What My First Year of College Taught Me

The cover photo of my article was taken almost a year ago during my high school’s Senior Day. On this day all the seniors got the entire day off of class for a sort of field day with games and free food and once these activities concluded we made a graduation procession through our gymnasium grouped by the schools we were attending. I had an amazing day with my friends as we lived out the last of our high school days; however, amidst the fun and joy of the occasion, a twinge of doubt lingered in the back of my mind. Had I made the right decision? Was Mason the right school for me? Was I ready to leave the only place and the people I had known for my whole life? As I made my way through the gymnasium, showering underclassmen with silly string, these questions began to overwhelm me. It all became very real very quickly. As I sat and watched my friends in the last moments of their childhood the terrifying feeling of not knowing what the future held washed over me.

This feeling of doubt plagued the summer of my senior year. I didn’t realize how much I relied on routine, a habitual existence in which the people and happenings of my life were unwavering. With such a monumental change around the corner, it sunk in how much my little rituals with my friends and family meant to me. Being able to drive a literal minute or less down the road to Nicole’s house, who kept me going throughout high school when I struggled most. Going to Taco Bell with Laura and Lily just to talk it out in the few moments in which our busy schedules did not overlap. Having sleepovers at Erin’s house with Sara, Carol, Nicole and Kennedy and staying up until 4 am playing Wii Sports. Hiking with my Dad, baking with my Mom and discovering new music with my brother, Jake. All of these small pieces that made up the puzzle of my life, a puzzle I thought I had already solved.

College hit and I realized my life was composed of far more pieces that I hadn’t even discovered yet. I came to realize during my first year of college that the worst thing you can do is pretend like you have it all together - that all your pieces are found and that your life is perfectly assembled and laid out in front of you. This is exactly what I did. While college is a clarifying time of self-discovery, don’t believe for a second anyone who tells you that they have it all figured out and don’t be like me and try to pretend that you do. I found that in this act of pretending I burnt out very quickly and when other people around me succeeded I based my validity as an individual off of keeping up with their success. I didn’t care about my health, I went to parties because I felt like I had to be social and I based my worth off of those around me. If someone didn’t want to be my friend I was hurt and if someone did, I cared far too much about what they thought of me.

By the time I got home for winter break, I was exhausted, feeling conflicted over if I even wanted to go back to college. I didn’t tell anyone I was unhappy and I figured if I pretended for long enough that I was happy then that would eventually become my reality. I trudged through winter break and worked a ton. And by a ton I mean my train from school got in at 12 am, and I agreed to work a 7 am to 4 pm shift the next day. I buried my head in the sand so fast that by the time I came up for air my month at home was over and I had spent far less time with my loved ones than I had hoped to.

Right at the beginning of my spring semester, two members of my family passed away within a month of each other. Feeling such a heavy loss while away from home made me extremely homesick to the point where one night, after going out with friends, something broke in me and I simply couldn’t pretend anymore. Pretending felt like it would be a far worse than accepting the grief. It was like a switch went off in my head and I had finally reached the point where the emotions I had been pushing off all year caught up to me. I had to grieve and in this grief, I found was able to find how I wanted my college experience to be and to begin feeling like myself again. I remembered how much I valued alone time (it’s okay to be alone) and started to prioritize my needs over the needs of others. I have learned this is not selfish, but necessary if you are in a place like I was. Through the loss, I was able to regain the pieces of myself I abandoned.

The best advice I can give you from my freshman year is that it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay not to know what you want, it’s okay to not have your puzzle solved and to take life as it comes. However, talk to someone if sadness consumes you like it did me. I reached out to my friends and family and was able to get to the best place I have been in a while. Also, don’t take your time at college for granted and remember to be thankful for the opportunity you have and the people you meet. I’m thankful for the people who I surround myself with, the ones I have known all my life, and the ones I just met this year. That’s a sentiment that needs no pretending.

Hi, I’m Blythe: I’m not sure of what I want to major in anymore, I don’t have a summer internship, I have no earthly idea of what my life will turn out to be and I am no longer going to pretend that I have these things figured out. I am going home this summer to work and be with those close to me in an attempt to find more the pieces of myself to add to my puzzle. Try to recognize your life for what it is and own it, collegiette!