A Letter to My Junior Year

Ever since joining the UNCW Her Campus chapter as a freshman, it has become somewhat of a tradition for me to write a letter addressed to each school year reflecting on my experiences and lessons learned. I took a brief hiatus from writing last semester but I am back and ready to write to my junior year.

Junior year, each year that preceded you came with its own interesting challenges. Freshman year was all about adjusting to change and trying to find myself. Sophomore year was about overcoming rejection in its various forms. However, you were the most challenging yet. You tested my strength and resiliency in a number of ways, some of which I am still recovering from. 

In the beginning, you made yourself known as an infamous year for me and my peers by unleashing Hurricane Florence. That particular natural disaster left us all on edge for over a month. We wondered if we’d have a campus to return to after all was said and done. 

Although you were fairly kind to the actual structure of the UNCW campus and the semester continued as normal, the impact you had on our schedules was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. We were all suddenly expected to complete four weeks worth of missed assignments (on top of all other assignments) in a very short period of time. The stress was unreal as I did my best to balance school, work, and my mental health. However, I learned how to churn out A-quality papers at a faster rate than ever, a skill that still comes in handy almost a year later. With that, I am forever in awe of the resiliency of not only UNCW as a school but the entire student body and faculty. I learned that this is a school that can truly handle anything that’s thrown its way. I am proud to call myself a UNCW student. 

Keeping in line with your “accelerated” speed, junior year, my professional life also took off at a pretty fast pace. I began my honors work within the criminology and sociology department. To get my foot in the door, I did the unthinkable and volunteered at a residential reentry organization. I spent many hours working with formerly incarcerated individuals to learn about their hopes, dreams, and ultimately, their needs moving forward. This experience pulled me out of my comfort zone and asked me to reevaluate my prejudices and preconceived notions of those with backgrounds different from mine. This experience truly changed me, junior year, and for that I am grateful. 

While I was busy churning out assignments at a rapid-fire pace and making progress on my honors work, you encouraged me to fall in love for the first time. Looking back, the timing made sense. After a summer of travel and self-love, you worked with the universe to put a special person in my path because, in your view, I was finally ready. This person almost immediately caught my eye and I went out of my way to initiate a friendship, and after months of gradual small-talk, a relationship. This was undoubtedly an exciting part of my year, as it was an entirely new experience for me. Amidst the stress of the fall and spring semesters, this person was a source of light I didn’t know I needed. It seemed like a good match and I was ready to take on the world with them. 

Unfortunately, this relationship was short-lived and the consequent heartbreak I endured was equitable to a hurricane. Without much warning, the waves came crashing in all around me. It felt like the world was falling apart for a long, long time as the high-speed winds rattled what was left of my shattered self-esteem. Like my beloved home of Wilmington, I am still trying to recover from the toll this hurricane took on me months later. It is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but day by day, it gets a little easier. 

Junior year, when I look back on you, it is clear that you put me through so many uncomfortable experiences to see how much I could handle. As is the case each year, I am not sure what you are preparing me for, but I still hold the belief that everything, even the most unspeakable pain, happens for a reason. 

As difficult as it was to be unexpectedly shoved into change once again this past year, I know it is all for the best. I am now entering my senior year as an entirely different person thanks to everything you put me through. Most importantly, I am now more aware than ever of the fact that I can handle some tough sh*t. With that being said, I’m ready for whatever life throws at me this year...even if it’s another hurricane.

 

(Photo courtesy of Lindsay Baker.)