My senior year seems to be slipping through my fingers, and I can’t help reminiscing on the time I’ve had on this campus. I can proudly say that I have accomplished things, big and small, in these four years that I never imagined I would. I’m not the first to say that college has been pivotal for me in so many ways. More than anything, I’ve been forced out of my shell and given no choice but to keep moving despite fear that made me crave stillness for the first time.
During my first semester, I began loving where I was. I finally reached a place that I liked, and I didn’t spend every day wishing the moments away anymore. I was thrilled by every new experience and scary milestone, but I also had a lot of doubt. I could see the end goal—my dream job and my most confident self—floating right in front of me, but college is about what it takes to get there, and I was scared of the steps I needed to take. I was ready to be where I wanted to be, but I wasn’t prepared for the daily terrifying, unnatural, and awkward experiences that would lead me there. I’m proud of where I am today and part of me wishes I could show 18-year-old me this version of us. Behold my crystal ball, four years in the making:
Dear First Semester of College Me,
Thank you for going to the involvement fair. Thank you for stopping at the Her Campus table when you were looking for something else. Thanks for forcing yourself to go to the first meeting and for signing up to go on weekend trips with girls you’d known just a couple weeks. Thank you for only ever being yourself in those moments—for warming up naturally and being a little fearless and shameless. These girls will be with you for a long time, and this club will open so many doors for you.
You’re used to working your ass off, but you’re just now learning that you can fail despite working your ass off. Do not change your major just because you got your first C on a paper. Stand tall in your abilities! You are not an imposter and you do belong! Somewhere down the line you will indeed look back and realize you have learned through all of this. You are getting better at your craft, and your capstone English class will be unbelievably easier than you’re imagining.
You’ve officially met burnout and will a few more times, but you get better and better at recovering. You will learn healthy boundaries and learn to be okay with not giving everything 100%. Doing your best all the time is simply not realistic! It’s a lie, especially in college—a place where you’re expected to do it all and know it all at once. You’ll eventually learn that some items require more hard work than others, and that it truly is okay to just do what you can on the other things and move on.
You know this and feel it way down deep in your bones, but I can now verify that your crush is not just a crush. It’s a bit of a risk to start dating your best friend, but girly, it all works out just perfectly for you! Stop fearing the honeymoon phase because we’re still in it!
Some things are not what you thought they were. The second F in BFF is kinda relative. There are people you will miss for a long time, but you’ll find distancing yourself is the best option. Although you don’t see it coming, growing apart from people is an obvious ache of adulthood. You’re different than you were before and so is everyone else; don’t take it personally.
Eating is now incredibly social for you, and it might even be the most social part of this experience. You will always cherish the memories you made in the dining hall, but something even more valuable came from this change in diet and lifestyle. In just one semester, you will gain at least 20 pounds. You will feel your body changing pretty quickly, and you will actually like it at first. It will only become a problem to you after you step on a scale for the first time in 4 months. You will spiral into self-disgust, but guess what? You will lose the weight. You will get back to your pre-college weight, but you will only maintain it for maybe three weeks tops. You will learn that your body is no longer 17 years old and that your “goal weight” is no longer healthy. Self, I am here four years later, just now beginning to feel healed from a toxic relationship with fitness, dieting, and health culture. The way I view eating and exercising is better than you can ever imagine, given you didn’t even realize you had an issue. This journey is lifelong, but I think I finally truly love and value my body—in every way.
You’re quickly learning how to live as the villain in someone else’s story. You’re waiting for the day everyone moves on and forgets, but that day is never coming—and it’s okay. Your actions have consequences even if you never intended to hurt anyone, even if your actions were not “bad.” Every moment leads to another and sometimes you just need to keep rolling. Remember who you are and quit questioning your character. You are not the sum of the opinions of people who hardly know you.
Right now, you’re trying really hard to avoid following what your gut painfully wants. Student-teaching is still a year away, but the thought of it keeps you up at night and puts your heart in your stomach. So, let me tell you that you now walk around your host school with your shoulders back and your head up. You greet people in the hallway without the constant fear of seeming weird—you aren’t afraid of drawing attention. You walk confidently in places that scared you so much that you almost quit. You got there! You struggled a little and there are struggles ahead, but you can be confident in your capabilities.
Prioritizing friendships and late night talks with your roomie and going to Wendy’s even though you already ate will always be the right answer. There are assignments you could have done better on if you’d slept a little more or had more focus, but there is only so much time to spend with the people you love. College is weird, and tough, because each semester people come and go. You’ll only have a single semester with some of the best friends you’ve ever made—and you weren’t going to get a 4.0 that year anyways. You will walk away from the land of OZ with more ridiculously funny and wholesome memories than anything else, and that’s all you ever really wanted when you showed up. Keep cherishing every damn moment.