Being back at my home university for my last semester at college has, in so many ways, reminded me how I have grown in the past three and a half years.
When I came to college, I was 17 years old, unwilling to leave the nest and despite being the maturest teenager ever – I was not ready to grow up. I saw college as a death sentence. In fact, I distinctly remember crying before bed on Christmas Eve of my senior year thinking that it was my last Christmas as a “child” and how I didn’t want to leave home.
And when I moved to college my freshman year in the fall of 2010, it was as bad as I imagined. The world seemed to be crumbling around me and, in so many ways, it was. The isolated existence that I had created for myself was lonelier without my parents and despite joining clubs, I couldn’t seem to connect with anyone. When I returned for spring semester in the spring of 2011, I came dangerously close to dropping out.
I repeated this same process again the fall semester of 2011, when I got so precariously close to leaving school that my finger was centimeters from the withdrawal button.
Things continually improved until the fall of 2013 when I shocked the hell out of not only my parents but also myself when I got on a plane to go to England for three months.
Flash forward to now, the end of my first week of my last semester of college, and all I can think is, this has been one heck of a ride. College has been hard for me. It has been a constant struggle, an endless battle to confront new things, and to grow as a person. For me, college hasn’t been about just the classes, but the life exercises that my time here has put me through.
Today, I look at the new freshman and, I can’t help but remember myself three years ago – lonely, angry, and scared. And maybe I am projecting but, I can’t help but think where my life would be now if I had given up when I wanted to. If I had dropped out of school and moved back home three years ago, where would I be?And, I guess I am writing this not just for myself but, for everyone out there who is wondering – can I make it through this? There is hope. If I could go back and talk to my 17-year-old self, I would tell her one thing – take a deep breath.
Especially in these past few months, I have noticed the calm that has come to replace what used to be panic. As a teenager, everything always felt like such a big deal – everything was the end of the world, but as I have grown and confronted the things that antagonize me, I have been able to move past them.
And, to anyone out there who is contemplating a rash decision – whose finger is hovering over their own withdrawal button – my advice? Take a deep breath. Think about what you are doing. Realize that life is long, and this moment is just that, a moment. Do not let your fear define you. Think about who you want to be in the future. Think about how that person would think about this decision.
Because if college has taught me anything, it is this. Taking the easy route, making the comfortable choice, while satisfying in that moment, can so often lead to regret. When life gets hard, buckle down and keep trucking. Tough love (thanks mom and dad) can be the most necessary kind. And fear can only define us if we let it.
If you think that I went to England and didn’t once question why I was there and, just want to give up and go home, you’d be wrong. England was hard. There was tears, homesickness, and periods of loneliness. There were a lot of times I wanted to give up, only to stop and think how much stronger I would be if I stuck it out.
Your choices matter, really matter, and for anyone struggling – keep going. Life is going to get easier the more you confront what you are running from. If I had given up on college when I wanted to, I would have spent the rest of my life wondering “what if.” There is no weakness in pain, it’s what you do with that pain that determines what kind of person you will become.