My first semester of college was probably the worst time of my life. From living with a toxic suitemates to just being away from my family, my mental state was deteriorating at lightning speed.
Each day was one fight after another and I never thought I'd find my silver lining. As I proceed into second semester, I finally have the courage to reflect on those dark days and really point out the variety of things that truly saved me.
From albums to food, I can easily say these various things listed below helped me more than I will ever fully realize.
1. Current Mood by Dustin Lynch
At the beginning of college, I was listening to a ton of music. Not only did I find comfort in it, but I felt a stronger connection to home since me and my family all listened to similar music. Dustin Lynch's current album, Current Mood, dropped right around the time classes started and I had been anticipating the album's release all summer. When I finally got my hands on it, I latched on to it like I was in the middle of the ocean and it was my raft. The combination of sassy love ballads and upbeat party songs comforted me in whatever my current mood was (no pun intended).
2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Whenever I am super unhappy, I have the habit of binge reading. So, it comes no surprise to anyone that a book made this list (and don't worry - this won't be the only one I mention). I read Fangirl a couple of years ago in high school and it was always one book I could never get out of my head. I originally brought it with me to college mainly because it is about a girl named Cath and how she struggles with her first semester of college. I always related to Cath on many levels and when I was struggling just as much with college, I picked up the book immediately to find some comfort. After just a week, I had read the entire book and find some peace.
3. Caramel Lattes
My schedule for first semester was super bizarre. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I was out of the dorm from 9 AM to 3 PM. I had 3 classes with an hour break between two of them and naturally, I had way too much time on my hands. During these much needed breaks, I had time to get myself some coffee and work on homework. After some trial and error at the Grind, I found caramel lattes. It is such a simple concept but the combination at the time was so perfect. The warmness, the sweetness... all so, so comforting as I viciously worked on English homework.
4. Legends by Kelsea Ballerini
I never realized what a single song could ever mean to me. Legends was released way before I ever got to college and truthfully, I never paid much attention to it when it came out. However, something clicked in me and listening to this song while walking to class was like getting one giant hug. Whether it was the whimsical melody or the heartbreaking way Ballerini sings "I'll always wear the crown that you gave me", I carried this song with me wherever I went.
Number 5 here could also be known as "my parents". Not only was I able to video chat my best friend from back home but I also got to connect with my wonderful family. Almost every week I would Facetime my family, mainly because I have never ever been away from them for such a long time. The previously mentioned suitemates found it greatly annoying and that broke my heart. Talking to my family was keeping me so happy and if they were just going to take that away from me I was going to be truly alone. I was able to get such great encouragement from them and they listened to all my issues on Facetime. Naturally, I insisted I needed to communicate with my family so I did. I learned to slowly tune it down but still, it helped me so, so much.
6. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
Shocker -- a John Green book made the list. I have always loved John Green and his writing style so when I heard he had a new book in the works, I was ecstatic. The novel was released in early October (specifically: a Tuesday -- I know this because I only had 1 class that day) and I wasn't planning on getting it that day. However, I felt I needed to avoid my suite (shout out again to those suitemates) so I pushed myself to get on the bus and take it to Boswell Books on Downer. This was the best decision I ever made. Not only did I get a little gift for getting the book the day it came out but the book is signed by the author himself. Plus, it is such a good book. It has all the notable components of a John Green novel that it made me really miss reading his novels. On top of all that, my sad self managed to read the book within days and it really helped me take my mind off a lot.
7. Reputation by Taylor Swift
Oh? You thought you could get through this list without there being something about Taylor Swift on it? Think again. Reputation dropped pretty late into the semester (November, to be exact) but the album boosted my confidence in such unbelievable ways. One song off it that I am specifically thinking about is track 13: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. I have never related to a song on such a personal level. During the album release, there was so much ridiculous things going on in my suite that we literally could not have nice things because of one suitemate. I truly credit this album with helping me get that edge and ambition to drive out the negative being that hovered around us.
8. Service Learning
I reside on the Education LLC and for the required class (Educational Policy 315) we had to sign up to volunteer somewhere. I chose to be a tutor at Summit Education in the outskirts of downtown Milwaukee. In the program, we were paired with a student for the whole semester. For the first half of the 2 hours we would do homework. The last half was dedicated to playing sports. Not only did this program help me see that the major I was in at the time was not right for me but it also allowed me to get out of the suite for a good few hours. In that time gone, I got to see a lot of Milwaukee and learn my way around the city. I got to venture out alone on the buses and while it sounds stressful, those bus rides made me feel better than I could ever imagine.
9. Food Network
Don't worry -- this will not be the last time I credit food-related television for helping me out. It is just right now I want to focus on how glorious the Food Network is. While at home, me and my parents watch a lot of Food Network shows together. From Worst Cooks in America to all the Baking Championship series, it was like we lived off Food Network shows. Being the homesick girl I was, I carried that tradition with me to college. I watched a ton of Halloween Baking Championship along with Worst Cooks in America: Celebrity Edition. Oh -- how could I forget the most pristine competition ever: Holiday Baking Championship! Needless to say, I was watching a lot of people baking and can basically perfect pâte à choux with my eyes closed.
Yes, I know Christmas happens after the end of 1st semester, but I am one of those people who starts Christmas season November 1st. Complain all you want but Christmas makes me happy and I was desperate to be happy. That last few months of 1st semester was when I, as a decent human, was tested a lot. When I needed a little bit of cheeriness in my life, I could always turn to the spirit of Christmas. From candy canes to Glow by Brett Eldredge, I was milking all the happiness Christmas could give me. (Special shout out to candy cane Hershey kisses)
11. The Great British Baking Show
Yes, I am about to talk about the most important show ever. I found this show on Netflix back in high school but upon revisiting it, I found new episodes were added. This show had me consumed for the last few weeks of school. Mary Berry is such an icon and dang can these bakers bake. The hosts are the most adorable women ever and really, the entire show is a gem. The show is a gosh darn blessing to the world. If you need to feel just an ounce of happiness, this is the show for you. I swear by it.
12. Concert Tickets
This is my true wild card on the list but hear me out. Me and my family are huge fans of going to concerts. So much so, I believe I just live concert to concert. Therefore, getting concert tickets really gives me something to keep striving towards. I never realized how much they mean to me until my mother got us tickets to see Kenny Chesney (our all-time favorite artist) at Miller Park. The pure happiness and hope I felt after hearing her say she got us tickets to see him in April is indescribable. The tickets gave me something to look forward to and really motivated me to stick it out here.
13. American Horror Story
You know no decent human can survive without Netflix coming in to be their crutch. My show of choice was American Horror Story, as if that is any surprise. During my time in my room first semester, I managed to rewatch every season (some for like the 4th time... hint: Murder House) but I will admit I avoided Freak Show (for obvious reasons). Not only did I have it on Netflix, but me and one of my great suitemates watch AHS: Cult when it was airing on FX. These nightly rituals and routine really helped me take my mind off the craziness surrounding me.
14. My best friend
Okay, this one is not exactly a thing or item instead it is my best friend from back home, Diana. She was such a good shoulder to lean on during my rough first semester even though she was so many miles away. She let me rant to her day and night about my problems with this place and my suite. She just listened and gave me so much advice. Diana was constantly keeping me upbeat, sending me funny texts... Everything I could have ever asked for. I can easily say she is my bestest (it's a word now, chill) friend ever and I really do not know how I could have gotten through my first semester without her. (You're the best, girl, and I cannot wait until we see Niall Horan in July)
15. Everything's Gonna Be Alright by David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney
I leave you with something to uplift your spirits. I have talked so much about my struggles of first semester that I could say that second semester is looking much, much better. And that everything's gonna be alright. I always need this song just to remind myself that everything is okay, everything is fine, everything will be alright. It takes time and positive vibes but you'll always achieve happiness at some point. There is no need to hit the panic button and everything will be fixed within a reasonable amount of time. It just takes keeping you head held high and, as I said, this song helps me remember that almost everyday.