It might be odd to say, but I’ve found college to be quite therapeutic. I’ve gotten over the initial stress of having a job and managing my course load and have given myself the necessary time to breathe. It has been great embracing a side of myself that I’ve not been able to see for quite some time. Moving to my college town brought new challenges and experiences, but most importantly, it’s helped heal my inner child. Of course, there is a lot more work to do on my mentality, but I’ve seen the progress, and I am happier than I’ve ever been.
I used to think it was odd coming to college and seeing the number of people just wanting to have childlike fun. I was told to expect scenes of stress and breakthroughs into adulthood that I was in no way prepared for. Instead, I was met with campus events: games of capture the flag on the lawn, long lines for snow cones, and stuffed animals. I’ve had holiday and birthday parties with my friends and spent countless nights watching hours of horror movies for the thrill.
If I had known that most of my free time would be spent reconnecting with a side of myself that was abandoned during my search for independence, I would not have feared the transition from high school. I was worried that college was going to be worse than my high school experience. I thought I would be shy and have trouble finding friends, that I would get into bouts of depression and start failing my classes. I was worried I would lose myself more, trying to drag myself through four more miserable years. Instead, I am very grateful for the life I am currently living. I am closer to the person I have wanted to be since I was that child yearning for a life beyond her comprehension.
I adore the people I have met. They have helped me grow into a more carefree individual. No longer am I confined by the reigns of a small-town lifestyle. I’ve let myself have fun at the expense of the occasional deadline, something the person I was in high school would have never allowed. I’ve learned to give myself breaks before I burn out and now understand the importance of doing so. I made the decision to finally put school before work and was able to call in without immense guilt when an assignment was taking longer than expected. More importantly, I’ve found the balance I needed and have recognized the importance of rest.
First semester I was finding peace with the side of me that yearned to be free. I went to parties, was out a night doing crazy things, spent my days sleeping in and tired evenings at work, or struggling to find my place amongst friends. I was skipping class, putting off assignments, and was depressed to the point my roommate debated calling mental health services. Winter break was the period I used to change my mentality. I recognized the patterns I was falling into and how detrimental they were, and I made the decision to force myself to juggle things in my life responsibly.
Second semester I attempted to do better. I found the balance I was so desperately trying to master. I’d recognized my limits and was able to say no. I gave myself time when I needed it and matured in ways I didn’t know were possible. However, even with a new level of maturity, I still found myself enjoying things I would have as a child.
I let myself indulge in simple pleasures, from watching Barbie movies with my best friend to having sleepovers on my friends’ floors when we lived in the same building, and my room was only a few flights above theirs. I watched Disney movies and let myself cry over the sappy plots. I played ninja in the dorm lobby with people I didn’t know and hardly saw again. I found myself buying candy and ice cream when the urge to satisfy a sweet tooth was unignorable. I dressed up just to do so and danced with my friends in public without feeling embarrassed or wracked with nerves. I got competitive playing card games, board games, and my friend group’s favorite activity, Jackbox. I even started staying up late to complete 750–1000-piece puzzles with sugar highs and pure willpower, not to mention the countless runs to Kum & Go for slushies and donuts when our study sessions required the heavenly combination referred to as “brain food.”
I was not only able to take time to have fun and enjoy childlike humor. College gave me proper time to process the last few years of my life and value the hard work it took to get as far as I have. There was a time I didn’t think I would make it to my first semester of college, much less be excited for yet another year.
Despite all the effort it took to maintain my standards and complete two semesters of rigorous studies, I am proud of myself for doing so. I went from being a scared, naïve induvial to navigating a world that several warned me would be much worse than it was.
From the many things I’ve learned and the few things I’ve come to cope with during my second semester of college, I’ve realized several important things that I desire to share with any burdened readers struggling to make it to or through their most troubling year of their college experience.
Let yourself take breaks. I understand academic overachievers and those who work to put themselves through educational institutions. However, sometimes a breather is necessary, and needing to take one does not make anyone less capable of achieving goals.
Do not be discouraged by having to rediscover or finally discover a passion and choosing that over the path you thought was the best. Despite what some may believe, not every college experience is the same. Some people find what they believe is their purpose, while others change their majors every other semester.
Try not to worry excessively about timing. Some people find they need to put off a semester or see others in their field seemingly more successful in endeavors and feel inferior. There is no reason to doubt that everything happening is timed perfectly with the life one desires for themselves, and worrying about it only adds unnecessary stress.
Let yourself be a kid occasionally. Yes, you may have responsibilities like paying bills or endless days of homework, but letting yourself have even five minutes of simplicity is good for the soul. I’m much better mentally because I let myself enjoy childhood activities I did not give myself time to before. It’s okay to want to hold on to that air of innocence children have while growing in maturity. Being able to have fun and know when seriousness is not needed is healthy for the mind.
Most importantly, be yourself and listen to your needs. I found my friends, did better in my classes, and became less worried about being alone with my thoughts when I finally listened to what my body was telling me. I became better at differentiating the times I craved human interaction, the moments I needed to myself, the days I needed to sleep in, and the nights I needed to stay awake from my array of emotions. Doing so helped me tremendously, and I only hope telling others about my experiences allows them to find themselves as well.
By writing this post and the ones that will follow, I desire to show my belief that people deserve to know that college does not have to be one of the most taxing experiences of their lives despite what friends and family may say. That is the very reason why I have decided to share the few things that have made my time these first two semesters something I will always cherish. While the things I have enjoyed and have been a part of do not happen the same way for everyone, and I do understand that some people work themselves to extremes trying to make it through higher education, I still have insight into what it’s like being someone who did not think they would make it to where they are and is surprised by their achievements. Situations I have shared and have decided to give advice regarding are all based on my understanding and are to be taken lightly when considering one’s own experiences and expectations.