Past academic dishonesty haunting me 5+ years later

Reply Sun 28 Apr, 2019 12:01 am
How do you come to grips with past personal failures and regretful actions that you ultimately benefitted from?

To put things into perspective a little bit, the past 2-3 years or so I have experienced quite a bit of personal growth, which I am thrilled about. I have a much better sense of self, of who I truly am & what I am capable of, which feels great. The down side, if you can call it that, is that I am now looking at things I let myself get away with in the past, unethical behaviour and failure to hold myself to any sort of standard (due to the lacking sense of self and self respect I believe). There is no one massive eff up that haunts me, no hurting of anyone else (but myself) I suppose, just bad habits that I let grow over time without really realizing or having the capacity and awareness to call myself out and change.

One such example that has been bothering me as of late is my academic dishonesty and behaviour while in university, which I graduated from over 5 years ago.

As an 17/18 year old, like many, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. What I did know (or thought anyways) coming out of high school was that the next natural step was university. In retrospect, it wasn't right for me at that time, but it was what everyone was doing, and I was a follower. I didn't have amazing grades, but good enough to get into a general arts program (B+ student) and a the university of my choice. I could then sample some courses, and pick a major that was right for me.

I LOVED the university I chose, met some amazing people who I am still close with, and had a fantastic social experience. Tons of fond memories. Academically was a bit of a different story. After year 1, I never quite found a major that was suitable for me, that really excited me or truly felt like a fit. I picked the most well-rounded social sciences program I could, which subsequently meant my course load consisted of a random variety of disciplines. The thought was that I would be a more well-rounded thinker, which I guess I am. The problem with it was that there was seemingly no sense of community, no connection to the program, no mentorship or accountability for me. That's the key here, ACCOUNTABILITY, something I very much lacked. Looking back, I needed this big time. I developed a passion for some concepts and ideas that I studied, but nothing really stood out as a potential career path for me. I was more or less drifting from class to class, each one with a new prof and wave of students I had never seen before (because of the inconsistency in discliplines). The scattered nature of my courses left me constantly having to switch gears and the style of learning was not really for me looking back.

Unfortunately, a full course load simply felt like too much, leading to myself neglecting 1 or 2 classes (of the 5) each semester. Typically in these 1 or 2 classes, I developed a bad habit of having no problem copying from other students on midterms or exams from time to time if I could, specifically in my early years (not pulling the age card, but 18-20 year old). From my memory, I only did this on multiple choice portions of exams, which terrified me as a result of past exam failures. I thought nothing of it at the time, a few answers here or there, and only if I was really in a pinch. I was never going into an exam without studying and solely relying on cheating, but I'd do it if I could, especially when I felt totally lost. My average on these exams that I cheated on surely didn't exceed a 60-65% - this was not being do to enhance my grade, but simply to stay afloat.

As I entered my final 1-2 years of my 4 year degree, the class sizes naturally got smaller, and the emphasis switched from multiple choice testing of a class of 200 to more written paper-focused. This allowed me to explore my coursework more through writing and actually ENGAGE with the content, class mates, and professors, which allowed my to really thrive and exceed my expectations. There was (virtually, I'll be realistic) no more peeping at other students multiple choice answers, mostly because there were almost no multiple choice questions in my exams. My grades naturally continued to improve as time went on, and I proudly graduated knowing that I really grew as a student and left university a better than when I entered. I also felt a bit silly, knowing now what I was capable when truly applying myself. But I think my success in these later years definitely was a result from a tighter classroom community, more FaceTime (and thus accountability) with my professors, and more freedom to explore what interested me in my writing assignments.

Unfortunately, looking back today the feeling of pride I felt at graduation 5 years ago is overshadowed by the guilt and shame from all of those times I copied another students answers in order to simply get by. I wasn't proud of myself in those moments, but as a younger, dumber, more insecure individual with no sense of direction and accountability, I suppose it was easy to justify. The main question I ask myself now is do I deserve my degree? How do I come to terms with shameful actions that I benefited & gained from?

* For context, 5 years later today I have a career that I love in an area that is completely different from my degree. I took a certificate program following my university degree in a more specific discipline, and am happy to say that I have found my calling. Ultimately, what brought me here is the uncertainty I felt throughout my university education as to what I was going to do with my life, so I am thankful for that.*
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Reply Sun 28 Apr, 2019 12:26 am
Can't help with the guilt. Memories do fade and so does guilt.
Reply Tue 30 Apr, 2019 08:08 pm
Agreed, time heals all, but only if you do something g with that time. Working on putting some of that negative energy to a good use.
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