Photo: Cole Keister

My Journey From a Lackadaisical High School Student to a University Graduate

I am a university graduate – University of Washington to be specific. And while I was able to achieve my educational aspirations, they almost never came to fruition. In order to reach my goal as a university graduate, I had to undergo a long and arduous journey filled with revelation, introspection, and determination that culminated in a new approach and motivation to life.

My Life in High School

In high school, I was probably best described as a lackadaisical teenager, one without a certain sense of self-awareness or long-term goals. As a testament to my immaturity at the time, I was more preoccupied with my part-time job as a dishwasher than school and an opportunity to pursue a higher education.

The way I saw it, dishwashing was my ticket to earning some money and having fun. I was making a steady paycheck and tipped in dollar bills, which was enough to sustain my life of going out with friends and enjoying myself. Unfortunately, by focusing on my part-time job and having fun with friends, I didn’t make ample time for school work and studying.

As much as I loathe to admit it, I found myself copying and pasting text from scholarly sources to meet an essay’s word count, blowing off studying for exams to get more sleep, or rushing through homework assignments because they were taking longer than I expected. And the grades I received – C’s and D’s were not uncommon – reflected my lack of motivation and effort in school.

And it was easy for me to justify my behavior and actions. Three, four, five hours of homework??? Are you kidding me? What kind of sadistic teachers and school system tortures students like this? I’m in school all day and I have a part-time job, I need some down time for myself. From my dishwashing job, I started having back pain. I would get headaches. I need to get my rest to help improve my health. Surely school shouldn’t get in the way of my health.

The harsh reality of the situation is that I was lazy and unmotivated – and honestly, immature – in high school. Unfortunately, I had not yet come to that realization. In high school, I skirted by and eventually graduated.

Community College and the Turning Point

I did, however, know one thing: I did not want to be a dishwasher for the rest of my life, and I decided to apply to community college to continue my education. I was accepted, but in many ways, community college was an extension of high school for me. I still worked my job as a dishwasher, lived with my parents, and had limited responsibility.

But there was one big difference: I had an epiphanic event while attending community college, one that led to an earnest reflection of my life and goals, and the decision to make a committed change for my future.

I was enrolled in a philosophy class. The professor was unconventional to say the least, and he eschewed traditional lecturing by inciting controversial discussions in class that would typically cause conflict between students. He seemed to derive a certain level of pleasure from not just causing uproar in class but by also goading students who took a particular stance on an issue.

Me being me at the time, I tried my best to refrain from drawing any attention to myself and kept quiet during class. Perhaps inevitably, though, I could not avoid his cross hair.

He had a particular disdain for religion, and he would often times go on rants about faith and God. One day, he spotted the cross necklace I wore and gave me a smirk before asking, “John, are you a Christian? And if so, why are you a believer?”

A bit flustered by his unexpected question, I paused a moment before responding, “Yes I am. I believe in God because I don’t think the world just came from nothing.”

He then asked, “Well where did God come from?” I explained, “He didn’t come from anything. He’s always been around.”

He then retorted, “So, you’re telling me that something so high and mighty that came from nothing made this universe? He’s sure nothing all right.” Some students chuckled in the background. Before I had a chance to process what he had said and respond, he had moved on and started a rant about the absurdity of God.

I was infuriated and humiliated. My pride consumed me to the point of no return. I decided that I would never attend his class again; and in a master stroke of immaturity I didn’t even bother dropping the class, I simply never showed up again.

For a while I enjoyed the moment. No more philosophy homework, studying, or exams to worry about. I used my extra time to hang out around campus with friends and mess around on my laptop. I didn’t worry about the ramifications of my actions. Until the end of the quarter, when – no surprise – I received a failing grade in the class.

That was just the beginning. Shortly thereafter, when grades for that quarter were officially released, I received a letter from the college. The letter informed me that I was no longer eligible to receive financial aid unless I was able to write a letter of appeal providing a compelling explanation for the cause of my failing grade.

My Big Revelation and Life Choice

The weight of reality came crashing down on me. I was going to lose the chance to pursue any kind of higher education and the future that I wanted. But it was my fault. I didn’t have a legitimate excuse for abandoning my class and shirking my responsibilities.

Realizing my biggest mistake, I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry on with these excuses any longer. After much introspection, I arrived at the conclusion that I was just being lazy and irresponsible. I just didn’t feel like owning up to my responsibilities, only wanting to live in the moment. I thought about how my peers, some of them single parents and others in much more dire circumstances, made significantly more effort to succeed.

I thought about how they would study in empty classrooms, the library, or anywhere on campus, making the time and sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals – and it put me to shame. So I made a commitment to fight for my chance to get back, and developed a newfound sense of determination to succeed.

I first had to address the issue with the community college rescinding my financial aid. Without aid, I would never have a chance to achieve my future educational aspirations. I thought about the letter I would write, and I took much time and effort to craft a response that would provide me with another opportunity. Perhaps one that I did not deserve, but one that I was going to fight at all costs to obtain.

In my letter, I addressed my personal shortcomings, my challenges with time management, and the struggles I had with finding a proper balance between school and work. I explained that I was committed to succeeding, and that I would not let this second opportunity go to waste if I was given another chance. Thankfully, my appeal was approved. I was given a second chance, an opportunity to finally prove myself.

And I worked hard to get my life in order and focus on my classes and school work. I mimicked my classmates and studied away from home. I found myself more focused and discovered a new motivation to work harder. And it paid off. I started seeing success, my grades improved, my confidence grew, and I had a sense of purpose to accomplish my educational goals.

My academic success provided me with a shot at something more, and I started looking at the opportunity to transfer to a university. I set my sights high, and I applied to the University of Washington. I was nervous but cautiously optimistic. And when I was accepted, I had a sense of excitement and accomplishment that I had never felt before.

Reaching My Goal and Continuing My Journey

It was truly a gift, and one that I embraced and worked hard to see through. I knew that if I carried on the way I had in the past, I would surely fail. I would not let that happen, I would continue to pursue my goals to graduate from the University of Washington. I vowed to not relent until I accomplished those goals, and I would not let myself or other people get in the way of my dreams.

I am proud to say that I finished strong and graduated from the University of Washington. My journey was not without challenges and hardships, but perseverance and determination helped me accomplish my goals. And they will continue to do so as I continue my journey in life.

I advise any student to remember that laziness is not hereditary, but a conscious choice that will have a detrimental effect on your future and reflect poorly on your character. Even if you’re a skilled artisan, if you display an unwillingness to work hard, take responsibility, think in new and creative ways, and treat others – and yourself – with respect, you’ll hurt your chances to achieve your dreams.

Choosing to not make the most out of school will only hurt you—there are many people who look back and regret the choices they made in regards to their academic pursuits. With that said, go out there and show the world just how great you are. You hold your future in your hands.

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My Journey From a Lackadaisical High School Student to a University Graduate

I am a university graduate – University of Washington to be specific. And while I was able to achieve my educational aspirations, they almost never came to fruition. In order to reach my goal as a university graduate, I had to undergo a long and arduous journey filled with revelation, introspection, and determination that culminated in a new approach and motivation to life.

My Life in High School

In high school, I was probably best described as a lackadaisical teenager, one without a certain sense of self-awareness or long-term goals. As a testament to my immaturity at the time, I was more preoccupied with my part-time job as a dishwasher than school and an opportunity to pursue a higher education.

The way I saw it, dishwashing was my ticket to earning some money and having fun. I was making a steady paycheck and tipped in dollar bills, which was enough to sustain my life of going out with friends and enjoying myself. Unfortunately, by focusing on my part-time job and having fun with friends, I didn’t make ample time for school work and studying.

As much as I loathe to admit it, I found myself copying and pasting text from scholarly sources to meet an essay’s word count, blowing off studying for exams to get more sleep, or rushing through homework assignments because they were taking longer than I expected. And the grades I received – C’s and D’s were not uncommon – reflected my lack of motivation and effort in school.

And it was easy for me to justify my behavior and actions. Three, four, five hours of homework??? Are you kidding me? What kind of sadistic teachers and school system tortures students like this? I’m in school all day and I have a part-time job, I need some down time for myself. From my dishwashing job, I started having back pain. I would get headaches. I need to get my rest to help improve my health. Surely school shouldn’t get in the way of my health.

The harsh reality of the situation is that I was lazy and unmotivated – and honestly, immature – in high school. Unfortunately, I had not yet come to that realization. In high school, I skirted by and eventually graduated.

Community College and the Turning Point

I did, however, know one thing: I did not want to be a dishwasher for the rest of my life, and I decided to apply to community college to continue my education. I was accepted, but in many ways, community college was an extension of high school for me. I still worked my job as a dishwasher, lived with my parents, and had limited responsibility.

But there was one big difference: I had an epiphanic event while attending community college, one that led to an earnest reflection of my life and goals, and the decision to make a committed change for my future.

I was enrolled in a philosophy class. The professor was unconventional to say the least, and he eschewed traditional lecturing by inciting controversial discussions in class that would typically cause conflict between students. He seemed to derive a certain level of pleasure from not just causing uproar in class but by also goading students who took a particular stance on an issue.

Me being me at the time, I tried my best to refrain from drawing any attention to myself and kept quiet during class. Perhaps inevitably, though, I could not avoid his cross hair.

He had a particular disdain for religion, and he would often times go on rants about faith and God. One day, he spotted the cross necklace I wore and gave me a smirk before asking, “John, are you a Christian? And if so, why are you a believer?”

A bit flustered by his unexpected question, I paused a moment before responding, “Yes I am. I believe in God because I don’t think the world just came from nothing.”

He then asked, “Well where did God come from?” I explained, “He didn’t come from anything. He’s always been around.”

He then retorted, “So, you’re telling me that something so high and mighty that came from nothing made this universe? He’s sure nothing all right.” Some students chuckled in the background. Before I had a chance to process what he had said and respond, he had moved on and started a rant about the absurdity of God.

I was infuriated and humiliated. My pride consumed me to the point of no return. I decided that I would never attend his class again; and in a master stroke of immaturity I didn’t even bother dropping the class, I simply never showed up again.

For a while I enjoyed the moment. No more philosophy homework, studying, or exams to worry about. I used my extra time to hang out around campus with friends and mess around on my laptop. I didn’t worry about the ramifications of my actions. Until the end of the quarter, when – no surprise – I received a failing grade in the class.

That was just the beginning. Shortly thereafter, when grades for that quarter were officially released, I received a letter from the college. The letter informed me that I was no longer eligible to receive financial aid unless I was able to write a letter of appeal providing a compelling explanation for the cause of my failing grade.

My Big Revelation and Life Choice

The weight of reality came crashing down on me. I was going to lose the chance to pursue any kind of higher education and the future that I wanted. But it was my fault. I didn’t have a legitimate excuse for abandoning my class and shirking my responsibilities.

Realizing my biggest mistake, I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry on with these excuses any longer. After much introspection, I arrived at the conclusion that I was just being lazy and irresponsible. I just didn’t feel like owning up to my responsibilities, only wanting to live in the moment. I thought about how my peers, some of them single parents and others in much more dire circumstances, made significantly more effort to succeed.

I thought about how they would study in empty classrooms, the library, or anywhere on campus, making the time and sacrifices necessary to achieve their goals – and it put me to shame. So I made a commitment to fight for my chance to get back, and developed a newfound sense of determination to succeed.

I first had to address the issue with the community college rescinding my financial aid. Without aid, I would never have a chance to achieve my future educational aspirations. I thought about the letter I would write, and I took much time and effort to craft a response that would provide me with another opportunity. Perhaps one that I did not deserve, but one that I was going to fight at all costs to obtain.

In my letter, I addressed my personal shortcomings, my challenges with time management, and the struggles I had with finding a proper balance between school and work. I explained that I was committed to succeeding, and that I would not let this second opportunity go to waste if I was given another chance. Thankfully, my appeal was approved. I was given a second chance, an opportunity to finally prove myself.

And I worked hard to get my life in order and focus on my classes and school work. I mimicked my classmates and studied away from home. I found myself more focused and discovered a new motivation to work harder. And it paid off. I started seeing success, my grades improved, my confidence grew, and I had a sense of purpose to accomplish my educational goals.

My academic success provided me with a shot at something more, and I started looking at the opportunity to transfer to a university. I set my sights high, and I applied to the University of Washington. I was nervous but cautiously optimistic. And when I was accepted, I had a sense of excitement and accomplishment that I had never felt before.

Reaching My Goal and Continuing My Journey

It was truly a gift, and one that I embraced and worked hard to see through. I knew that if I carried on the way I had in the past, I would surely fail. I would not let that happen, I would continue to pursue my goals to graduate from the University of Washington. I vowed to not relent until I accomplished those goals, and I would not let myself or other people get in the way of my dreams.

I am proud to say that I finished strong and graduated from the University of Washington. My journey was not without challenges and hardships, but perseverance and determination helped me accomplish my goals. And they will continue to do so as I continue my journey in life.

I advise any student to remember that laziness is not hereditary, but a conscious choice that will have a detrimental effect on your future and reflect poorly on your character. Even if you’re a skilled artisan, if you display an unwillingness to work hard, take responsibility, think in new and creative ways, and treat others – and yourself – with respect, you’ll hurt your chances to achieve your dreams.

Choosing to not make the most out of school will only hurt you—there are many people who look back and regret the choices they made in regards to their academic pursuits. With that said, go out there and show the world just how great you are. You hold your future in your hands.

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