I vividly remember sitting in my Calculus class junior year of high school, anxiously awaiting our first tests to come back after being graded. Mr. Davis, the teacher, was a legend at our school. He was plump, with a biting gaze, one arm and a scratchy voice. He was such an institution, and I wanted so badly to impress him and to start off on the right foot. As Mr. Davis shuffled to my desk to return my exam, I could see that there was a 44 scribbled at the top in green ink. Holy. Shit.
I was completely screwed. My life was over.
I look back on that moment with a strange fondness. It’s a combination of comical and heartwarming, really. In retrospect, the 44 I earned on that test is so inconsequential to my life now, it’s hard to imagine why I was ever so devastated by such a momentary failure. I’d bet every single one of you new Hoyas has an experience in this same vein. Moments, even periods in your life where stressors seemed so intense and final, only to fade away or to morph into a positive later on. I want to communicate to all of you that while your first year at Georgetown will undoubtedly be challenging in many ways, I truly hope that you all are able to keep a healthy sense of perspective.
This isn’t an excuse not to work hard, or an excuse not to try your absolute best, or an excuse not to treat everyone you meet with respect. It’s just a reminder that sometimes our best doesn’t reach the extremely high standard that we set for ourselves as Georgetown students. It doesn’t mean that you should lower your standard — it just means that a brief failure doesn’t need to be an Earth-shattering moment that impedes you from doing your best the next time around.
With that said — take care of your mental health! For me at least, it’s something I’ve had to practice and think about consciously. In my experience, people don’t talk about it as frequently as they should, or they’re nervous to reach out for help. Even if you don’t think it’s an issue for you, your mental health is something that deserves your attention. (Information for Mental Health services at Georgetown can be found here.)
Again, I need to qualify something I’ve said. I’ve been writing about keeping perspective when you have failures or lapses of judgment, and that’s fine. But please don’t interpret that advice to mean that your problems aren’t serious or worth caring about. If you’ll learn anything from Georgetown, it’s how to discern which things are really important and which things are a 44 on a test.
That was super heavy for a summer blog post! Senior year has made me mushy and introspective already, but I wish you all the best of luck. Check out GUSA when you make it to school! We take our responsibility to the student body very seriously, but we’re really just a group of friends who work to make life better for students on campus. People (especially freshmen) can become really competitive and political about it, but I promise that if you don’t win your GUSA Senate election freshman year, your world will not crumble. For pretty much everyone, that’s a 44-on-a-test thing.
This post was written by Thomas Massad (COL’17), GUSA Deputy Director of Strategic Marketing, majoring in Government and American Musical Culture. Have stories you would like to share with the next freshman class? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.