but things weren’t going well in general and I felt like I didn’t have much of a self-identity to cling to beside my identity at school. And the problem with that is that, when one thing starts to crumble at school, your entire identity breaks apart because it’s built on that foundation.

I remember that semester a friend of mine was running a marathon and I went to go watch her race early on a Sunday morning and as I was watching her and all the other runners on their way, I remember feeling so emotional! Back in high school, I was a big runner; I was on the Cross Country team all the way through high school. In school I was a competitive student, but a big part of my identity was this part where I would train and work really hard in stuff outside of school. I had a whole other identity outside of academics, one where, my performance was entirely based on my hard work and grit. Yes, some days it was really rough and I questioned why I was doing it, but the rush of being in a competition and celebrating with the team after a race made it worth it. As I was watching this friend last year, all I could think to myself was that a huge part of myself was missing at college. Outside of my identity as a student, I hadn’t really invested into myself. I felt emotional watching that race because I realized that I was in my junior year at college and most of my identity was still based upon me as a student!

This revelation kind of shocked me because I thought that I was doing everything right – I had achieved my academic and pre-professional goals, wasn’t that enough? What I didn’t realize was the importance of pushing myself to have non-academic goals to invest in myself and build resilience. As the extremely type-a person I am, after this experience I decided on a list of non-academic goals that I wanted to have for myself from that moment on; they weren’t even big goals, more just things that I wanted to do for myself. And one of those things is actually running the marathon that I’m doing in October. It’s been a little rough training for it, especially through the sticky summer in DC, but each week when I’m able to run further and further I can’t help but feel proud of myself. It’s nice feeling like I’m growing as a person and doing something to embetter myself. My sense of self worth is based on my own feelings of pride rather than some letter grade that someone else determines – it’s liberating.

And so, I’m not saying that you need to sign up for a marathon to be a better person. Not at all. All I’m saying is that setting these non-academic or non-professional goals has been so important to me personally in growing as a whole person and developing an identity outside of being a student. And having an identity that isn’t based on one singular thing, like a grade, that someone else develops has been extremely liberating for me – so maybe it will be for you too!

Let me know in the comments!

See you next week,

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