Anna’s declassified college survival guide: Tip #8 give grace to yourself and others

My dearest reader,

Welcome back to school! Whether that is in-person or online, I hope you find as much joy from classes resuming as I do. For those of you who read my column last year, feel free to skip the next few paragraphs. However, for those who are finding this column for the first time, please let me introduce myself so we can be friends and you’ll wave back on campus.

My name is Anna Panek and I am a third year student as this fine institution that I call one of my many homes. I am double majoring in Math Education and Spanish Education, with a minor in Special Education. So yes, I love school and plan to spend the rest of my life at one. When I am not in class, you’ll likely see me in my role as a learning assistant or tutor for the math department. In my free time, I try to engage and involve students in some of the organizations I am involved in: the Future Educators Club, the National Society of Leadership and Success, and the Council for Exceptional Children. 

The University Chronicle welcomed me into the family in the fall of 2018 as a young writer for the variety section. My second semester on campus, the Editor-in-Chief (EIC) took a chance on Matt (the current EIC) and I and let us run the variety section. And the rest has been history in the making. For our peers who scoffed at the variety section (you know who you are), well now we are running the entire University Chronicle with pride and big goals for the future. 

This column came to be last fall when I realized that I had learned a lot during my freshman year of college and I really wished someone would have told me some of those lessons like I watched in Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide that got me through middle school. After a few columns, word got around and I was getting asked when my next tip would be posted. Hopefully these tips are helping some or at least making a few eyes roll with my bad jokes and puns. 

Anyway, down to business. Tip #8 for the column and the first for this school year is to give grace to yourself and others, and in that order. Grace has lots of definitions, but in general means goodwill and kindness. 

When was the last time you were extra kind to yourself? When was the last time you were extra kind to others?

If you are like most people I know, it is much easier to answer the second question. Most people are kind to others; we share a smile, we open a door, we pick up slack when someone else needs it. However, sometimes we put ourselves on the figurative back burner when it comes to being kind. 

When we get stressed, full of anxiety, or heightened emotions of any kind, it can feel more natural to put grace to the side. Usually, when this happens, 20/20 vision gives us a little kick in the backside. 

Let’s start with a short story of when I got a slight kick my sophomore year of high school. I was taking a business class and working on a presentation with a classmate of mine. We had a full week to prepare and I had felt like I had done a lot of the work. On the last day, we got a full class period to work on it. She didn’t show up. I let my emotions get the best of me and got upset. Halfway into the class period, my teacher got a phone call. She answered it, nodded a few times, hung up, and walked over to me. My partner had gotten into a car accident. Thankfully she only had a few scrapes, but her car was pretty badly damaged. Anyway, it was a very humbling moment when I should have extended grace until I knew the whole story. 

This story is just one of many examples where we can be humbled by our quick reactions to something. It’s amazing how much smoother one’s life can be when we extend grace to others first and ask questions later. 

Now for a story where grace was extended. A few semesters ago, I was working on a project and needed help from a friend to complete it. My friend had graciously agreed to help me and then I hadn’t heard back from them for a few days, which was out of character for them. Anyway, I extended grace, assumed they probably had a good reason for not responding, and pushed my project off to the side as it was a self-made deadline anyways. A week and a half later, I finally heard back from my friend, with the favor I needed done, and apologizing for the delay. The person had a stressful household for a while due to a parent being in between jobs. 

Extending grace first always builds a better bond between you and the person you are extending it to. While it is easier to extend grace when we know the reason, we can’t always know. It is much better to assume there is a good reason and understand that we aren’t always entitled to knowing it. 

I would share stories of when I haven’t extended grace to myself, but all my friends and family reading this will get on my case for biting off more than I can chew. So just take my word for it. Deal?

For the times that I do extend myself grace, I know that I am much more at peace and people are almost always understanding of it. More often than not, we have much higher expectations for ourselves than others do and we put a lot of imaginary rules and deadlines on ourselves. 

Especially in this unprecedented time (though I do hope we can stop saying this phrase soon), it is even more imperative that we act with grace and offer a helping hand or a smile when we can. 

Until next time, take care!


If you enjoyed reading this, check out my previous tips:

Tip #1      Tip #2      Tip #3      Tip #4     Tip #5      Tip #6      Tip #7

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Anna Panek

Anna is a junior at St. Cloud State University and is double majoring in Math Education and Spanish Education, with a minor in Special Education. She is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle this year. When she is not at campus attending class, working as a learning assistant or math tutor, or writing for the University Chronicle, she enjoys volunteering, reading, being overly competitive at board games, and telling horribly funny puns.

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