A Reflection on My First Semester That Wasn’t Brand New (and the ones that were)
I’ve had more than a few first semesters in college. My first, first semester was at Muhlenberg College, in 2015. That one only lasted about 2 weeks before I realized that not only was this the completely wrong school for me, but that I needed to take some time off to prepare myself emotionally for college. My second was in 2016 when I returned to Muhlenberg, emotionally prepared and reinvigorated with a steadfast determination to transfer. Though I had been there for two weeks the previous year, it still felt like I was starting all over again. I spent that first semester fixated solely on transferring to a better school. I put grades above all else. I didn’t attempt to make friends or social connections because to me they didn’t matter at Muhlenberg. I considered it a transitory place in my life, one stop on the road before I get to where I’m supposed to be. While I did end up making one wonderful friend who I still love, I became more defensive and anxiety prone in social settings than I already had been (and trust me, I was already pretty riddled with social anxiety). This put me in a difficult spot for my next first semester.
2017 was the year of my second, first-first semester, and my third first semester overall. I had transferred to Tulane University, a farther school than I had ever imagined going to. My entire family, as well as the majority of my friends, was still in the northeast, and I had sent myself away to New Orleans, where I knew absolutely no one. I spent the first month of that semester essentially debating every decision I had ever made and concluding that I would be forever unhappy. I auditioned and got into the performance track major, but was too scared of my fellow theater students to talk to them. They seemed so secure in themselves and in their friendships that I couldn’t possibly become a part of their lives. Logically, I knew that wasn’t true, and that everyone wants new friends, but the mental roadblocks I had set up in my way were too strong for me to combat. But just as I was accepting that I would never made any friends in college, my roof exploded. Well, not exploded, but leaked all over my bed and destroyed my dorm room. Though I originally took it as a dark omen, that shitty dorm room turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I moved into an on campus apartment and managed to become friends with one of my apartment-mates and essentially forced my way into her friend-group. For the first time in years, I had amazing friends. Everything about that semester was new to me. I had to get used to a brand new campus, a new city, a new climate, and actually having a social life. But it was the best first semester of my entire life.
Now my fourth first semester is coming to a close. My very first second year. It’s the first semester I’ve had since high school where I’m not starting all over again. It’s strange to go from being the girl who is always new and always alone to one who actually feels like she belongs somewhere. I’ve made friends in all places. I managed to get over my fear of the other theater majors and become their friend. They’ve brought back a part of my life that I was missing: my deep love for the arts. I finally feel like a part of the department and someone of worth. It’s strange to look back and remember seeing the people I love so dearly now as intimidating strangers with whom I could never connect. I had been so scared that I would somehow end up losing all of my friends from last year, but instead I’ve kept those wonderful people in my life and added more. It’s given me a newfound confidence in myself. I’ve spent the better part of my life thinking I had nothing to offer the world and that people were friends with me out of pity or obligation rather than because of who I am. Now my friends tell me they can’t imagine a time where I wasn’t there, and neither can I.
That’s not to say that this semester hasn’t been difficult. It has. I still struggle with the same things I always have, depression, anxiety, and the works. But fighting those painful parts of myself is easier than it ever has been. And I finally don’t feel the need to start over.