This article was written by Darren Butler, a 2018 National Merit Scholar.
In grades eleven and twelve, it seemed like I was doing well, but in reality, I felt utterly lost. I was unsure of the meaningfulness of my recent successes. I wasn’t satisfied with being a student with good grades. I felt there was more to my life than that; I wanted to have a visible impact on my environment. Simultaneously, I was struggling to decide what my career path would be after graduation so I fought between preparing for work I would enjoy and preparing for a career that Bahamian society would deem suitable for a smart and talented person. These anxieties spurred feverish energy in me and I started to do everything on campus to figure out what was right for me. I devoted myself to so many organizations and projects that I no longer did much of anything for myself. I sacrificed sleep to plan for meetings and service projects. I constantly thought about how I could take my organizations to the next level, even if it meant sacrificing sleep, studying, or peace-of-mind. I was coming home late in the evening only pausing for 20 minutes to eat then proceeding to homework, practice, or planning until I couldn’t bear the fatigue anymore. I would regularly just sleep in my uniform. This left me so unhappy that I wasn’t sure what I was working for anymore. If I could travel back in time, I would give myself these five tips so I could live a healthy, productive student life.
Understand your personality, your motivations, your likes, and dislikes so you can construct a productive environment. If you know yourself, you can more easily determine goals and choose appropriate methods for achieving your goals. For example, I established and managed a band in my old school for two years until I graduated because I thought music was the core of my identity, but after much reflection (and even more headache), I realized that I didn’t want a band, I wanted to inspire others to reach their full potential in whatever their passion is. To know yourself better, I recommend taking a personality test. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to yourself because no one can understand you like you.
Believe that God already put greatness in you and don’t let it be defined by any single activity. I borrow that idea from Denzil Rolle. He was speaking at a workshop I was attending when he gave this message, though I did not understand it as well as I do now. He used the example of playing saxophone, saying that you are not great because you play saxophone well. You make the saxophone great because you put your greatness into it. Similarly, you aren’t great because your grades are good, your grades are good because you put your greatness into it. When you believe in your innate greatness and don’t fool yourself in thinking a certain activity or other people make you great, it’s easier to walk away from harmful situations.
When you constantly find yourself in a situation where you’re constantly being disrespected, taken advantage of, or feeling physically and emotionally drained, remove yourself from that environment. You are going to meet people who, intentionally or not, will try to bring you down, especially in the midst of your success. In particular, beware of those who use your determination to succeed to take advantage of you. These people usually express that they want to achieve the same thing as you, but they don’t adopt the appropriate habits to do so. Also, don’t be so determined to reach the goal that you repeatedly let them get away with it. If you believe in your greatness, you’ll realize that you have so much greatness in you that there’s more than one way to reach your goal, or you’ll realize that you can put that goal on hold, and go after something just as good with less stress.
It doesn’t pay right away, but being a student is your job so you have the right to take pride in your work and take steps to do it as well as possible.
Prayer does not have to be long and complicated. Just acknowledging that you need the Lord’s help is a great start.
Honestly, God is the realest friend you’ll ever have and according to the Lord’s Prayer, to have good communication all you have to do is:
Start small with prayers with the first three points and you’re off to a good start. The feeling that someone has your back is reassuring.
With all that said, I leave you with this final message:
All the best!
Darren Butler graduated as valedictorian from St. John’s College in 2018. As an advocate of technology for community development, he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Engineering. He serves as an active member and leader in the National Society of Black Engineers, Students of LinkedIn, and the Bahamas Engineering and Technology Advancement. Darren hopes to be a leader in be Bahamian technology sector and support STEM education in the Bahamas.