"I'm just so excited for a new start!"
"I can't wait for all the responsibility."
"I'm so ready to leave home and just be on my own and work at my own pace."
These are all things that I heard frequently in the weeks leading up to college, and you may be as well. I remember being so uncomfortable and awkward because I had no idea how to respond whenever someone would say that to me. Do I pretend to be excited as well? Do I abruptly change the subject? I often would go for the simple smile-and-nod-politely-while-remaining-oddly-quiet-while-still-acting-natural. Did it work? Usually. Was I still faking my excitement and hiding my true feelings completely? 100%.
The truth is, I was absolutely terrified for college. I was dreading it. I had no motivation to start packing, buy dorm decorations, say goodbye, or get excited in any way. I vividly remember taking the required survey that all incoming freshmen had to take, seeing the open-ended response question that asked, what are you most excited for about this school year? I shrugged, took a deep breath, and wrote back the thought-provoking reply of, absolutely nothing.
I felt ashamed. Every day, I saw my friends posting on social media about all the exciting things they were planning for, how pumped they were for the new school year, and all the reasons why this should be something to look forward to, not have panic-attacks over.
I wish I would have known that all of these feelings weren't completely unique to me. Although I felt like there was nobody else feeling anxious or nervous to begin this "new chapter" of their lives, the reality behind it all is that everyone is feeling anxious. Everyone is nervous. Everyone has no idea where any of their classes are going to be. Everyone is hiding their true feelings. Everyone is faking their nerves so they appear to be more confident and subsequently fit in with the rest of the crowd.
There is not a single person who knows exactly what they're going to do on the first day of classes, or what their friends are going to be like, or how much they will succeed. However, one thing that is true for everyone is this: everyone has the opportunity to make this year big and scary change completely their own. Everybody has the chance to do something different, begin a new habit, change something about themselves, and try something new. The anxiety and fear might be real, but so is the way that we choose to manage and handle it all. We can choose to let our uncertainties consume us, or we can decide to let go of it all and live in the freedom that school brings.
Feel the anxiety. Feel the nerves. Feel it all. Then choose how to live with it.
And know that no matter what you're feeling, you are not alone.