Graduating creator looks back on making it through and offers some advice to those still on the journey
By Jenelle Dulack
Knightly News Reporter
Throughout my time in college, I struggled greatly – more than anyone might know.
I chose to be guarded; I find that people who care to know what I am doing or how I am feeling will simply know due to their interest in my life, and so I’ve never been the type to pursue friendships I don’t believe are right for my growth process.
By relying almost entirely on myself during this three-year-long escapade (note: my family is 1,100+ miles away), I learned that I have a bad habit of rumination, in which I reexperience the same negative thought over and over until something obstructs the thought, or I do something about whatever is bothering me.
I often chose the latter as my escape route, which often led to me trying to fix unsolvable problems in other people’s lives.
To rid me of this tangential problem, I decided that when I notice the circular thoughts creep in, I use one of my favorite mantras to replace the repetitive phrase with a new one. Because this method helped me refocus my attention on my needs and wants, I wanted to share a handful of the ones I found most valuable.
What’s ahead – always better than what’s left behind
When I visited Central Penn during Closer Look Weekend in 2019, I approached everyone I met with wonder and fear.
I knew college was right for me but didn’t know where I was expected to fit in.
Elle, my new alter ego, was a shell of a person, someone with no discernable personality and created to be intentionally forgettable, but bold enough to approach everyone with eager eyes. I needed to know who everyone else thought they were. Were they willing to move on from their high school personas and grow up into prepared professionals?
I noticed immediately that most people held onto their past accomplishments like medals that only they can see. They had an internal obligation to hold this medal close to their chest as a reminder of their self-importance while also reminding others of their accolades we can’t prove exist. Only in a past life did these honors matter greatly, and now they are half jargon and half gibberish to most people, so share your passions, because your accomplishments just won’t resonate with a potential new friend.
I shed my old skin, readying myself for a new reality in which I must rebuild my respect and reputation. It’s not easy, but it’s not rocket science; dedication to making something out of nothing is what makes college simultaneously horrifying and exciting.
Luckily, I am a master of making something out of nothing, making Central Penn, an already beautifully painted canvas with some empty space for new additions, the perfect place for me to get in gear and be a creator.
Allow yourself to release the burden of your past positive or negative experiences. They don’t matter much here; no one will reward you for being on your high school varsity lacrosse team, nor will they mourn your broken leg for you. You must do yourself the favor of allowing yourself to be a newly evolved person in each era of your life. And it is undeniable: Starting college is a new era!
Do something for yourself that you’ll appreciate tomorrow
Being creative usually goes hand in hand with having a busy, messy life.
It took me a long time, but I learned that if I do something for myself today that I will appreciate tomorrow, there will be at least a pebbled-sized weight off my shoulders.
For example, most college students know exactly what I mean when I say we all have “that one chair.” You know, the chair you pile all your clothes on when you’re too tired to hang it all up? By being reminded that this task will take no more than 2 minutes and that it will make me feel good to see the chair clean and usable, I feel far more motivated. If perhaps the task will take more than a few minutes, but I know that doing it will make my headspace clearer, I make sure to schedule it into my day. Remember, you are your own best friend; if your closest friend was having a tough time staying hygienic, you’d probably reach out to help them because making them feel better makes you feel better. Do the same for yourself!
Make your own fun
I am a storyteller, a weaver of experiences into an understandable narrative, but not just on paper. While I found much enjoyment in writing about interesting people and events, I realized that it is far more fun when your colleagues get to have a good time with you. With the premise of creating community in mind, I asked myself, “How can I make my own fun?”
By doing something to fill the empty space of boredom, I assumed that there would be at least one person interested in participating in whatever activity I was serving up, and my hypothesis was correct! In three years, I made four documentaries, more than 30 videos for The Knight Way campus information club, interned at two companies, organized a film festival and curated an art exposition.
Would I have been able to do any of that if putting a smile on my face wasn’t one of my top priorities? Absolutely NOT. When I was training to be a resident assistant, we did one activity with Dean of Equity and Student Success Megan Peterson in which we had to list 25 of our top values in our lives and slowly narrow the list to three.
I watched as some of my colleagues chose to keep their family pet and their beloved car.
This was painfully difficult to start, having to eventually cross off my parents and my hometown, but from the get-go, I knew I would never cross off “being happy most of the time.” (They know I crossed them off, and they don’t mind. If they made the list for me, they would have chosen for me to be happy over appeasing them.) Choose yourself, and then stand by your choice.
(That last sentence is a reminder to me and whoever else needs to hear it.)
Mantra mumbo jumbo?
I understand that learning a mantra can feel like you’re an actor attempting to learn your lines, but if you force yourself into believing what you tell yourself, just like you do with all your negative thoughts already, then you can save yourself from hours of sitting in your room and thinking, “How could I have done better?”
You couldn’t have done better, because you didn’t have the tools yet, but you can always be healthier in your mind, body and soul.
By actively working toward rewiring your negative thought patterns, thoughts like those won’t even come to mind anymore and you can live free from the reins of your past self-doubt.
Goodbye, Central Penn.
Thank you for teaching me some of the most important lessons you can learn outside of a classroom.
With her graduation, Dulack is ending her term as president of The Knightly News.
Comment? Contact KnightlyEditors@CentralPenn.Edu.
Edited by media-club co-adviser and blog editor Professor Michael Lear-Olimpi.