At this time two years ago I felt more than ready to delve into the unknown that would become my new life: college.
Let me give you a glimpse into my life just before leaving home (or at least how I viewed it): eldest sister of three, exceptionally independent having been ready to leave the nest for three years now, outgoing, friendly… Basically perfectly acclimated to leave home and start a far more independent life.
Flash forward about a week into my freshman year and, for my thousand something instagram followers, my life looked obscenely perfect: new girl in Kappa Kappa Gamma, a totally strong relationship with her hometown boyfriend, no mental illness (Depression? I don't know her!), always out at parties with her new best friends, exploring the hip-town that is LA, smiling in the SoCal sunshine all day everyday, does not miss home whatsoever.
How my life really was? An 18 year old hot mess who doesn't love her social life, has a less-than-perfect long-distance boyfriend guilting her for leaving, psychiatrist puts her on a 40 mg dose of prozac (rather than her normal 20) due to increasing depression, hardly able to get out of bed, cries at least twice a day, calls and texts her mom all day, is a homesick wreck.
You get the picture.
The thing about leaving for college is that you never consider the possibility that you're going to be miserable for even a second. No one wants to admit her first few weeks or months were anything but the absolute BEST time of her life. Even if you call your friends crying, they won't admit life away from the comfort of home is difficult, even scary, at times.
Everyone wants to maintain the illusion that their life is oh-so-much better now that they're a ~college student.~
The fact of the matter is that it probably won't be, nor does it have to be! There will be times when you're absolutely miserable and wish more than anything to be back in your living room, sitting with your mom and your dog watching Netflix.
It doesn't make it any easier that everyone's social media accounts are filled with ONLY the highlights of how "great" their lives are.
For me, the first six weeks were the hardest. I longed for home more than I ever had. The fact I wore my heart on my sleeve only made things harder because, even once I opened up, very few would admit to me that they, too, were struggling.
It took all my strength, a few scares with my mental health, and incessant urging from my parents not to move back home and go to the local college, for me to truly settle into my new life.
To my surprise, once I made it through those first weeks, I was happier than I had been in years. Life finally felt like it was falling into place. I dumped the toxic people holding me back from my hometown, and made some great new friends.
I'm now a junior at UCLA and I haven't spent a summer back home, merely because I have no interest in ever living home again. I enjoy the independence and opportunities my new life affords me, even if it's difficult at times.
My life now? A 20 year old who just moved into her first apartment with some friends, spent the summer traveling with her more-than-perfect graduate boyfriend, still on prozac but back to a regular dose, calls her mom once a day because she still misses her, with a new puppy at home.
Don't get me wrong, there are still times when I yearn for the warmth of home, family, and my old friends. I think of the simplicity of living with my parents. The difference is, I now view those things as something I'm lucky to be able to miss, rather than life-or-death necessities.
I recall the winter of my sophomore year being at party back in my hometown and talking to a girl who had just recently finished her first semester at college. When I asked her how it was, she told me it was difficult, that she was really questioning if leaving had been the right decision.
I told her how painful my experience was—she was shocked, "But it looks like you literally have the perfect life!" I laughed and told her how fake social media can be, and that if she pulled through a little longer, life would get better.
Moral of the story: 1. Don't let social media fool you, no one's life is perfect, and 2. It's okay if it's hard—that's perfectly normal.