Moving to a new country this past year has brought me many new challenges and opportunities; some I was forewarned about and some, not so much. As soon as people in my hometown heard the news about my upcoming departure, everyone was quick to offer me advice about what to expect, how to do laundry, and what kind of friends I should make. However, looking back on this year, I realized that no one told me what I really needed to hear.
Advice came in handy for things like bringing extra storage containers for my dorm room or working on assignments as soon as they are given because something else will inevitably come up. People such as my soccer and fitness coaches helped prepare me for university soccer and the physical aspect of daily training. I also benefited from my parents' encouragement to put myself out there and join a campus organization as a way to meet new people.
After a few weeks in my new home, I thought I had it all figured out; I met amazing people with similar interests, my roommates and I actually got along, and I enjoyed my classes. Things were looking up, and I was looking forward to the next three years in this incredible atmosphere.
Then it happened. I sustained an injury that ended my season and made me question why I was 1,000 miles away from everything I had ever known. I’ll save you the sob story of the months between my injury, surgery, and my return home for the summer, which left me unsure of what I had gained from the last year’s experiences. Workouts became discouraging instead of motivating, as they had been reduced from squatting 200 pounds to lifting my own leg five times; however, I was determined to not give up on my dreams because of how I felt in that moment. I began to share my struggle with several friends, and although I’m thankful for their positivity, all of the "you-can-do-its” in the world weren’t going to miraculously change what had become the most challenging year of my life.
Then, on a particularly average day, I talked to a friend of mine who was struggling with her career choice, unsure of what she should do as she had just completed her first year of full-time teaching. She explained to me that through the entire past year she had felt exhausted and emotionally drained as something she thought would be so promising turned out to make her dread getting up each morning. She gave me just a small glimpse of the inner turmoil she had faced because the last year had not met her expectations and she wasn’t sure of her purpose anymore.
Slowly, I began to relate her situation to my own; we both tried something new for the first time, leaving what we had always known, and we failed to meet our own expectations. As I was selfishly thinking about my own predicament, she suddenly looked at me and smiled. She simply said, “all of this was going on and after my first week off, I realized that it’s not about me. It’s not about me knowing why I’m in the place I’m in or understanding what my purpose is in each particular moment. It doesn’t matter if I feel happy or if I exceed my expectations.” Though stunned at how a person can have that kind of inner peace while being unhappy, I perfectly understood exactly what she meant. She went on, “If I know I am where I’m supposed to be and I’m fulfilling my purpose for that particular time, my feelings are irrelevant because I know there is a plan for these experiences later in my life.”
So to all the new students, or those of you trying something new, it might not turn out how you want. You might not enjoy every minute of it. You may experience days when you feel like giving up. My advice to you is to take heart! You are here on purpose, for a purpose. It may not always be clear, but there is a reason why you’re doing what you’re doing. It's okay to not be okay, for now.
Enjoy these quotations:
"A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor."
"Tough times don't last; tough people do."
"Let your dreams be bigger than your fears."
"If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you."