Freshman. The butt of many college jokes and a synonym for immaturity. There are two periods in life that also fall under this term — the first year of high school and the first year of college. Both are the beginning of a new chapter, and both contain their own unique forms of pain and pleasure.

As a high school freshman, I was still riding that groove of middle school culture — conform or die a social death (essentially). The Hollister emblem emblazoned on my (hand-me-down) t-shirt, I walked into high school nauseous with nerves and excitement. I was excited to mix with other classes in a way that middle school prevented us from, but kept quiet and didn't want to speak up in any of my classes. I developed some friendships and a (now embarrassing) crush.
By the end of the year, my friend was dating this crush and I was as unhappy with myself as I was in middle school. I had been quieter and tried to fit in with my friends and none of the cool upper-class boys liked me. And I'd had enough. So I chopped 12 inches of my hair off. My long hair, which I had grown in an attempt to become more attractive and fit in more, was annoying, getting stuck one too many times in my armpits in the heat of my un-air-conditioned high school. I had wanted to have my hair chopped off since Emma Watson had rocked a pixie cut while at the time of the last Harry Potter movie but was waiting until I was older, and also had been told boys wouldn't like me if I cut my hair off. In the spring of 2015, I cut it all off and cut off the voices in my head that told me to care what others think (contrary to my mother and some others' belief, the major haircut was not symbolizing me coming out).

The growth (of self not hair) and development helped me become the person I am today. I developed friendships on my cross country and track teams that would last years to come and I believe will last a lifetime, and enjoyed high school classes much more than middle school classes.

Now as the spring semester comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on what I have learned and the importance of my college freshman year. I have not had four years of distance that will allow me to understand the long term effects of this year like I did my high school experience, but I can still ruminate. I still have the short hair, I'm gonna rock that style for a long time. While high school gives you slightly more independence than middle school did, of course, this independence skyrockets as a college kid, out in the college world on your own. I went into college excited and confident, and it met my expectations … kind of. The classes were different than I expected; I often found myself bored and frustrated, but also learned new things I never expected and will carry throughout the rest of my life. I developed new friendships that went through emotional ups and downs I had not experienced before. I lost my lanyard (RIP the $250 it cost to replace its contents) in autumn.

While not experiencing the same self-transformation as my freshman high school year, I have learned many lessons, social and academic, about myself and the world around me thanks to the experiences I've had at university. I look at my past self with compassion, and hope that my future self will do the same.