So often we compare ourselves to how we were in the past to how we are now. I am not sure if this is an American thing or just a human thing, but we're very retrospective and all about that self-growth.
College is also just an immense time for self-growth. It can be overwhelming to recognize all the change that you see in yourself, but also the change that you see in your friends and other loved ones. But at the same time, it should be very rewarding to feel the change come about and recognize the change you see in yourself.
In this first month of college, I have spent a good deal of time with first year students and now as a junior and an upperclassmen, I have been recognizing a lot of change in myself and how I have grown from where I was in the first weeks of college to where I am now, entering my third year.
So what has changed? Let me tell you:
Friends are oh so important to me, and I think it came to college and experiencing the struggle of finding good friends that helped me realize just how significant friendships are to me. The first year students I have been hanging out with have this seemingly strong, close-knit group that was pretty much instantaneous. I hear from them how much they love each other and want to live with one another in the future. I look at them in awe, mainly of their fresh spirits and excitement. But I also look at them with the warning look of a mother, thinking "It might not always be this peachy keen."
To me, they are experiencing the world through rose colored glasses. I want the best for them, but I can help to think of my experience with friends freshman year and shudder. The first few months of school I struggled to find a group that I could call my own. The first people I attached myself to were not the right people for me but they were my safety net and I didn't want to remove that. But I had to let myself fall in order to let myself fly. Once I fell away from that group, it allowed me to explore on my own and discover new friendships and new people. This also didn't just resolve itself in the first year. It took me all of last year to continue to explore and grow new relationships.
In the beginning, it was terrifying trying to ask people to be your friend. But now I find it exciting, getting to know new people, asking others to hang out with you. The process of finding friends can be daunting but in the end, it is satisfying and rewarding. Plus now I know the people around me lift me up, cheer me on, challenge me, love me, and will want to hang out with me and I want to hang out with them. There is nothing better than having a good group of friends and everyone deserves that. If you find your friends instantly then that's amazing. But don't fret if it takes time. Just remember to hold on to them because friends are always necessary.
The first roommates you have in college are always an interesting experience. They are good, bad, ugly, sometimes confusing. Sharing a small space is hard. It is also hard in your first year because no one knows what their routines and habits are going to be like in college. So that can also lead to conflict. My freshman year I realized I needed a friend in my roommate. I wasn't a fan of being by myself with a limited amount of friends and coming back to a room and a person I didn't like was even harder. So that struggle was real.
Headed into my second year, my roommate and I had a budding friendship and I was excited to live with someone I actually knew and enjoyed. It was an interesting dynamic trying to build a friendship with her while living together. We certainly were able to build our relationship, but living in a small space with one another was trying at times. I think of her as a bridge, a bridge between needing a friend in my first year and becoming independent during my second year. Now, though I am much more independent and while my roommate is great.
Our relationship isn't as influential or as much of a focal point as I once needed this relationship to be. We are each so busy that when we end up being in the room together and awake at the same time we get excited. It's lovely to chat with one another, but we also allow each other space to get our stuff done. The evolution of what I need from my roommate wasn't something I expected to happen, but now recognize why that's a good thing and it also shows how I have grown.
I feel like the academic workload of college slowly builds. And builds. And builds. One Saturday night after getting dinner with the group of first-year students I have gotten to know, I parted ways with them to go back to my room to do work because I hadn't had any time all day and left them to make sangria in the dorms. I chuckled to myself at them having a more fun night than I was going to have.
Wishing I would have been more carefree in my first year on campus and that I had time to have fun now. I do have time to have fun, don't get me wrong. But at this stage in the game, academics are much more prevalent and consuming. We are here after all to get an education. And sometimes it is more fun and important in your first year to have a good time with new friends than to let your homework overwhelm you.
My communication with my parents
This is something I have been noticing in the past couple of weeks and am not sure how I feel about it. When I first came to school, I would be texting my mom throughout the day. We wouldn't have anything significant to talk about, it would just be chatting and checking in. To me it was comforting to have a running conversation with her, it was like having her by my side even when she wasn't there. But now though, we might go most of the day without sending each other a text. I think it goes to show that now we are both more used to not always being with each other or in constant contact. It's bittersweet but also it isn't necessarily a bad thing either.
At the beginning of college, I wondered how I could ever be without either of my parents for long stretches of time, I would be counting down the weeks until I could see them next. But now, I am more comfortable being on my own. I love the long FaceTime sessions that my parents and I can have in catching up with each other at the end of our weeks. In some ways, one long chat can be more meaningful than having several throughout the week. There is more to say and more to hear about and it serves as a reminder of just how fortunate I am to have the parents that I do.
During my Freshman year it always felt like I was looking over my shoulder, concerned about what everyone around me thought of me. I would question and overthink my decisions. Now though I am secure in the decisions I make and do them with confidence.
I feel this change in myself and I think all of the factors I have already talked about contributes to this confidence. The people I have around me support me and make me feel good. My living situation is positive and one where I am comfortable and enjoy. The homework is a lot and can be overwhelming but with a to-do list, it is manageable. And I know now that I am confident in being independent and away from parents.
All of this makes me a happier, healthier person who is enjoying her college experience. So, if you are just starting out on the crazy path of college, take a breath. It takes time but it will get better. Everything builds on each other. So in the end, you'll be grateful for each experience you'll have, the good, the bad and the ugly. But once you get to a spot where you are happy, comfortable and confident, everything up until that point will be worth it.