As freshman year draws to a close, I’ve realized that it has been one of the most rewarding years of my life, yet also the hardest. Nothing can compare to the joys of leaving home and the hope of starting over, but throughout this journey I have also come to know the fear of making the wrong choices and the pressures of becoming something I am not. Just like anything else in life, the lows are more heavily analyzed, but the highs are magical and breathtaking.
Sitting here with two weeks left in freshman year, I’m looking back on what has been both the best eight months of my life and also the worst. A paradox it seems, life doesn’t always abide by the rules of natural logic; and, with the highs and lows scattered so seamlessly throughout these past weeks, I’m struck with a feeling of confusion like never before.
In retrospect, while the year has been a turbulent series of events, I cannot undermine the amazing times I have had with people that I didn’t even know a year ago. The funny part about moving away from home and into a new environment is that the possibilities are endless. The people you meet have an interesting way of shaping who you become. This unpredictability has been, and will remain, my favorite aspect of freshman year. Never knowing whom you might run into has been a blessing in disguise, as there is always someone on campus willing to grab some food, dole out advice, or just sit around with.
With so many new faces, relationships can grow in the most unexpected of places. During the first week of the fall semester I got lost in a staircase and ended up with three friends that are some of my favorite people to this day. During the first week of second semester, I introduced myself to a stranger with the phrase, “I’m pretty sure you follow me on Twitter.” That simple sentence, brimming with both arrogance and nervousness, led me into the most beautiful relationship of freshman year. Thank God for Twitter.
Nonetheless, in a high-powered environment such as Boston College, it is easy to feel like everyone but you has it all together. There are CSOM freshmen who rarely fall short of pretentious yet also admirably driven. There are athletes who seem to have accomplished more by the age of eighteen than you ever will. There are thousands of people to compare yourself to, a comparison in which you will always seem to fall short.
For me, I showed up at BC on a mission to become everything I never was in high school. Rather than the academically close-minded, perfect daughter that I had always been, I desired to break out of that shell, take risks, make some mistakes. Thinking that the social life I had in high school was something I had to fix, I strove to be more outgoing, more spontaneous.
There was nothing wrong with my desire for improvement, except for the place it originated: a lack of self acceptance and an ever present push to be something more, even when that was impossible. This theme became apparent during second semester when I was truly taken aback by my inability to breathe and let go. I was always working to solve an intangible problem with a calculated response, not realizing that life’s dilemmas rarely lend themselves to black and white solutions. While this didn’t seem wrong at the time, looking back I realize that I didn’t have anything to change; I just didn’t love myself enough to see that.
All of these alterations are not alarming in themselves, but each and every change I desired to make tugged a little more at the beautiful person I had grown into. I convinced myself I had to be perfect, had to right every wrong I had ever made in high school, and become the person that I had never been. What I didn’t realize then, and am only coming to understand as I write this sentence, is that I was never fatally flawed. I never needed fixing.
I have found it easy to fall into the trap of low self-esteem, especially in a place that makes me feel as though the world is spinning faster than I will ever be able to handle. From this I have learned that I am the only person in control of my emotions, and to take things day by day. There is a time to contemplate the future – where I will be, what I will be doing, who I will be with – but that time is not in the middle of a busy day, and not at the end of a longer day when I need to get some sleep. Essentially, this year has taught me to regulate my emotions but also ask for help when necessary. I am the most stubborn person in the entire world, and I would go to the ends of the earth before admitting I need help. This year, I have stepped outside of these fears and have reached out to those who love me when I need them. The internal battle between wanting to appear perfect and asking for help has been a constant source of stress, though it is an important lesson to learn. Not every problem I face is one that I have to face alone, and confessing this has been one of my proudest achievements to date.
For the first time in my life, and especially the first time at BC, I admitted that things weren’t going as perfectly as I made them seem. Although “You look so happy on Snapchat!” and “Your Instagram seems like everything is going perfectly,” were statements uttered endlessly by my friends back at home, I knew that was the perfectionist in me, always fighting for the final say. In a two-week span, I might have a few good nights (and severe failed ones) out of many. With that came a perfectly cropped and filtered photo with a witty caption to convince everyone I knew that I was happy. Snapchat was a similar means of filtering my struggles, being bored in the moment yet capturing it flawlessly for all to see. The reason for these difficulties wasn’t clear at the time, but as I face the second round of losing myself, I see my situation through a clearer lens.
Second semester has had a different ring to it. For me, second semester has been a time to find myself, to find the balance between the wild nature of first semester and the person I truly strive to be. Rather than drinking too much and making less than exceptional decisions, a common theme of first semester, I have begun to settle down – for better or for worse. Part of me longs for the freedom and ability to screw up and revel in the story that comes with that. But I am also satisfied with the progress that I have made and the more mature tone my life has taken on.
Though the days are still long and my emotions constantly confusing, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. In just seven days, classes will be over, and only exams will block the path between my summer and I. Just like that, freshman year will be over, and all of the questions it brought will fade away. But the biggest question remains, the underlying concern that has been the root of all of my problems thus far.
My final word of wisdom is that which no one tells you before coming to college: while it will be the best four years of your life, it will also be the hardest. Learning to rely on yourself is one of the greatest struggles I have ever faced, and learning to put your happiness before others is something else I have yet to master, though I keep trying. Essentially, being tossed into a new environment will be a challenge, and it will define who you are and who you become. While this sentiment is scary, it’s not the end of the world. No matter the struggles, you were admitted to Boston College because someone, somewhere, knew that you could handle it.
Now it is in your hands. Just like anything else in life, you reap what you sow. So while this may not be the fun, breezy, college advice you were expecting, it’s a much more practical sentiment that I wish I heard a long time ago. So party hard and make mistakes, but be sure to find yourself somewhere in between.