College is a time for change. It’s a time for finding yourself, who you are, and who you want to be. And most of the ride is just that-finding yourself. And sometimes, that may just take the whole four years to do so. After just one year, I expected to know myself. I expected to know what I stand for, what I believe in, and how I see myself. But this is unrealistic. Here’s my journey.
All throughout my life, I was known as small. Standing just above 5’ 2”, I weighed just 98 pounds all throughout my high school years. I was the designated “tiny” friend. I always got the middle seat in the back of the car and was often told to "eat a burger." I was also known for having long, beautiful blonde hair. When asked what my best feature was, all my friends responded with my golden locks. I was known for its length. I had always had long hair. Even my kindergarten photo showed it off; so long it was cut out of the frame at the bottom. In addition, I was smart. I graduated number 10 out of 160 students in my high school class. I was in three honor societies, over 10 clubs, held many leadership positions, got a 30 on my ACT, and had a 4.47 GPA. I was known for being smart. And lastly, I was the girl with the boyfriend. Starting in December of 2012, we were inseparable, deemed by our friends as “relationship goals,” and even won Homecoming King and Queen.
But then I graduated, and everything changed. It was June, and my boyfriend of two and a half years and I had suddenly split up. Within a few days, my rock had suddenly disappeared. We had planned on attending the same college, and now, I was going into college all alone. I was all for a drastic change, since that’s what had recently happened in my love life. And so it was decided. I chopped a whopping 13 inches off my hair. Just moments before, it had reached the waistband of my jeans. And just seconds after, it didn’t even reach the top of my undershirt. To top things off, I even picked up a nickname that I would go by at school. But it was a fresh start, and it was just what I needed. I felt like a different person.
Then I got to college, and I discovered my dorm’s delicious pepperoni pizza. And fries. And cheesecake. Cheesecake every day? I was in heaven. Why eat anything healthy when there’s a constant supply of all my favorite foods? For the first three days, I ate nothing but the food items above for dinner. And it showed. I gained 5 pounds right off the bat. This may seem like such a small amount, but on my 5’ 2” frame, there was a noticeable change. Clothes that I had had since freshman year of high school suddenly were too tight on me. I was no longer known for being the smallest or having the flattest stomach. To make matters worse, I had quickly gone from a stand-out student in high school to an average student in college. A 4.47 GPA and a 30 ACT were the norm now. I didn’t join many clubs, and I felt like a failure.
I felt like completely changed person.
Within a matter of months, I had gone from being the smart, small girl with the long hair AND a boyfriend, to being the single, average sized, average intelligent girl with the short hair. I was just like any other average person. I didn’t feel special. What made me stand out? I was a whole new me. I had lost myself in the process of finding myself. I had changed so much of what I knew to be familiar in the past couple months that I had nothing to remember my old self by. Nothing of me was permanent. Nothing was familiar. I felt like I didn’t even know myself anymore. And it showed. I was lost.
It took a very blunt wake-up call from one of my best friends from home for me to realize that I wasn’t myself anymore. He had come to visit one weekend, but instead of spending time with him, I spent all my time with my new, glamorous friends as he sit on the sidelines and watched. Needless to say, when he got home he had some not-so-nice words for me, saying that I “wasn’t who I used to be” and “where was the old me?” This made me reevaluate. Why had I lost myself? I had only become single, cut my hair, gained some curves, and changed my name, so why did I think I was so different? I quickly worked to be who I was before. I cut many toxic relationships out of my life. I tried to reconnect with many of my high-school friends to try to get a sense of familiarity and who I was before I had come to college. I talked more to my parents. I focused more heavily on school, having the work ethic of the student I had previously been. I picked up a couple clubs at the semester mark, even gaining a few leadership roles. I slowly but surely saw the old me start to come out again.
I didn’t write this article to seek out attention for putting on a few pounds, or complain about my new haircut, or even criticize my university for not choosing me as an Honors student. I’m not. I’m here, telling you my experience of trying to find myself and how it went awry. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not there yet. I’m still trying to figure everything out. But I’m excited to. I’m happy with the new me. I can’t wait to go home and chop a few inches off my hair and I feel much healthier now after I gained a couple of pounds (plus hello? New clothes!). But I also can’t wait to go home and reunite with all my high school friends and be known by my full name once again. I think the new, college version of yourself should be a happy medium between who you once were, and who you think you should be. Remember your roots. I’m still working on it. But I know I’ll get there. Because that smile you see below is completely genuine, happy, and eagerly awaiting the future.