Nothing can prepare you properly for college (or “real life” afterwards, or marriage, or parenthood, and so on). What a culture shock it is to remove yourself from living under the rules of your parents, with their guidance and protection, and then venture out on your own to discover yourself and your life. How exhilarating and scary all at the same time.
The college I went to was strategically placed between Hershey and Lancaster, and depending on which way the wind blew, you either had the delectable scents of the chocolate factory stimulating your olfactory senses, or the barf-inducing smell of nearby cows. It was quite an interesting place, and not at all what I expected. I based my expectations on my experience at my grandparent’s place in the Poconos, not realizing that this was no vacation I was about to take.
Shit was about to get real. But not in necessarily a bad way. In an empowering way—sometimes through exciting new adventures, and other times through tough life lessons and social challenges.
I had a rough first year. What started out as a great journey soon turned into a repeat of past hurts. I wasn’t one to make friends easily; I am actually quite shy and it takes me a while to warm up, so I definitely had anxiety about meeting new people. But luckily, my college experience began with a trip to Jersey City with girls I met earlier in the summer at orientation, and we had such a blast. My college roommate turned out to be from a neighboring district from where I grew up, so I felt connected to her knowing that we had that location bond. And there were many wonderful girls in my all-girl dorm that were all kind and welcoming—they were terrified themselves, and we were all in the same boat together.
But soon thereafter, when I thought I had a set of friends that would be my college-lifers, my social life got turned upside down. One of my friends turned on me, and actually told me to get my own set of friends and to stop hanging out with hers. There was one friend in particular she had that I wasn’t quite a fan of, who would come in my room and be extremely mean to me. In fairness, she was mean to everyone, but she certainly loved taking the most potshots at me. I was broken-hearted, and alone. Who
would I eat with? Who would I go to parties with? Who would I talk to when I was having a hard time—about this?
But true to nature, I had made good friendships with individual girls here and there. (I just really am not a group person; I am much better with one-on-one friendships.) Luckily, this opened up some doors for me to find my own crew. Actually, a few different ones, which was authentically more of my style. Again, I found myself admiring those in the music and drama concentrations, feeling completely accepted as I truly was. And then there was the group of friends I forged the strongest alliance with; who I ended up sharing a living space with, and who were there to welcome me back with love after my 6-month departure to Spain.
Even within my circle of friends, there were, of course, fights and struggles and hurts, but for the most part, I made friends with the most amazing people who I am still connected to today. You don’t go through an experience like college without making strong bonds that last a lifetime; we literally grew up into adults together. We created amazing memories together. We made bad, life-lesson decisions together.
We made mistakes and laughed about them (like thinking a free hair modeling gig would be a good idea; yeah, not so much).
We supported each other (oftentimes with pints of Ben and Jerry’s in the hallways). We cried when one of us was heartbroken and hurt. We learned from each other. We opened our eyes to each other’s perfections and our flaws, and we loved each other for them.
Peace was even restored between my former friend and I, as we navigated through our lives. And to this day, I am grateful for the friendships this 4-year adventure brought into my life. There was so much that I learned from this particular journey.
I learned how to become an adult and take care of myself. I learned to rely on myself, and both support and get support from others when I needed to. I tested my own moral and value system and survived. I learned how childish I could really be—both as in playfulness, and as in cattiness towards others. I developed new tastes and was introduced to new perspectives and new ways of life. I explored my creative side, and changed majors a few times trying to figure out what I really wanted to be when I grew up.
I worked cameras behind the scenes on the college tv station. I started as a sundae bar girl and graduated into a student manager of the café. I tutored others in writing and landed an internship
in marketing at a senior community center. I played on the swings at the neighborhood “Fort,” enjoyed fishbowl Hurricane drinks underage at the local bars, played Truth or Dare, sang into hairbrushes and danced my butt off at our weekend dances. I survived on ramen noodle soup and mac and cheese at times, learned how to avoid the cold rush of water in the shower after a community flush, and along with my roomie, invited strange boys from another college to come visit us after meeting them online.
Maybe some of these seem so mild or silly to you, but each of us has our own adventure that we go on, and the moments that mean the most to us. For me, it was the little silly things that I remember. I will never forget the profound moments either, but those are easy to see how they change your life. But what really helps to build your character, your spirit and your experience are those things that are uniquely influential to you.
And for me, it was all of these different ways of expanding myself outside of a very contained box that helped me to open up my mind and heart to all the possibilities that were to lie ahead for me.
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