What are you proud of?

“What are you proud of?” is one of the questions I tried to address in my writings last week.   I’m fortunate enough to have made several accomplishments in my short life and I scribbled some notes down about some of them, but looking over my responses I realize that all the really big moments I am most proud of have a unifying theme that’s somewhat unconventional.

When I started writing I didn’t think about graduating from High School as a Valedictorian, or acing 40 pages worth of papers in 3 days of college finals, or any number of other academic accomplishments I’ve had over the past 16 years in school.  Rather, the moment that first jumped into my head was when I made the decision to drop out of Honors Chemistry in college.  Yes, 17-year-old Alexandra was more proud of dropping an honors class than any of the As she had under her belt.  Truth be told, it took a lot more courage for me to drop that class than any high-level course could demand.

It was the first time I put my emotional and physical well-being and happiness before my potential academic achievement.  In high school I pushed myself to the max, but college afforded me the opportunity to change my priorities.  Why did I drop Honors Chemistry?  The schedule conflicted with a dance class I wanted to take.  I’ve done ballet my whole life and I decided that dance was more important to me than a weighted grade in a subject I didn’t love.

Making the decision was uncertain and scary but I knew that it was the right thing for me.  The moment I realized I had successfully altered my schedule and defined my own priorities was absolutely liberating.   It was hard for me to wrap my head around – but I think that’s why it made me so proud.  I had the power to define myself and decide what was important to me.

The moments that evoke the most pride for me all deal with having the courage to do something for myself.  To do what I think is right.  To step outside of my comfort zone and try something new.  To stop following the path most people have laid in front of them and to instead try something that might be good for me, even (and perhaps especially) if it breaks the mold of what I think about myself.

I am so thankful that I dropped that course all those years ago because it laid the foundation for many leaps of courage to follow.   None of them are the most impressive of accomplishments (after all, dropping out of Honors Chemistry doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment does it?), but they are the moments that have made my heart happiest and led to the most growth in my life.  It’s hard not to be proud of that.

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