SENIOR COLUMN: Don't wait for the next big thing

SENIOR COLUMN: Don't wait for the next big thing

Madeline Anscombe, Photo submitted

I first had braces in the fourth grade and because I lost my retainer, I got them again during my sophomore year of high school. Most of my friends were getting them off around this time and their presence made me incredibly self conscious. By the end of probably the first week, I was already counting down the months until their removal. Soon getting braces off meant a plethora of things, it would perfect my life in ways that current me could not. I would be happier because I looked prettier, I would have the courage to talk to boys and would easily find a boyfriend. People would treat me kinder and I would hold myself differently. 

Obviously, this was incredibly dramatic and, furthermore, just not the way things work. When my braces finally came off I was surprised to find myself in the exact same spot as I was before. Having straight teeth did not make me more confident, it did not make me more likable, and unsurprisingly it did not make a boyfriend appear out of thin air (braces did not make me any less socially inept). Also I had to wear a retainer, which again, I lost. 

Fast-forward to October of my senior year of college: I found myself more alone and depressed than I had been in a very long time. I considered dropping out, transferring to a school close to home and eventually decided that I was too close to graduation to give up. So I stuck it out, and for months, I was convinced my life was going to be miserable until graduation. I closed myself off to new experiences, new people and once again found myself counting down the months. I found myself as caught up with the next big thing as I was six years ago waiting to get my braces removed. 

This time, however, I remembered that this mentality would not fix my unhappiness. After some time I decided to make the conscious effort to make the most of my remaining time at Alabama. I did so to enjoy life not in anticipation of the next big thing in search of deriving purpose from the many small things left, too. 

My advice to both my fellow graduates and to those who will remain here long after I am gone is avoid getting caught up waiting for the next big thing. Whether that means starting therapy, changing your diet long before you are concerned about spring break, or even just embracing the time you have left in college, there is so much room to grow by making the most of the present. Some of my happiest and most meaningful memories at UA have been born out of creating opportunity at times when it would have been easiest to throw in the towel and hope for things to fix themselves. 

I think all too often we forget that instead of doting on the things we don’t have, we can create our own big things. After experiencing the devastating effects of sexual assault firsthand during my freshman year, I realized that no change was going to occur by just waiting around, and the following fall I started Not On My Campus, a sexual assault advocacy and awareness organization. When I felt as if student health and wellbeing concerns were at a disconnect with administration, I was conveniently asked to help create the Advisory Council on Wellness during my senior year. This is not to say that I do this perfectly, but rather, to illustrate the opportunities that came forth when I realized that my four years were not meant to be lived waiting for the next big thing to come my way. 

Many times it is hard to do so. It is all too easy to get caught up in superficial things such as the amount of leadership positions we hold or even the amount of date parties we are asked to (one, for the record). But while these are fun and exciting, they should not negate the tremendous joy to be found in the world around you each day. Furthermore, there will always be roadblocks regardless of how pretty you look, how many cords you wear or how many likes you get on your Instagram posts. Things only change when you put in the time and effort to make the most of your situation and bloom where you are planted. 

As I started to pack up my things the other day and get ready to leave Tuscaloosa, I found my retainer in a box of old belongings. I washed it, tried it on, and, unsurprisingly, it barely fit over my slightly crooked teeth. I thought of braces and of October. I took the retainer out and decided to call my orthodontist for a check-up appointment. His receptionist did not sound pleased to hear from me, but I assured her that I didn’t see braces as a death sentence anymore. Now they are just another thing in what is a much bigger picture. 

Madeline Anscombe is a senior majoring in anthropology. 

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