I can’t believe that we have reached the end of this semester. So much has happened in my life in just this year, let alone my last 5 years here at VCU. I am so happy to be graduating on May 12, 2018. My undergraduate journey has been long and challenging but from this course I have learned so much about myself and ways to create a better version of me. The image above best represents what I’ve learned this semester. In the midst of so much overwhelming negativity that would normally affect me immensely, I was able to overcome it and see a brighter day ahead with the help of this course. Looking too far in the future can create anxiety and dwelling on the past doesn’t help one to move forward. Taking the time to be in the moment allowed me to realize that you have to truly take one day at a time. As a soon to be graduate, I feel like I have all the tools I need to move into the next chapter of my life. The major lessons I learned this semester were definitely about forgiveness, having positive thoughts, how to manage stress and ways to improve my well-being.
The first thing that this course allowed me to realize and implement into my life was to have positive thoughts. I didn’t make the correlation between thoughts, emotions, actions and behaviors until we discussed this cycle in class. I always knew I was a positive person but upon reflection I noticed that I can complain and be pessimistic at times. My family has told me this before but I didn’t want to believe it fully. Understanding that this was an aspect of me that wasn’t the best, I became determined to work on my road rage and a better way to control and express my emotions. To this day, I can definitely say that my road rage has decreased for the better. Although I sometimes get a little anxious to get to my destination, I take a mindful moment as a way to remind myself that my road rage is hurting nobody but myself. The driver that cuts me off or is driving slowly in front of me doesn’t have to been seen as an obstacle or someone in my way. When I drive now I take my time and maneuver behind the wheel like the experienced driver I know I am instead of using my skills as a way to create dangerous and unnecessary situations. As far as controlling my emotions I have done a better job. My mom has been trying to get me to understand that I am the master of my peace as the only individual who can control my own emotions. Her wisdom mixed with our discussion on positive psychology has allowed me to take better care of my feelings. In both circumstances, once I realized that control comes from within, I began to think and act in a matter that was more beneficial to me, which started with being more positive. I have seen a major change in my life from this, I am able to better navigate through situations that life brings daily. I feel much happier in my life because of this realization and change. Everyone deserves to genuinely be happy and that comes from within.
Another topic that I learned a lot from includes our discussion on forgiveness. This concept has never been easy for me and I’ve struggled with it from such a young age. Living in a household with separated parents that later got divorced was difficult. What made it even worse was the fact that my mom was stationed to Germany and my dad was living in South Carolina. Upon choosing to move to Germany with my mom, she found interest in my now stepdad who I saw as an intruder in my family. On a daily basis I reminded him that he wasn’t my dad and made sure to let him know that I didn’t like him. As I reflect on this time in my life, I can recall the hurt I felt from being 9 hours by plane from my father. The first few months, I cried every night from this pain which didn’t allow me to accept my stepdad for a long time. After many years of hardships and time together, I have finally forgiven him in my adulthood as I am able to tell someone who I used to tell I hated, that I love him genuinely as a father figure. This allows me to know that forgiveness as well as happiness comes from within. Being able to better express my emotions, I don’t let them get the best of me and I can now fully articulate how I feel which was something that I wasn’t able to do as a child growing up. To take advice from what we discussed in class, I’m actually writing my three parents gratitude letters to thank them so much for all their support throughout my collegiate career. I know that my stepdad will be especially surprising understanding how far we have come in our relationship. This course helped me learn how to use positive emotion to cope with negative ones. The idea of using your strengths to improve your weakness has stuck with me since we talked about this concept in class. I was happy that my final project mates wanted to talk about forgiveness. I learned from our participants that family can have an effect on your interpretation which is truly evident for me. Understanding that forgiveness is for yourself and not the other person stuck with me from the responses as well. This allowed me to realize that any change is going to start with myself. As something that I am continuing to work on in my friendships and past relationship, I feel confident that I can become a more forgiving person.
Ways to manage stress and improve my well-being are topics that I learned from as well. There are a lot of circumstances that can create stress in our lives but using proper ways to deal with it is so important. I love how positive my social media looks with all the weekly posts so I intended to continue to post uplifting messages on my profile. From the responses and likes that I have received on these posts, it lets me know that I’m doing my part on a platform that creates stress from usage. I hope that this continuation will allow my followers to think twice about what they post and maybe encourage them to do the same with their posts. Being more positive is a great start but taking time to exercise your mind with positive breaks is just as vital. Doing yoga at Cary Street was such as great stress relieving exercise for me. I would have never known how peaceful it was so I’m glad I was able to experience this with my classmates. Now that finals are over, I will be making this activity one that I participate in when I’m feeling stressed. Learning about mindfulness made a major impact on my life and how I deal with stress as well. When we had a mindful moment with Dr. Reina I was in such a calm state. I wasn’t worried about what I needed to do after class, that night or by the end of the week for that matter. I was able to be present in the moment which I usually never take the time to do. Today, when I feel that my brain needs a mental break, I close my eyes and take a few deep breaths. I have even given this advice to my friends during these last few weeks of classes with assignments and finals. In order to improve my well-being, I have made myself more aware of my social networks. As a sociable person I didn’t think that my social well-being was at stake until realizing that this relates to my view of the world and the city of Richmond. When I was working as an Orientation Leader and a UTA, my social well-being was at it’s highest. I was able to see that I was making a difference in the world instead of just being in it. I realized that I have a lot to say but don’t do much to incite change which is nothing without action. Now that I have made it through my last semester as an undergraduate, I plan to volunteer more often and make changes in my community that I would typically just complain about.
Overall, this course has helped me create a better version of myself. I am so proud of my improvement and am excited to continue to grow as I move further into adulthood. Having science to back up the topics we learned made it easier to believe that what was being said can actually have an effect on one’s life. As a science major who has taken biology, environmental and social courses, I aspire to use my knowledge that I have obtained from VCU to make the world a better place.
Image Source: http://www.allpilgrims.org/into-new-being/#!prettyPhoto/0/