For years, I dreamed about the college experience. My high school years weren’t exactly the kindest to me and while I knew that college wouldn’t be the way it’s portrayed on the screen, I still looked forward to a time where I could find some normalcy. Once I learned that my college experience would be anything but “normal,” I was heartbroken and felt so defeated. It wasn’t until recently that a switch clicked and I realized I have the college experience I’ve dreamed of, and maybe even a little more. All it takes is a little perspective to find some everyday magic.
The summer between my high school graduation and first day of college, I felt myself go through a great deal of personal growth and development. It’s still something I can’t quite explain to this day, but I knew I grew up a lot in a short period of time and took a bunch of steps closer to the person I felt like I was meant to be, all with little stimulus or life-changing moments. Between the dance schedule and outcast feeling of high school, I had spent four years constantly looking towards a great big beautiful tomorrow that was hopefully not too far away. For the first time in forever, it was finally within my reach. About a month into college, when I had my first academic advising meeting, I learned that I was just about a year and a half ahead in college. While I first thought I would try to stretch it out to four years, I learned that a three year college experience was looking much more reasonable. It’s fine though, right? I was super active on campus, so I could definitely cram four years of memories and experiences into three.
Just a few short and freshmen drama-filled months later, the pandemic hit. Two weeks turned into a few months, which has now become almost a year. At the beginning of the quarantine, I missed campus like crazy. I believed that all of my happiness, joy, and really my whole life revolved around being at school and the moments that tied my life together were the little ones: the group dinners around the dining hall high-tops, the club meetings, and the crazy moments in my friends dorm rooms. I couldn’t wait to get back to even a fraction of that.
As the months droned on, that feeling faded. I started to grow distant from many friends over the summer, but I was still eager to return to the campus that fostered so much happiness. I spent a few days a week on campus, and it was miserable. I ended up growing apart from more friends and eventually losing all passion I had for the school I once loved.
I felt so distant and detached from everything and I lost so much hope. Winter break was really difficult for me and I faced constant anxiety about what the Spring semester would look like. I was scared of losing more than I already had.
Then one night, before I even made it back to campus, I was on the phone with two of my best friends. One of them needed some help to stay focused while working on a paper and requested some “accountabilibuddies” as we’ve coined it. She ended up taking a short study break to listen to a Taylor Swift re-recording drop and she was dancing around her room. I couldn’t help but smile and giggle. I then thought to myself, “this is the college experience I want.”
Then I realized, it is. Sometimes you just have to look a little smaller to find the moments that truly matter. After all, if they were easy to find, they wouldn’t be so special. You have to take the moments you’re given for what they’re truly worth.
Despite having a 10am class and a busy day coming up, I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning realizing what I’ve discovered while writing this post and listening to Voctave’s rendition of “Show Yourself” from Frozen 2. I’m losing track of the time while just enjoying the company of my friends. Even better, it’s with one of my best friends who lives and goes to school hours away and I rarely get to see in person anymore. Beyond this moment, I’ve been able to dedicate so much time to work, both here with my content and on-campus with my now four jobs and one internship. Yes, I really love what I do. It never feels like work. And that’s the other beautiful thing, this “abnormal” experience has let me reexamine my priorities, values, and passions to help me forge a path that makes me more fulfilled than anything I could have imagined and far happier than anything I felt last year. I’ve never felt so certain about that great big beautiful tomorrow.
I learned that college isn’t even about college. It’s about personal growth. It’s about fostering relationships with the people that make you the happiest. It’s about life and all of the curveballs it has to offer. It’s about living every moment to the fullest. How do you do that? You do what makes you happy. You spend time with the people that make you happy. You take the classes that you want to take. You try the things that you want. You fail. You learn. You grow. And you make a ton of memories along the way.
Whether it’s on Zoom or on campus, no one can take your college experience away except for you. You just have to have the courage to reach out and pursue it.
Have a terrific day,