Upon returning from my family trip to Cancun, I curled up in my bed, the slight grime of the airport still sticking to my skin, my body weary from the day of travel. Despite this, I felt good, relaxed from the trip and feeling the slight warmth of sunburn (for the first time!) on my cheeks and shoulders. That is, until I grabbed my computer and checked DukeHub for the first time in over a week.
My eyes bugged out as I focused on the red notifications that alerted me to the one of the stupidest mistakes I have ever made. It was August 9th, and my tuition had been due nine days ago. Even more alarming than that, there was a $500 late fee for not paying on time. Now for some of you, this may not be the biggest deal, but, for me, as an incoming freshman on a new playing field, a wave of panic rushed through me and shook my core, threatening to drown me. Will the university revoke me? How stupid could I be to forget this? How did I even get into Duke? My parents are going to kill me…
I did tell my parents, and yes, they were mad. But with help from the Duke Bursar and a lot of work on my dad’s part, the late fee was waived, and I managed to not get removed from college. But unlike most of my other blunders, this was not going to be overlooked per usual.
Throughout my whole life, I have always been a scatterbrain. When I was young, I would lose my homework folders, toys, and gold jewelry my mom had adorned me with in such high hopes (sorry mom). But as I grew older, I didn’t grow out of this habit; it continued in other ways. Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t completely out of it; I never turned in homework assignments late, and I was on time for work and other extracurriculars. But it was still an ever present issue. I dropped phones (yes, multiple phones) in water, I lost my wallet, I left my keys in the car; you get the point.
And while these might seem like silly mistakes that everyone makes, the reality was that I lacked discipline. I lacked the ethic and good habits that I need to build in order to be one step ahead of my responsibilities, not two steps behind. The bigger mistakes I make stem from the smallest of things: not cleaning my room, not checking my email, or not putting my keys and wallet in the same place every day. The repeated act of doing these things doesn’t only make a habit; it instills the conduct needed to be responsible with greater duties. And honestly, I had finally had enough of the constant cycle of being fine for a period of time, followed by running around like a headless chicken when something easily preventable would inevitably go wrong.
So, a week before leaving for college, I began to change myself in little ways. I started making my bed every day, and I put reminders on my phone to check my email, clean my room, make my bed, and charge my phone and computer. I littered my calendar with all the upcoming deadlines with alerts for two or three days before. And now, as I am being launched into a new life at Duke, not yet as the mature, responsible person I am striving to be, I am trying to use this as a new opportunity for self-growth.
Of course, I am looking for an amazing education at Duke and friendships that will last forever, but I am also seriously looking for the transition from a reckless teenager to an actual, independent adult. I am sure that the combination of working on it and living independently, without the safety net of my parents or sisters in the same house as me, will be able to alter how I handle responsibility. I know it might be hard, and I know there will be more mistakes. However, I am also hoping that even having the desire to change will help me at least a little bit of the way there.
So Dear Duke,
As a freshman writing this on the 10-hour road trip to Durham, I hope you will be able to make me into more of an adult. Because being an adult isn’t about paying your bills or scheduling your own doctors’ appointments. It’s about the little things: being accountable for your belongings and being aware of your responsibilities at all times. And if being an adult starts from cleaning your room every day, I sure am willing to try.
Sana Pashankar is a Trinity first-year. Her column, small girl, big ideas, runs on alternate Fridays.
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