8 Things I Learned During my Freshman Year

This year has been an incredibly formative one for me. A year ago, I never would have expected to have accomplished even half of what I have thus far. So much personal growth, though, comes with its share of lessons. Everyone at Her Campus Kenyon is feeling extra sentimental this week, myself included, so I thought I’d write down some of the things I learned along the journey that has been this year.


1. Not every failure of execution is a failure of will...

Many disappointments that I experienced this year had underlying causes. Often, I had to remind myself that forces out of my control affected my performance, and that it wasn’t my fault. I really had to learn that my anxiety colors a lot of my behavior, and when I’m not as social or as adventurous as I want to be, it’s because I’m prioritizing my mental health. This isn’t a weakness, just something that you always have to keep in mind when you’re upset with or disappointed in someone.


2. ...Some of them, though, definitely are.

And that sucks. It’s really hard when someone lets you down for some selfish, preventable, or petty reason. Often, too, there’s really nothing you can do. Not everyone has the same priorities, and that’s okay. Someone letting you down, though, is a really disappointing and disheartening feeling, and it never seems to get any better. In the end, though, it does improve. You just have to stick it out.


3. Your expectations aren’t going to align with others’.

This is almost a guarantee. It’s so rare to find exactly what you’re looking for in any situation, and so often this year I saw my friends (and, to some degree, myself) disappointed over and over again because of it. Everyone at college comes into their first year with hugely different backgrounds, experiences, and values, and it’s unlikely that they’re going to share identical expectations of their college life with many others.



4. Getting help is worth it, even without a huge breakthrough.

So often we think that getting help is only worthwhile if it completely fixes our problem or alleviates our pain. There is a lot of comfort, though, in knowing that you’re doing something to help yourself. Even if you aren’t completely cured of whatever problem you try to address (which seldom happens anyway), just the action of reaching out instead of wallowing in self-pity can be incredibly uplifting.


5. There’s often a deeper problem behind the drama...

This year, my friend group had a lot more conflicts than I was expecting. This is because we’re all individual, stubborn, flawed people, and not everyone has the tendency to back away from confrontation. What I hope we all took away from this year, though, is that people have aspects of their life that they hide. You can’t always see what goes on behind the scenes of someone’s decisions, so making assumptions can actually be more harmful than just unproductive. Everyone has a part of their life that they don’t always share, and that can sometimes be the driving force behind what upsets or offends you. Try to be understanding; always have empathy for what someone chooses to share and also what they choose not to disclose.


6. ...But sometimes, there isn’t.

People can be cruel. Friends can be cruel. The people closest to you have so many opportunities to hurt you, especially because they know you as your most vulnerable self. There is an inescapable element of choice in this: you can forgive them, try to understand them, and move on, or you can cut them out of your life. The latter can be hard, but if someone is so harmful to you that being around them makes you more anxious and depressed than happy, it’s probably the best option.



7. Standing up for yourself does not equal engaging in petty drama.

My character as a person is very non-confrontational, which is often a good thing for me: I’m great at mediating problems between friends, and I always keep a calm disposition in stressful situations. Too often this year, though, I let my friends blame me for things that really reflected their own problems, and I backed down and apologized even though I knew I wasn’t in the wrong. And that’s not right.

Recently, a friend brought something up to me that had upset her, and I decided to defend myself instead of giving in. It actually kind of worked (meaning, I was able to show her my perspective and explain my actions), and I asked her why she chose to address this confrontation to me instead of the two other friends involved. She said it was because she knew I was the one to “shut these things down.” It dawned on me then that my friends see me as someone who can be calm and rational, but also someone who won’t put up a fight. I hate to think that they could use this against me, so I’m going to stand up for myself from now on; hopefully, it will alleviate the guilty feeling of being unjustly blamed.


8. Life goes on outside the bubble.

Living in such a small town with limited access to the outside world can be suffocating (although most of the time, I love it). We sometimes get so caught up in our studies and our social lives within Gambier that it’s hard to be empathetic to things happening off of the hill. Kenyon is a wonderful place, and part of its charm comes from its isolation, but it’s important to keep in touch with your hometown friends, your family, and current events that have a very real impact on us, even though they may happen off-campus.


I hope that next year I can look back at this list and add to it. I’m proud of how far I’ve come this year, but there’s no limit to personal growth!


Image credits: Feature, 1, 2