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March 12th, 2020: 415 days ago. If I were to have a conversation with the girl I was back then, she would be unrecognizable. A year into college, a year filled with brand new people, but most importantly, a year of growth. So, how do we find a way to deal with the change that we see now? Some of us might be happy with who we are now; others might still be trying to pull themselves out of the darkness that was quarantine. However, let's take a look at all of the positives that have come out this year.

Starting college in a pandemic, I was eager to come to campus. I moved to my dream city, and everything I had worked for was finally coming true. I remember coming to school and trying to relate to my siblings' stories about their move-in days. I remember carrying the boxes into my sibling's dorms and taking pictures with my parents on their beds. My move-in day was nothing like that, and for me, that is what I considered to be "normal." Looking back on it now, it was anything but ordinary. My parents did the absolute best that they could to try and make that day memorable for me, and in all honesty, I am grateful that they did. I looked out of my window that night, surrounded by the lights of the city, and I had no idea what was in store for me.

It was hard looking back on the first semester for me. I had a tough time adjusting to online classes, and being a freshman, it was complicated to make the connections that I should have been making. Being the extrovert that I am, being isolated took a significant toll on my mental health, and I just tried to make the best out of every situation that I was in. When I finished the first semester, it was a sigh of relief. I had a weird mix of emotions that many first-year students had, I loved my school, but I wouldn't say I liked the conditions I was in.

As I wrap up my freshman year, I like to think that reflection is a good way of coping with the current circumstances of the world that we are in right now. I am proud that I came back to school for the second semester and did the absolute best to make it the college experience that I strived for. I was determined. It took a lot out of me, but I did it. I did well academically, and I joined a sorority that I love; I got involved, I was happy.

But I'm not here to entirely talk about me. I want to speak to all of you, those of you that are reading this. Your freshman year of college comes along with a lot of changes. New school, new people, and for me, the most important and eye-opening piece that I took away from this year was outgrowing people who are no longer suitable for you. When I got to college, I met the most amazing people who showed me what friendship meant and appreciated me. That includes my best friends that I do everything with, my sorority sisters, my loving boyfriend, everybody. I had to learn what the concept of "letting go" meant—leaving your past behind, moving on, and wishing people who no longer are positively impacting your life the best. This, my friends, was an essential part of my growth as an individual. As I start to enter my sophomore year, I have gained a lot of knowledge about treating those people around me daily. And what I can give you is this: After watching the world go through such a difficult time in the last year, it has proven to me that life is too short not to do the things that you want and to appreciate everything around you. If I could talk to the girl that I was back in August and tell her all she would become, she would be so proud. If you said to her that she would find friends that encourage her to be her best self and not hold her back, that she would find love and discover passions that she never thought possible, she would finally give herself some credit for all of her accomplishments; she would never have believed you. So please remember this, please take a step back and evaluate all of the growth and progress you have made in the last year. Trust me, it's worth it.

The most significant things that I have taken away from this year are things that I will tell anybody who needs some guidance in their life. Therapy does not make you weak; ending relationships that are harmful to you does not make you a bad person, sleeping in when you feel burnt out is okay, allowing yourself to heal is okay. Set boundaries, allow yourself to hurt, surround yourself with people who appreciate you, and give to those in need.

Be bold, do something that you never thought that you could do. Prove your past self wrong. Apply for that position, write that article, join that club. Do everything that you can do to make yourself the happiest version of yourself possible. Be kind to yourself. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and appreciate how far you’ve come.

Maura Sullivan is a sophomore graduating from Suffolk University in 2024. She is a huge theatre person and loves writing, singing, acting, and being on camera!
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