Sitting across the table from a couple family friends, the knot in my stomach tightened with excitement as I heard them exclaim, “College is going to be the best four years of your life!” The wistful look of nostalgia on both of their faces incited a new rush of anticipation in me. My “best years” started next week.
However, a few moments of feeling ill at ease at college soon tainted my initial enthusiasm.
Many of my problems were trivial and inconsequential, but they were difficult for me then. Their weight was compounded by the thought that I was supposed to be enjoying every single day.
The good-hearted remarks wishing me well at school eventually became biting reminders that I did not love college, that my life did not perfectly match the stories I had heard.
Every unknowing adult who implored me to “savor each moment because [I’d] never have another chance to have this much fun” only succeeded in furthering my disappointment.
How did everyone else have the most amazing time in college? I tried to make up for my lack of comfort in my new home by going out more, befriending more people, joining more clubs. Ultimately, even when other people surrounded me, I was lonely and, honestly, a little heartbroken.
I came into college very naive, thinking every day would be better than the last. With every hangout I wasn’t invited to and every moment I didn’t have plans, no matter how few or far between, I felt out of place.
“Don’t you just love it?”
“Yes. How could you not?” I’d lie. Mostly hoping for a reply that would explain why I honestly didn’t.
Finally, the summer before junior year I came to a refreshing realization. It’s okay. It’s okay to be alone and to feel sad and isolated sometimes.
The trick is to relish those moments and turn them into times to reflect and understand yourself better. The constantly outgoing, fun-loving girl I had pictured myself being in college was an illusion. I wasn’t her, and the more I tried to be, the further I felt from myself.
So, I stopped trying.
I began to seek out people and form relationships with those who were similar to me. The more I found and understood myself, the easier it was to be at school. To take the hits as they came, many much larger than not being invited to a party, to learn from them and move on.
These have not been the best years of my life, but they have certainly been the most formative, most significant.
It is more than all right to feel out of place. The key is to ardently work to understand yourself by pursuing what you love to do and finding genuine friends, rather than spending every single second trying to shape yourself into someone you are not. You will never find happiness that way.
I love school now and have for a long time, but I still have moments when I feel uneasy here. I never dwell on them, and soon they pass.
So, I ask you to go forth with courage. College will be difficult and emotionally taxing. That’s the true nature of these four years. But, there will also be love along with the loss and happiness even in the hardest hours. For that, I say to not enjoy it, but to live it.
You won’t revel in every moment, but you’ll become yourself, and that, to me, makes these four years entirely worth it.
Samantha Rhodes is a rising senior in the College. Watch Your Step appears every other Tuesday.
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