I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry when I look at photos of when I first came to CU Boulder. The girl in those pictures, wearing a black-and-white-checked top and a terrified smile, had no idea what the next three and a half years had in store. As I get ready to graduate in the next few weeks, my mind is filled with things I wish I could tell that girl. If I could somehow go back in time and talk to my freshman-year self, here are a few things I would say.
- Don’t be afraid to cut toxic people out of your life.
I spent a lot of time freshman year hanging out with someone who was not a good friend. I knew at the time that our relationship was toxic, but I saw them almost every day, and I was afraid of what could happen if I cut them off. When I finally did, it felt like I was exhaling a breath I didn’t even realize I had been holding. In college, you will meet a lot of people, and not all of them are meant to stay in your life long-term. If another person is making you sacrifice your own well-being, it is okay to let them go.
- Allow your priorities to change.
I’m a double major in music and psychology. For the first couple of years in college, my music major was my main priority, but as the years went on, I realized that I felt more passionate about the mental and public health fields. I still love music, but it isn’t my number one priority anymore, and there is nothing wrong with that. College is the time to discover what inspires you, and it’s very common for that source of inspiration to change.
- your health comes before anything else.
I spent a lot of time early in my college career sacrificing my mental well-being for classes, work, and other people, which resulted in being caught in a vicious cycle of anxiety and burnout. Taking a day off or telling someone “No” felt difficult, as a chronic people-pleaser, but I realized that constantly putting my health on the back burner was not fair to me or anyone else. I know I operate best when I rest and take care of myself, so those things need to be prioritized above anything else.
- moving away is one of the best things you can do.
I was terrified when my parents drove away from my dorm, not knowing how I could possibly function on my own. Freshman year, I went home almost every weekend because I was so homesick and anxious. Now, I love living on my own. Of course, I love spending time with my family, but I have learned so much about life since moving out. I truly believe that everyone should move out of their hometown (at least temporarily) at some point in their lives, because even living 45 minutes away has drastically changed my perspective on a lot of things.
- everything in your life can change, and you will still be okay.
This line was actually something I wrote in my journal at the end of my first semester in college (in December 2019…I had no idea how much change was truly coming). It’s comforting to look back on all of the hardships I faced during college and see that I made it through. I apologize for the cliche, but I am a completely different person than I was when I first came to CU Boulder. My life, and the world as a whole, has flipped upside-down several times since August 2019, but I am okay. I know more life changes are in store for me in the next few years, so this message is something I want to keep in mind when things feel scary.
My time in college has not all been positive, but I am very grateful for most of the experiences I’ve had. I learned enough these past few years to get a Bachelor’s degree, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself. I’m proud of myself for learning these lessons, and I hope freshman-me would be proud, too.