If your freshman year of college was anything like mine, you were overwhelmed by going through this significant transition at a very young age.
During the first week of school, I remember laying in my twin-xl bed at my out-of-state college with the most terrifying realization that this would be my new life for the next four years.
There are so many adjustments you have to make as you realize the comfort of childhood is over. You are officially being forced into the world of self-sufficiency.
While some of us get a more dramatic slap than others in the face of this new reality, all of us realize a period of growth has begun.
Often, we don’t know how impactful these moments of change are until they are over. But when we are given the chance to look back at the person we once were, the growth seems almost inevitable.
Who we used to be is now a distant friend, disconnected from the parts of ourselves we have inherited. Each year of college, it seems like we find a little more of ourselves. In bits and pieces, we are directed to who and what makes us feel most alive.
We are told college holds the best years of our lives, but it really just holds four years of firsts. Because, really, each year of life (not just college) shows us a little more of ourselves.
There will be many more firsts, and we will always be given the option to mold our character with new experiences.
With change comes the excitement of new challenges and a sense of self-assurance with it. College has introduced us to the fundamental lessons we will continue to learn for the rest of our lives.
We continue to find our people.
Every new beginning comes with people who start as strangers and become our friends. Then, one day, we turn around and they have become our family.
Fitting us as comfortably as our favorite pair of jeans, these individuals allow us to feel at home no matter where we are. They give us the confidence in ourselves to build connections wherever we go.
As we leave college, I think this is one of the hardest things to let go of. We have learned that “family” isn’t constant; it has the capacity to be built exactly where we are.
This newfound understanding that we can and will thrive, even without being next to the ones we love the most, reminds us that we will be A-okay no matter where we end up.
We continue to plan our paths.
Nobody has a definite plan for the rest of their lives (and if you think you do, I dare you to reconsider), but we’re narrowing down the paths we know we don’t want to follow.
Whether it's your major, who you do/do not want to date, pushing your limits or challenging your goals, college has helped you to narrow down your potential path.
We are constantly evolving into new people with each experience we choose to learn from, therefore allowing change to be a constant.
We learn maturity, or we learn how to loosen up.
For some of us, learning to destress and not be so hard on ourselves is the greatest challenge at hand. Being on the fast track to adulthood is something with which many of us are ingrained.
Whether it's running into a marriage, getting a 4.0 or going out and being a little crazy every once in a while, sometimes we must learn to enjoy the youth that will not be with us forever.
For others, we must pull the reins in and let go of our constant parental support. Not blacking out every weekend, getting a steady job or deciding our own boundaries rather than going with the crowd can create a rewarding sense of maturity.
Either way, we take this growth through our 20s and beyond, as the stability in our own lives levels out in gratifyingly necessary ways.
We are told the best days are over.
I don’t know about you, but every post-grad has the same depressing spiel to deliver when imparting their mid- to late-20s wisdom on me. They all say life sucks after graduation.
I’m told things only go downhill when you get a 9-to-5 desk job. All I really have to say is, if you don’t start to question this script, you may start to believe it. And believing it can make this same story a part of your own life.
Who really wants to live like that?
We learn that "the best days are over" is bullsh*t, and the best is yet to come.
College is boxed into this awesome period where we aren’t children, but we aren’t yet adults. It gives us the leeway to make a lot of silly mistakes before we’re “old” and need to be “responsible.”
But who says we can’t enjoy every other segment of our lives with the same energy we have in our youth; just maybe with different outlets? I believe our college attitude that led us on that spontaneous road trip to Santa Barbara for the best Chinese food on a Monday night is the same attitude that can be carried throughout the future.
We fail to remember the pattern of life is the same pattern we just learned in college.
Despite what we are told, our 20s, 30s, marriage and parenthood (every significant phase of our lives) can be just as incredible as the last four years of our lives.
We’ve had our hearts broken, watched our friends move away, left jobs we loved and moved away from the towns that gave us so many memories. But with all that, we have learned these moments have given us the ability to confidently step forward with a new set of skills and a fresh perspective on how we want to live.
College may have been our first experience of the world on our own, but the sentimental nostalgia it leaves certainly does not indicate the end of our growth.
The twists and turns ahead have the ability to create even greater memories.