Planning the Unplanned

Transfer Goodnight Scholar Vie Villafuerte Patino on-campus at NC State University.

The thought of failing tore at my stomach, creating panic and fear as negative thoughts invaded my mind, but I learned more from it than any “A” I ever received.

For me, thinking about the future means thinking about the definition of uncertainty. I am not a planner, but I have goals I want to accomplish; the most important one was being able to attend NC State. I prepared to make this one a reality for a long time, but despite having the grades and the extracurriculars, there was still uncertainty because I simply could not afford it. Even though I knew the chance of me coming up with the money to attend a university was very small, I continued working on improving myself and giving my best at Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC).

As my graduation from CPCC came closer and closer, my levels of stress skyrocketed. I avoided the typical question of “What are your plans for after graduation?” because I didn’t know the answer. As much as I wanted to give an honest answer, I couldn’t. Seeing those around me with plans and concrete ideas for their future put a lot of pressure on me. It was difficult not to look around and compare myself with others that were in similar positions as me.

And that is a mistake I recently made again.

The truth is, no matter how similar situations we may think we have with others, we are all different. Each person has their own story, their own skills, and their own way of building their path. My path lost its fogginess the moment I got the call confirming my acceptance into the Goodnight Scholars Program. I finally knew what my future would look like and it was impossible to contain the excitement. I started planning my steps for my next three years at NC State. I planned my schedule with classes for my major while also including classes I needed for a minor I was thinking of getting. I had each semester written out on pieces of paper and saved on an Excel file. On top of that, I listed the clubs and organizations I wanted to be part of. They were many! I believed that things would be easier moving forward and there wouldn’t be any more worries because I achieved my goal of becoming an NC State student.

I was wrong.

The first few days attending my dream school were overwhelming. NC State offered more than I expected. It is a sea of opportunity and I thought I had to become Jacques Cousteau to explore it. I wrote my email on multiple sign-up sheets and starred every email that included “opportunity” and “accepting” in it. I added interest meetings and Welcome Week events to my calendar thinking I would be able to attend all of them. I managed to attend most and, seeing that my classes were starting off simple, I thought I would have the time to do everything I put down on my list.

A couple of weeks passed when it finally hit me. I knew there would be challenges coming in as a transfer student, and that the transition would be difficult, but I did not expect it would be this difficult.  I was not able to attend anything other than the first meetings of the clubs I was interested in. The unopened emails piled up in my inbox. The “we should hang out” requests became unattended helium balloons. I did not have time to do anything other than studying and homework. And even having put so much time into studying, I became discouraged with each failing test grade. The only time I was able to breathe non-library air was going to the Goodnight events. I signed up for several despite not having much time on my schedule because, if it wasn’t for this Program, I would not be where I am now. I really enjoy meeting other scholars and getting to know the pro staff better through these events.

This, however, also meant seeing how other scholars were doing. Once again, I started to compare myself. How were they able to do all of this while I am over here juggling nothing more than my classes?

The new question I tried to avoid was, “How is your semester going so far?”

This time I had an answer, but I was scared of saying it because I felt disappointed in myself and I did not want to show that to others. I had been so focused on planning for the best-case scenario that I had forgotten to plan for the worst-case scenario; the one I didn’t think was even possible. I felt a lot of pressure again and second-guessed my abilities. I felt as if I couldn’t meet the demand of my classes. Before I used to calculate my grades to see what I needed to get an “A,” now I was calculating them to see how much I need to pass the class.

I was not prepared to face this disillusion alone, so I sought help from what I consider my safe haven: the Goodnight Scholars Program. I reached out to Jay Perry, whom I had emailed 10 months ago asking if I was even eligible for this scholarship. Back then, his answer gave me hope. Now, after our conversation about my newfound disillusionment, I left his office with that same feeling of optimism I experienced months ago. I realized that just because things don’t go as planned or expected, doesn’t mean I don’t have the power to change them. I have to work with what I have and not fear putting some things to the side to prioritize others.

This semester might not have been the best, but that doesn’t take away my excitement of being here. It was a learning experience and I would not have realized my limit without it. Now, I am more confident to embrace the unexpected and adjust my steps accordingly. I am looking forward to what next year will bring. With one eye on my current path and the other towards the future, I will not forget what I can’t see and I will face it all with poise and strength.