Dear Freshman Year,
I can’t believe it’s already time to say goodbye. I swear it feels like yesterday that I pulled up to my dorm and spent 4 stressful hours moving in, and now I’m completely moved out and gone for the summer. I’m not going to lie, we had our ups and downs and definitely got off to a rocky start. I was terrified during my first two weeks. Actually, I think I cried multiple times a week for the first 2 months. During those two months, I actively resisted the changes you were trying to make to me, and I tried to hold on to the regimented, inflexible, fearful Abby from high school. But here’s what I have to say – thank you for being scary. They say that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and as cliché as it sounds, this couldn’t be truer. At the point when I decided that “college life” (dorm-style living, being far from home, staying up late, not controlling what I eat) just wasn’t for me, I had two options – retreat to my comfort zone (read: transfer) or endure the challenge. And while I seriously considered the former option, deciding to confront head on something that scared me has changed my life in so many ways.
Freshman year, thank you for teaching me to practice grace daily. In college, there is so much that is not in my control – schedules change regularly, you unexpectedly get sick, food appears around every corner, you stay up later than you mean to. Through all of this, I learned that being spontaneous and not beating up on yourself when things don’t go according to plan are integral to success in college. A year ago, I would have had a meltdown if I did worse than expected on an exam. The same goes for my relationship with food; as someone who has struggled for years with disordered eating, I am so happy to say that going to college has helped me to stop thinking so much about food and just eat. Plain and simple. Food has taken a backseat to so many other things in my life, and that is something I’ve been working towards for a while. What I eat and the grades I get are just small pieces of the puzzle, and ultimate happiness comes from so much more.
Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to have fun. In high school, I believed that having fun was a waste of time. The harder I worked, the more successful I would be. And while this might have worked with respect to academics, it hurt my relationships and mental wellbeing. At some point during my freshman year, I decided that it was time to stop being so hard on myself and time just live for once. Instead of seeing myself as “better” than those that went out, I joined in with them. By an amazing twist of fate, I was offered a snap bid into a sorority, and this was one of the greatest blessings of the semester. For the first time in my life, I had fun. Did my life fall to pieces and my grades suffer like I thought they would? No. But what did change was my attitude toward life – I realized that sometimes it’s okay to not take everything so seriously and just take life one moment at a time. Yes, college is ultimately about the education, but it is also about enjoying yourself and making memories along the way.
Thank you for teaching me to value relationships. In the 8 months leading up to college, I did life pretty much alone. This isn’t to say that I didn’t have support; but I thought that I could do everything by myself. I didn’t go out, I didn’t connect with friends, and I spent most of my time alone. I felt that life was easier with only one person to worry about. This is so wrong. One of the most amazing things about college is being surrounded by people who care about you 24/7 and enduring the hard times and enjoying the good times together. Will you remember that Tuesday night that you studied really late in the library? Probably not. But will you remember that Tuesday you stayed up way too late talking to friends and watching movies? Absolutely. Between my sorority sisters, my teammates, my roommate, and so many others, I learned the true value of friendships. And once I put more focus on them, I finally realized why they say college is the “best four years of your life.”
Thank you for teaching me that it’s okay to not be okay. This past semester, I got in touch with my emotions for the first time in a loooong time. Ignoring your feelings and numbing can seem easier than addressing them. It can protect you from pain, embarrassment, and sadness. But it also prevents you from experiencing joy, love, excitement, and anticipation. With the help of an amazing counselor and friends who love to talk about emotions, I got to experience all of these emotions and more. Sometimes, it was incredible – I smiled ear to ear when I went out and danced the night away with friends and got butterflies before going on dates. Other times, it sucked – I felt sad and homesick when I missed my family and hurt when I got into a fight with a friend. But when you’re living with other people 24/7, it becomes harder and harder to put on a mask of perfection, and eventually you realize that everyone is human and it’s a whole lot easier to just put your real, emotional, broken self out there than try to pretend otherwise. Emotions are there for a reason – get in touch with them and embrace them; and if you need to, call a friend, talk it out, and just cry.
And lastly, thank you for all the memories. If you told me at the beginning of the semester that I would be heartbroken to leave, I would’ve thought you were crazy. Nevertheless, the stars aligned and I realized that I am exactly where I need to be. I will treasure the memories of and growth freshman year forever, and am counting down the days until I’m back. Here’s to 3 more amazing years.