Freshman year is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, new, frustrating, and by far amazing years of college you will experience. You will be meeting new people, hearing new stories, pursuing new interests, and even pursuing old interests while having the time of your life. You will face setbacks, things may not go your way, and you will even come face to face with "real world problems" that you didn't think you would have to deal with yet. While this all may be true, you will grow and become a stronger, more mature version of yourself that is fearless in the wake of it. Freshman year for me was nine months of failures, but nine months of successes. Freshman year for me was a nine month journey that made me realize what I want to do, who I want to be surrounded by, what goals to pursue, what goals to reconsider, and how to stand by myself as a self supportive, self confident young woman who isn't afraid to ask for help when I need it. It took me many tries to finally get it right, but looking back on my freshman year, I am proud of how far I've come and am eager to forge down the road. Here are lessons I have learned throughout this past year that I am thankful for, and I wish to remind you of when reflecting on your past while staying hopeful of the future:
1. It's okay to fail.
Probably one of my hardest lessons to learn was it is okay to fail. No one is perfect, and sometimes you just fall short of your expectations. But that is okay. Any successful person will tell you that failing or making mistakes is one of the most valuable things you can go through because (which brings me to my next lesson) you realize what you don't want to do, what you could do better, and most importantly where you can go from there.
2. Learn from your mistakes.
Learning from your failures and your mistakes is how you grow as a person. It is what distinguishes progress from stagnation. Bouncing back from setbacks will propel you into a greater and brighter future. You must believe in yourself and do not give up. The potential to be great should be the driving force in the back of your mind. Success doesn't have a finite definition. You can make your own definition of success, but one thing that success is not is idle.
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
One of the most important lessons I have learned this year was to surround myself with positive people. This doesn't mean surrounding yourself with people who are themselves happy with where they are. This means surrounding yourself with people who make you feel positive and who have a positive influence on you. It may be difficult to come to the realization that the people you have gotten to know and grown close with are not the right people you need to be around, but learning to accept this and maturely let go of relationships that may not be as good of an influence as you would have liked is important for your well being. You must be self aware of your environment, and if it is not one you are content with, change your surroundings. It will have a better impact on you than you will realize.
4. It's good to be critical of yourself.
But being too critical of yourself could make you your own worst enemy. Set expectations for yourself. Set goals for yourself. Hold yourself to high standards. But when doing so, be realistic. Remember that life is not about checking the boxes. It is not about pushing yourself so hard that you forget who you are or where you have come from. It is a long journey of learning, reflecting, and growing. Being critical of ourselves is an important quality that helps to define who we are. We make choices and follow paths that we cannot turn back on, so it is important to be reflective and self critical in order to make sure we are heading down the right road.
5. It's okay to be lost.
We don't have all the answers. We don't always know where we're supposed to be or what we're supposed to be doing. It's okay to feel lost and confused. This is all part of the process of discovering yourself. Figuring out who you are doesn't happen overnight, but rather it happens gradually overtime. Keep pursuing your interests. Branch out and learn about new things that you think you might like no matter how "weird" or "different" they might seem. People who stand out are remembered. People who stand out for doing something they love are admired.
6. Know your worth.
It is easy to get down on ourselves. It is easy to be too self critical. At times I think everyone might feel some people are brighter, stronger, faster, more creative, prettier, happier, etc., but never forget your worth. You are bright. You are strong. You are brave. You are imaginative. You are beautiful. Your smile makes other people smile. You're amazing. Everybody can get down on themselves. But never forget that you are one of a kind. You are unique. You are you, and even if you don't exactly know what that might mean yet, know that no one else is like you. So, be strong. Be confident. Love yourself. Be proud of yourself. Don't settle for mediocracy. Strive to be better. Know you deserve to have the world. Know you are irreplaceable.
7. Stand up for what you believe in.
It may be difficult to speak up. It may be difficult to stand out in a crowd. It may be difficult to be different. Everyone wants to be accepted in one way on another. Everyone wants to feel as though they fit-in in some way. But sometimes, standing out and standing up for what you believe in matters more than acceptance. If people genuinely care about you, they will support you. Don't be afraid to raise your voice and support something you love even if your friends or people in your community may not have the same interest. In the same respect, don't be afraid to raise your voice or reject something that everyone else seems to agree with. One of the most liberating actions is to stand up for what you believe in. You never know, some people may feel the same way, but are too afraid to be different.
8. Your family will always be there at the end of the day.
Whether your family is your bloodline or the people who have been by your side through thick and thin, family will always be there for you to confide in, to support you, and above all else to love you for who you are. Your family will always raise you from your lowest points, and they will always celebrate your highest achievements. Your family will be proud of you and always want the best for you. That is something you should never forget.
Well, I hope you can listen to some of these lessons I've learned. Whether you needed to hear them, or you know someone else who does, always remember to smile and keep moving forward. Like our favorite blue fish, Dory, once said, "Just keep swimming."