My first few months at college were an adventure: new friends, new living situation, new classroom settings. It was a massive change from my relatively calm life in high school. I had to learn how to be completely independent all at once. Towards the end of my first semester, the rapid adjustment started to catch up to me. When I'd go home it felt off, like I was trying to fit back into a place I didn't really belong anymore. When I was at school, I felt like I should be at home. I was incredibly anxious and all that stress caused my moods to tank. I found myself getting depressed far more often as I tried to figure out where I belonged.

I started volunteering at the Lawrence Humane Society as a way to finish my sorority's required community service hours. After a few hours of cleaning kennels and bleaching the floors, I was able to start interacting with the animals. My friend, who I had been volunteering with, suggested we start out by socializing with cats. Anyone who knows me knows that I liked dogs far more than cats. I had grown up with two dogs, and my only interactions were limited to my grandmothers' cats who would both hiss at me a lot when I was little. I could never figure out cats' moods, and I was always kind of uneasy around them. Regardless, I decided to give cats a try, and I am so incredibly thankful that I did. Every week, I would go to the shelter for an hour to pet the cats who were in desperate need of affection. Slowly but surely, I started warming up to the cats and got much more comfortable around them. Going to the shelter quickly became the highlight of my week, and it still is today.

In a lot of ways, I'm thankful for the Lawrence Humane Society. It was there that I rekindled my love for animals to the point where I decided to become a veterinarian. It was there that I found and adopted a little black kitten named Joey, who brings me laughter and happiness every single day. Each and every time I volunteer, I feel wanted and appreciated, not only by the animals but by the staff as well. I had no idea the impact that one little volunteering opportunity would have on my life, but I will never regret a minute of it. I may have signed up to take care of the animals, but they ended up taking care of me. They helped me find my purpose in the world. Even if it is just petting cats, it's the best decision I've ever made.

If you're looking to get involved in your own community, look into helping the animal shelters. Donations of items, food, and time are almost always gladly accepted. The link for the Lawrence Humane Society is listed below if you're interested in volunteering or even adopting a pet of your own.