Starting the Spring Semester Fresh

I don’t know if many of you felt like you were thriving for the past year, but I definitely was not. As cliché as it is, 2018 was horrendous for me: I lost friends, fought with family, and forgot myself. There were periods where the only social interaction I had became the hours I was in class. I went so far as to avoid the DUC-ling for fear of seeing the people I was sure hated me. I spent my weekends alone in my room or going home to forget how lonely I felt. Living in darkness, however, makes the search for light more important than I can articulate. There’s a point when you hit rock bottom and you realize that the only place you could go is bound to be better than where you are. My rock bottom was Christmas where I realized, as my family inquired about my second year of college, that everything I was saying was a lie. “How are your friends? How’s your social life? Are you having fun?” I felt overrun with guilt when I would lie just to make it seem like I was living a life that I was proud of.

Now, as I enter into the second week of classes, I’ve decided to make a change. There’s not going to be anymore lies, coverups, or silent tears of loneliness. This spring semester, this whole year even, is about making small changes to be happier. Maybe for the sake of accountability, but I want to share with you the steps I’m taking to achieve this goal because there’s a possibility you’re facing the same.

1. Recognize that other people are struggling too

With sophomore sadness taking hold of many of the people in my life, I have found an ounce of comfort in knowing I’m not alone. People are overwhelmed with big life decisions, personal conflicts, and academic pressures. The struggles might not be the same, but everyone is dealing with something. As cheesy as it is, you’re not alone. No one, I’d hope, came to college with the hopes of being isolated and sad, so we are all on each other’s team. Being there for other people, even in small ways, can seriously lift spirits and give you a platform for support.

2. Take note of who IS around when you feel like someone isn’t

I felt lonely for a lot of freshman year, but there are so many people in your life who you do not recognize as there for you. There is absolutely no shame in having few friends, so long as they’re loving and loyal. Getting caught up in the idea that you need a giant posse is stressful, and getting caught up in a posse that might not be there for you is even worse. Even if it’s the girl from class who you only Snapchat, there’s someone who you affect every day. Seek people out, and you can find someone who cares about you. It may be your roommate, someone in your orientation group, someone down the hall, even your RA, but look around you and take note.

3. Try to say yes more than no

Once you get in the habit of rejecting other people for the preemptive fear that they’ll reject you, it’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. I’m trying to embrace events more often than not. With that in mind, school is important and grades do matter, so obviously be smart about prioritizing what you need to, but don’t write off everything for the fear that you might not be a few days ahead in your classes.

4. Embrace the things you thought you didn’t deserve  

It could be just me, but I was so terrified of looking vulnerable. I quit recruitment for the worry that I wasn’t going to jive, I wouldn’t take pictures with my boyfriend because I didn’t want to look lame posing, and I didn’t want to participate in life around me because I didn’t think  could. You honestly deserve whatever you want. This year, doing recruitment again, I know I looked like a bit of an awkward lurker who didn’t quite know what to do, but I did it hoping to change my life. I’ve tried to capture as many moments as I can and it makes me smile to look back at them. There’s no one to dictate what you should and shouldn’t do, not even yourself.

5. Don’t compromise

One of the most important things to me is myself, as you should be the most important thing to yourself. There is really no one like you, and there is bliss in knowing that. You should never feel like you have to dress a certain way, drink a certain amount, or post a certain picture if that’s not you. People are drawn to genuinity, so if anything, the more you unravel your facade, the more connections you’re open to make.

6. Set limits

This sounds small, but it’s so crucial and plays into so many other things. There are nights when you will need recovery, you will need sleep, and you will need to put limits on something you might not want to. For the sake of your physical health and sanity, be smart about that.

7. Expand your involvement in the things you enjoy

Everyone says it: join clubs. I am in several clubs, including HerCampus, that allow me to meet people I wouldn’t talk to otherwise. This semester, make it a goal to not only be involved in meetings but also outside. Ask someone to dinner, the worst they can do is say no and if they say yes, you already have a good foundation for talking points. Join the club team for the sport you played in high school, you’ll meet people and stay active. Think of the things you love and seek out those who feel the same way.  

There are always smell steps to improving bad situations, and before anything, decide that you need to. You really only have 4 years here. That sounds like a long time, but I promise it isn’t. The days move quickly, the people pass by, and you don’t want to be left thinking about the nights you spent binging the same show you’ve seen 30 times. It’s way more fun to share honest happiness with family or friends back home and now is the time to construct it.