In my first year of college, I moved 908 miles away from my home, where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. Burnsville and Savage were all I had ever known, and moving to Denver all by myself was hands down the scariest thing I had ever done. I knew my aunt and uncle, but I did not know anyone my age in all of Denver and that was absolutely terrifying. I had to be more outgoing and willing to try new things than I ever had been before.
In my first year of college, I learned that some friends from high school will stay and some will not. It takes massive effort, planned Facetiming, and sharing your life with them even if they don’t know who’s in it anymore. It means letting go of people you have known for a very long time in some cases, and learning to be okay with that. It means moving on and realizing that this is life, happening before your eyes. Everything you have been planning for, waiting on, and hoping for is here now.
In my first year of college, I set goals and created resolutions that were not kept, and I learned to be okay with that. The identity that I had created for myself was no longer true and I did not know how to handle something so central to who I was as a person changing so drastically. Through the help of friends and family, I have become increasingly okay with my changing self.
In my first year of college, I experienced incredible heartbreak for the first time in my life. I thought that I had experienced heartache before, but I had not–not like this. I felt like everything I was comfortable with and happy about suddenly disappeared, and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Something I definitely learned from this relationship was to never sacrifice my values because someone else holds different ones. And I am still working through this but I know that one day, I will learn so many things from this.
In my first year of college, I found truths. I learned how to stand up more fully for what I believe in. Some people thought I was silly and made me ashamed of what I believe. Through a mix of therapy and distance from those people I am coming to understand that the way I see the world is completely valid, regardless of if people don’t always agree.
In my first year of college, I had incredible friendships and horrible loss of friendships. I learned that people come and go, and sometimes that is a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. But I believe with my whole heart that everything has a purpose, and I am glad to have shared part of my life with these people.
In my first year of college, I learned that it is okay to not be the best. I watched my peers become presidents of their groups and senators in USG and receive As on essays. I listened to my friends worry about receiving high scores on their exams and I realized that schoolwork is not number one on my list of priorities, but that is okay. I don’t need to be the president of every student group I participate in, I don’t need to be in five extracurriculars and work and do schoolwork and have a good experience all at the same time.
In my first year of college, I learned that not everyone has a fantastic first year. There are definitely secrets about college that I was not prepared for–I spent many nights crying and living with extreme frustration, fear, and anxiety. I saw photos online of friends from home out having incredible fun with their new friends as I sat in my dorm room, but I have come to know that (1) what you see online is not always the truth, and (2) everyone has those scary 2 am thoughts.
In my first year of college, I learned that it’s okay to begin again. February and March were very, very difficult months for me and I ended up taking the spring quarter off. People encouraged me to “not give up” and “push through”, but sometimes that is not enough. I need(ed) lots of time to recuperate from mental health issues as well as many other things. Sometimes “staying strong” is not something that can be done, and it is okay to fall apart. Sometimes we need to fall apart to be rebuilt.
And as I write this in Denver, Colorado–the Mile High City, the Rocky Mountains only a short drive away, my new life rooted here, my memories from the last eight months, 908 miles away from the comfort of “home”–I wonder where home is now. My whole life is one big question mark, and I am learning to be okay with this truth. The biggest lesson I learned in my first year of college is to follow your own heart. Only you know where you can find your heart, and it’s up to you to listen to it. Other people’s advice may help, but in the end, only you are able to sense where your heart lies.
I will leave you with one of the quotes that helped me through so, so much in high school:
“Courage, dear heart.” -C.S. Lewis.