Every time I go home and then return to Princeton after break, I feel as if I’m traveling between two worlds. It isn’t until I come back to campus from my hometown that I see that the Orange Bubble is a place of many extremes. Whether it’s getting an A on another paper or snagging that highly sought after internship, we Princeton students are always on the quest for the next big thing — the one that will propel us even further in the direction of our dreams. But during this pursuit, we are in fierce competition with one another. Even though we all have our own individual goals, we compare the course of our path to that of the guy in our politics lecture or the girl beside us in precept. If he or she seems to be excelling more than us, then we tend to forget just how far we’ve come individually. And that’s why I want to say: It’s all good. Really good.
Too much comparison can be detrimental to one’s own personal growth. But if you’re going to compare yourself to other Princetonians, you might want to enlarge your view and think about the greater community. Now granted, all of us have grown up in different environments, and so you may go back to your hometown sometime during summer break and learn that your hometown friends are traveling to exotic places and working on start-up businesses. But, look at it from the bigger picture: Not everyone is doing what you’re doing. There are many college students who cannot even afford to go out of the country, let alone afford another semester of school unless they receive a lot of federal aid. There are many students here at Princeton who are on financial aid, and we have access to more options to prevent debt accumulation than the average college student, such as internship and senior thesis funding. Aside from finances, we are not lacking in the abundance of opportunities available. But at times, we tend to feel as though we have to be the best at everything, and if not, then we aren’t taking advantage of all that is at our feet, so to speak. We have become so acclimated to the fierce competitiveness that comes along with the territory that we tend to pass off even large successes as “no big deal” because we see them just as checkpoints to something else. Or perhaps we beat ourselves up over rejections without grasping the fact that we had enough courage to go after what we wanted and that one or several no’s will not negate our competency and talent.
We are all different and gifted in various ways. The uniqueness in each person’s path is something that is definitely evident, especially if you look at our diverse range of majors. Or, you can see the imaginative ways through which Princeton students make new discoveries just by looking at the Dale Award winners, for example. But when we miss out on an opportunity that looked perfect for us, we may not consider that maybe our abilities will flourish elsewhere. Even if we are one out of several students vying for the same position, the fact still remains that if we don’t get it, that shouldn’t mean that we are down for the count. We as Princetonians are known for taking the initiative and having the discipline to succeed. One setback does not take away those qualities. A setback is just that: a setback.
It should also be mentioned that when we’re actively pursuing our goals, we should always take the time to reflect on how far we’ve come in the process. We’re never going to be done wanting something else after achieving something we previously relished; it’s just a part of our nature. But come on, you’ve made it this far, haven’t you? So as you’re salivating to hear back from a certain company about the results of your interview or awaiting an email from a professor about your progress on a special project, think back on how much you’ve done in the past that has led you up to this point. And then remind yourself that “it’s all good.”
Morgan Jerkins is a comparative literature major from Williamston, N.J. She can be reached at email@example.com.