Motivation in the Now

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By Jewel Marie

When I first came to campus, I was so excited and anxious – like every other college student – to try something new. To meet new people. To have fun, do good work and more importantly, build my future. I was in a dark place a couple years ago but it’s so relieving to be in a spot where I can say “I might actually make it.” 

Over the last few years, motivation has become a sensitive topic for me. I’ve changed so much; my activities are different, my passions and goals aren’t what I once thought they’d be, and even how I live life feels fundamentally changed from the ground up. 

I struggle to get out of bed. I don’t come up with ideas like I used to. I can’t even enjoy doing the things that I previously loved. The worst and possibly the scariest part about all of this was realizing that I’m not the same person I once was. Some ways for worse but some for better. 

When I went through middle school, I thought I had everything right at my fingertips. I actively played two instruments, performed solos in concerts, competed in tennis, served as a board member for our junior honor’s society, and most importantly I loved being involved in everything I did. It made me feel like I was special and that I had some sense of purpose being at school besides just going there and getting work done. 

High school was where the lines started to get blurred. It started out strong. I was in not two but three different bands including marching band, which included summer training and early morning rehearsals on the football field that I was more than happy to do during the first year. I loved playing in a band even if it meant marching and sweating for at least 12 hours a week and smelling disgusting. 

But then came the upperclassmen. These students were talented at their instruments but really liked to remind me and others that they were higher up. That they were better. I used to be at a point where something like that couldn’t knock down my motivation. And it didn’t. In fact, this experience made me realize what type of leader I wanted to be. I wanted to be someone who  respected others, even if that meant making mistakes. I didn’t want someone to think of me as a leader – I wanted them to see me as an equal. 

I got bullied quite often throughout my school years. I was called obscene names, shoved into lockers or crowds of people daily, and even got thrown into fights. I would either be too scared to defend myself or on the rare occasions that I did, the bullies would gaslight me or play victim to the point I would somehow be the one to end up in trouble.  

I didn’t care for that at the time. Sure it hurt my mentality and I would engage their behavior more than I probably had to, but I still felt confident enough in myself to let other people’s feelings and opinions slide past me. 

In elementary school, nobody liked me. I had a few select friends but other people never understood my problems. I didn’t know how to act or talk to people including my teachers because I didn’t understand social cues. Asking a question as simple as “how are you” felt like an unnecessary chore. I would get distracted during class to where I’d spend my time either drawing or daydreaming. Sometimes my only focus would be on recess or lunch. 

Everything became different during the COVID-19 pandemic. During junior year of high school I quit singing, marching band, forensics, public speaking, journalism and basically everything I did that made me feel like me just so I could attempt an early college program. I took the biggest chance I ever had in my life. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had started to feel like I had lost my purpose.  

The major I picked turned out to be something I would regret. The ideal goal was that I’d graduate high school with an associate’s degree after two years in the program, but instead I left it after the first year. 

Juggling high school and college classes while traveling to a campus 30 minutes away was difficult. I stressed myself to the core with dual classes all while trying to figure things out about myself. I developed serious depression and learned what anxiety is. After quitting the program and choosing to finish off my senior year just at the high school, I felt like an entirely different person in all the wrong ways. 

I never went back to band or forensics but despite re-entering my school’s yearbook and newspaper team, my outlook on everything felt completely morphed to what it was. When I was at my best I would’ve written an opinion piece on something like motivation or dreams and goals. After coming back, however, I would instead probably write a piece about something like Twitter and hyperfixate on how they don’t have an edit button. 

It took me a while to stop feeling upset about graduation. I felt like I had nothing left anymore. I wasn’t really excited in the ways I used to be, I started losing interest in the video games or shows I used to love, and most of my time was spent not wondering how I could move forward but instead how I could go back to the times where everything felt so simple and straightforward.  Moving forward felt like an insurmountable wall where there was never any use trying to climb it to begin with. Then I took another big chance and started attending McPherson College. 

Getting out of my comfort zone for the second time was one of the best decisions I made. I’ve met all sorts of amazing people and learned so much about my potential future. Some things have happened to me while here – good and bad — but I’m still here. I didn’t think I was going to make it past two weeks but everything aligned and I’m still going. 

I may have done all sorts of activities before but now I focus on graphic design, and it’s something I’m happy with. Someday, somewhere, I’ll be keeping arts and design a part of me and my future and that’s a part of the better person I am now who’s slowly starting to regain that  motivation. 

One thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years in college is that it’s okay to not have everything entirely figured out right away. I love design work but I don’t know what my life will look like after I graduate. There’s still so much I have to learn and that can be overwhelming. But I’m learning. I’m doing the best I can with what I have. I make mistakes and actively try to learn from them everyday. So many things are different to the point one could argue too many things have changed. 

Yet I’m still doing fine. In high school I was arguably very suicidal to the point one wrong move could’ve been the tipping point that sent me over. My life may not be completely perfect now, but I’m living. I don’t want to die like I once did. I have to put faith into my work and hobbies, while also keeping faith with the friends I have in the now that do make an effort to be my friend. Those are the people that matter and being friends with them reassures me that I also matter. 

What I do now may be different but doing graphic design is something I’m finally happy with. I’ve changed in so many ways that I never thought possible. Slowly but surely I’ll regain my motivation in full, but for now the best thing I can do is look for the things that excite me and give me purpose. Starting in August I’m looking to rejoin band for the first time in four years. I just added a third minor degree for my pathway. For my own benefit I’m going on a personal drawing journey to help me relearn the fundamentals and create art I can truly be proud of. 

One step at a time, I’ll be there in the now.

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