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Jessica Ha
May 03, 2012

Taking Ownership- It’s a Hard Pill to Swallow

One of the biggest growing pains in life is learning to take responsibility for both the good and the bad. Over the past year, I have been able to watch this struggle from the outside and gain a new perspective. We all know that traditional-aged, first year college students are known to REALLY enjoy their new freedoms. Some of these freshly turned 18 year olds exercise an impressive amount of caution while many, mindlessly plunge into all the glorious newness that college life offers. Regardless of which group the student belongs to, there is a lot to be said about how one reacts and processes the outcome of some negatively-perceived situation.

In this past year, I’ve never had so much game thrown at me. When I say “game”, I mean the “see-through excuses” game, the “but my mom always did it for me” game, and the infamous blame game. I am in no way implying that every student that walks through my door with a problem doesn’t actually have one. There are always situations where I need to advocate for the student and I do so wholeheartedly. But, there are more situations where the student’s laziness or expectation that everything will be handed to them plays a huge role.

Early on in our lives, we learned “the rules”. After a while, we learned that we had the option to break them. In our adolescence, we didn’t truly understand the weight of the consequences they may have had. Many of us had support systems featuring key figures that loved us no matter what and came to the rescue when we needed them. On some level, even though we considered ourselves “adults”, the comfort of knowing these people would be there was security blanket enough.

Mom was our personal calendar and alarm clock. Mom told us to turn off the Xbox and study for the Chemistry exam. Mom told us that we had been wearing the same shirt for 4 days and we stunk. We then go off to college and seemingly out of nowhere, we’re forced to take ownership of our time. Initially, we are overcome with excitement and joy, right? “I can finally do whatever I want! What a wonderful world! I love life!” We live in complete bliss for a short while until reality hits hard.
Student: “How could this have happened!? I’ve never failed anything in my entire life!”
Me: “What did you do to prepare for the exam?”
Student: “I went to class and I studied a lot. What more am I supposed to do!? The professor definitely hates me and is a really hard grader.”
Me: “Ok. So you’ve attended all the classes and studied enough and you still got an F.”
Student: “Well, I mean, I overslept a couple of times and missed class. But, but, but, if I wake up in time, I’ll go to class late.”
Me: “How late is late?”
Student: “I dunno. Like 20 minutes…”
Me: “Ok, so what you’re saying is that you’ve missed class but when you do go to class, you miss half of it.”
Student: “Yea… I guess.”
Me: “And how much time have you spent studying?”
Student: “I crammed the night before… so I studied for like 10 hours.”
Me: “Did you study much before that?”
Student: “Ehh… I mean… ugh… I guess not.”
Me: “What have you been doing during your down time when you’re not in class?”
Student: “Uh… I just chill I guess. We play video games, watch movies… But I mean, I didn’t have to study THAT much in high school! Everyone told me I would have to study more in college but I guess I didn’t listen.”
Me: “Well, congratulations. You totally deserved that F.”
After this conversation, the student and I developed a bi-weekly plan to incorporate both play time and study time. Although he didn’t get perfect grades, his time management skills improved tremendously.

It has been remarkable watching these students begin to find their way. At some point during the first year, most students realize that in many ways, they must be self-reliant. It’s no longer guaranteed that someone will be there to remind them of what they’ve forgotten. Little by little, I’ve watched the change leading up to those moments where things finally click. “Ohhhh… personal hygiene IS important! Ohhh… if I stay up all night watching tv, I won’t be able to get up in the morning for my 8am class! Ohhh… if I eat pizza every day for lunch, I SHOULD go to the gym!”

If we can take full ownership of all of the decisions we make that have positive outcomes, we will have to take full ownership of the ones that leave a bad taste in our mouths. What’s nice about the latter is that with a little help, we can see that we have the choice, the option, the opportunity, to change.

“I believe that we are solely responsible for our choices, and we have to accept the consequences of every deed, word, and thought throughout our lifetime.”
-Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Jessica Ha is a counselor and a freshman advisor at Florida Tech

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