As I sit on my uncomfortable futon in the 10×10 room I call home at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, I can’t help but reflect on the last couple of months that made up my first semester. I think that coming to college can be very accurately compared to a baby bird learning how to fly. You kind of just get pushed out of the nest and are expected to know how to soar without even really being taught! It feels like a sink or swim type situation. Good thing is, even if you sink at first, there’s probably many more people who did the same, and you all manage to find your way back up to the surface eventually.
On the day I, and my fellow 18-year-olds, turned this age I think that we felt like we suddenly earned the title of king/queen and that legally becoming an adult meant we knew everything. This couldn’t be further from the truth, but I think there is definitely something to be said about the magnitude of lessons, skills, and information you learn after just a single semester at college.
First, no matter how prepared or independent you think you are, you will end up feeling teeny tiny and incapable of going forward any longer (for a period of time, that is). Why can I say that? Because of all the people I know, I thought that I would be the one to never get homesick or question my entire existence. Funny thing is, about a month and a half into my first semester I thought I was having a midlife crisis at 18. I found myself questioning my major, the classes I was in, the school I was at, my future plans… everything. At the time, I was sinking.
The bad times are inevitable, but the good times you have in college make up for any “midlife crisis” or failed homework assignment. It’s true! It really, really is. Before I even got to college they talked about the W curve. You come in thinking you’re still on top of the world, but then you fall down into this thing they call “culture shock.” You begin to get into a routine and start climbing back up that W… only to fall one more time. After sinking twice, though, you get pretty good at learning how to stay afloat. No matter how long it takes you recover, you come to find that all the other good and even average times at college makes up for it all.
The woman you were convinced ruined your life, ends up becoming your most trusted confidant. By the end of my senior year, I would say that I was ready to move out. I wanted the freedom and independence that living at home couldn’t give me. For this reason, I was constantly butting heads with my mom over very petty things. After coming to college, all those fights became so insignificant. I remember one night at around 11 pm, I sat down, opened my laptop, and composed an email with the subject line: “Read at lunch time or toward the end of the day.” I was nearly in tears after expressing my appreciation and thankfulness for all my mom had and continues to do for me. I felt that the least I could do was warn her, so if she too cried, less people would be around. She ended up thanking me for that, as she was “sniffling in her cubical” after reading the email.
Friendship takes work. This may be one of the weirdest concepts to grasp. For the most part, we haven’t really had to make new friends in years. Friendship was easy, because if you went to school then you saw your pals. The tides change when you go to college, though. Now, you’re not going to be in all the same classes. You’ll sometimes even go an entire day or two without seeing your closest buds. But if you really want those friendships to grow, you just may have to go out of your way to see them. This goes for high school friends too. Going off to college doesn’t mean cutting all ties. It’s totally okay to have high school best friends and college best friends.
There’s literally something and someone for everyone. For one of my freshman classes we were required to go to the activity fair. Lame, right? Well, yes… sort of. But on the other hand, I was able to see just how much stuff goes on outside my little bubble of comfort. If there’s something you like to do, there’s probably a club for it. Similarly, there’s so many different kinds of people on my campus. College has a funny way of bursting that comfort bubble, and expanding your acceptance and inclusiveness to people you never would’ve imagined.
You find yourself being okay with things you never thought you’d be okay with. Community bathrooms, for instance. Before my search for the perfect college even began, I was convinced that I’d never attend a University that didn’t have private bathrooms for each dorm room. Today, I can proudly say that I can poop in my shared floor bathroom without being scared of someone walking in (yes, I said it because I know I’m not the only one who overcame this fear). Wearing your clothes more than once before washing them, going an entire day without showering… You know, the things every freshman goes through but thinks they’re the only one. Don’t worry, I got your back… you’re not alone!
It is okay to be alone. I’m a social butterfly, and most would describe me as an outgoing extrovert, but man does socializing take a lot out of you sometimes! Having quiet alone time is almost necessary to maintaining sanity. In part, because it seems like we’re constantly with people. In classes, in study areas, even in your room because you now have a roommate! Don’t forget to take care of yourself, though.
You don’t have to have everything figured out right now. I’m not quite sure why society or high school puts so much pressure on you to have your entire life planned out at 18, but trust me, it is SO okay to not have it all together! Granted, I know my major (or at least I do for now), but if you ask me what I want to do with it I couldn’t even give you a hint. Who cares! Take life as it comes, and you’ll figure it out eventually. Hell, some adults don’t even know what they want to be when they grow up. Seriously, DON’T STRESS about it, no matter how many times people ask what you’re plan is.
Life is short. Every single day you have to wake yourself up and decide you’re going to have a good one. No one is going to hold your hand, pat your head, and tell you everything is going to be okay. You’re an adult now, you make that decision! Take control of your day, find something positive the madness, cry it out, laugh a lot, love wholeheartedly, make mistakes, take risks, try new things… all those cliche things you’re sick of hearing. Listen to them. You are worthy, you are enough, and you will succeed. The first step is believing it, the next step is doing something about it!