Evan Chandler is a fourth-year journalism and Spanish major and writes “Nonbinary Nonsense” for The Daily News. Their views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
I really can't believe I'm writing my last article for student media right now.
When I first started college four years ago, I would often label myself a perfectionist. Years of honors programs had instilled in me the importance of ‘being the best’ in school, and I was fully invested in that goal — so much so that I was willing to go to any length to get there, even sacrificing my physical and mental well-being for it.
I’ve had the goal to graduate summa cum laude, or with a 3.9 GPA or higher, since before even starting college. It was much too late in the game by the time I noticed the toll it was taking on me, so I continued on. After all, what would it all be for if I didn’t end up successful at that goal? It would be all for nothing, the imposter syndrome would finally engulf me and I’d forever be a failure. That’s how it felt.
So I said yes to every opportunity that came my way: I joined the Spanish club, I became a part of student media, I was briefly the president of the Ball State Society of Professional Journalists chapter, and I decided to continue on in honors even at Ball State. This was just the tip of the iceberg.
And here I am, in April 2023, with no job lined up and no solid plan as to what I’ll be doing in the future. I don’t even have summa cum laude secured to my name as I had always planned. I’ll admit it is a bit devastating to come to terms with; I still struggle from time to time. As dumb and melodramatic as it sounds, for the first time in my life, I’ve fallen short of my goals academically. I’m no longer able to call myself a perfectionist. I’ll have trouble forgiving myself for it for a while to come.
When I look back now, I can think of so many times where I made the wrong choice. I see so clearly the moments when I should’ve stayed in and finished that assignment instead of going out with friends. It always ended in me coming home, promising myself I’d be productive, then falling asleep from exhaustion right around 4 a.m.
I paid the price for it over and over again.
But it’s taught me something very important along the way.
We are not supposed to be perfect. We are not supposed to never fail. Making mistakes is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve walked away with so many valuable lessons because of it.
Never measure your self worth by a letter grade or a percentage point — it’s not worth the heartache the first time you see something other than a 90% or higher.
Never end a conversation on bad terms with someone — you don’t always get the chance to apologize or say goodbye the way you wanted to.
And most importantly, never reduce your college experience to just academics — you’ll miss out on all the beautiful things this period of your life brings you outside of classes.
I’ve had some of the best experiences I’ve ever known right here on campus. There are people and places I will take with me forever, even if it’s just in memory. I’ve been a part of some of the most incredible teams student media has ever seen (yeah, I said it), and there are so many things I can show for it.
I’ve fallen in love, had my heart broken and fallen in love all over again.
How could I ever possibly have my GPA mean more to me than that?
I’m finally able to look at this experience in all of its good, all of its bad and all of its ugly. And it got ugly, girl.
I understand the importance of making a mistake. If I never did, I’d still be unable to recognize what really mattered to me in the long run.
I won’t remember the tests I bombed, but I will remember doing karaoke on Thursday nights with our editor-in-chief Elissa.
I won’t remember my GPA, but I will remember putting on music in the UML so loud that everybody in the room can hear it.
I won’t remember crying my eyes out over my senior thesis, but I will remember saying goodbye to my best friends.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone soon to be in my position, I’d tell them to not fear messing up. I’d encourage it.
No amount of perfectionism could ever be worth the lessons you learn from your mistakes.
In words inspired by the legendary RuPaul: good luck, and please mess it up.
Contact Evan Chandler with comments via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @evanachandler