By Danielle Huffman
Danielle is a graduating senior at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). This is her story of self-realization, that time and opportunities are passing each and every day and it’s up to her to make the most of her time. College is not just about obtaining a degree. It’s about the experiences you have. The experiences you have are up to you to pursue, not to wait for.
“I won’t always go to UCI, but I will always have work to do.” It took me the first two years of my college career to realize this. I came into university with a lot of things I wanted to do, but I noticed a long-running trend.
I was letting opportunities pass me by.
Want to do something? I can’t, I have X to do tomorrow. Want to go to this? I can’t, I have Z to prep for next week. Repeatedly.
I spent a good part of two years like this. Then, halfway through my sophomore year, I was sitting in my linguistics class and it hit me. With the end of my second year at UCI nearing, I realized that I only had about two years left to get busy—to try new things, to start taking those classes at the recreation center, to finally hang out with people who I said I would hang out with, to experience all that the university and Irvine had to offer, and to have those adventures.
At that point, I had completed very little on my mental list of things to do and I was stuck in a routine. I knew time was moving quickly. I wasn’t happy. Things needed to change.
I had plenty of time to think that summer. I started to jot down things to do. I compiled a list of 150 things I wanted to do before I graduated–part ASUCI inspired, part necessary college experiences, part promises I needed to make good on, and finally things I wanted to explore and make myself happy. I made a physical contract with myself. 150 things to do in two years, bring it on.
From riding the Great Park Air Balloon at the OC Great Park, to experiencing Las Vegas for the first time. From going to the Festival of the Arts and seeing the Pageant of the Masters (seeing people dress up as paintings is a real thing), to supporting a friend at an Open Mic Night. From something as simple as returning a favor to my sister by sending her a care package when she went back to school, to checking out the 52nd Annual Sandcastle Contest in Corona Del Mar, to studying abroad in Japan. One by one, I started to work on my list.
Afraid of needles? I encouraged myself to donate blood. Utter lack of upper body strength? The break-dancing class at the Anteater Recreation Center sounds fun. Keep hearing about the nuclear reactor underneath Rowland Hall? I scheduled a tour for my friends and I to go see it. About a year and half later and so far I’ve completed 85 out of 150 things to do.
I still have 65 left to go within 20 weeks. I may not get all of them done. In fact, I probably won’t, but that’s not the point. Everyone has a time limit. Why not do as much as you can with what little time we do have? There’s no point in giving up on something you want to do. It’s like never starting a personal project because you don’t think you can finish it. I say try anyway. Eventually you’ll get to where you want to be or you’ll find something that makes you happier instead. We’re fortunate to have options and alternatives, you included.
Some of the items on my list have changed and so have I. That’s perfectly fine. No one is bound to keep the same preferences and goals they had freshmen year, a year ago, a month ago, or in general, and neither are you. When you realize something has changed, whether it be your goals or intentions, it’s a moment for you to be honest with yourself and grow. If it no longer makes you happy–work on fixing or changing it.
It’s part of striving to make the most of things on a daily basis. Take ownership of your life. You make your life. Make it what you want it to be. Do as much as you can to make yourself happy. Don’t be passive about it.
I’m not necessarily trying to do everything on my bucket list because I’m graduating in June. I’m doing as much as I can because it makes me happy. Something I generally like to ask people who have already graduated is “What’s one thing you wish you would have done when you were an undergraduate?” Normally they immediately have an answer.
I want to struggle with that question if I’m ever asked that.
Everyone at my school makes a commitment to getting their degree, but what about a commitment to making yourself happy?
What’s on your bucket list? Share it with us in the comments below!
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