What I Wasn't Prepared for When I First Started College

We, as human beings, are infatuated with the future; we are curious about the unknown because it is filled with endless possibilities. For some, it's exciting, for others, it's dreadful. I was a bit of both. I was almost always thinking about the future; I would look at my options to see how it would positively or negatively impact my life in the next couple of years, all adding up to a perfect version of myself I wanted to be. So when I was in my last year of high school, sitting on the floor, thinking about what I wanted to do for the next four years, the future seemed so exciting!

I was going to be living on my own, I was going to be studying what I wanted and I was going to make new friends and new memories! I was a bright-eyed kid with the world at my fingertips. But then, the school year actually started, and the rosy filter started to falter. I remember coming back home and sharing my experience with some friends. I realized even though many of my pals went off onto separate ways, we all have a lot more in common about our first year of college than you would think.

My first year at UCF consisted of three semesters: summer, fall and spring. Throughout those three semesters, I learned a lot about myself in more than one way, which is totally normal and expected. But, the biggest thing I could take out of my first year was that no one prepares you for the emotional aspect of college. Being in college made me realize you have to learn to cope with your mental state while also making decisions that will impact your future.

My first year brought in a lot of doubt and uncertainty in my actions and myself. I felt that sometimes I wasn't headed in the right direction to be the best version of myself. I would constantly question everything I did. I would ask myself, "Am I doing the right thing? Am I being a good adult? Will this ultimately lead to success?" The constant pressure I had put on myself to be on the "right" path to becoming the "right" me caused me to be stressed and dissatisfied all the time. I was constantly panicking I wasn't on the path to become who I wanted to be.

Why? I have a bunch of goals I want to attain, and I want them now, but life doesn't exactly work that way. I saw a lot of people around me flawlessly achieving their goals, going to internships and overall being successful, and while I was happy for them, I looked at my own life and felt pretty behind. Everyone ALWAYS looked like they had it together! I felt like I was never doing enough. Becoming an adult felt like I was falling behind in a race I didn't even know I was in. 

It's important for anyone about to enter college to realize what I didn't see at the time of my first year: everyone is in the same boat, even if it doesn't seem like it. We, as a society, have a very big "the grass is always greener on the other side" complex, but instead of looking at your neighbor's lawn, focus on yours! Staring at someone else's achievements won't give you any achievement for yourself. It's easy to give out advice like, "don't compare yourself to others." But the truth is comparison is something society has engraved in us so that we stay competitive with each other. Even if we don't want to compare ourselves to other people we always will—consciously or subconsciously. Comparison is not a bad thing—it's the way we act on it that is what changes us and our emotional state. We have to learn to use comparison to motivate us instead of bringing ourselves down.

And don't get me wrong, I didn't mean to write this to negatively look at my first year. There were so many great memories I made with new friends, and there were beautiful moments of clarity I found within myself too. I just think it's just as important to talk about the insecurities and emotional struggles as well as the happy times. It’s important to be real and genuine with ourselves than seeming like we always have it together—life isn’t a perfect Instagram feed. 

There is no “right” path. You will struggle with yourself, and that’s okay. It’s natural and everyone goes through it! It’s actually a beautiful thing to struggle, because if you’re struggling, then that means you are growing. If life was constantly great, then great times would become a concept that wouldn't exist because everything would be ordinary. You need the hard times in order to build to the best times.

We still have the world at our fingertips, and our future is still bright! We have to keep our confidence in ourselves and remember it’s important to be present and not always look at our unknown future. Life is always unexpected—we go through it, change throughout it and grow with it. And if you don’t think so, look at yourself from five years ago and look at how much you’ve grown and learned!

Be confident in yourself and be patient with your growth.

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5