The day I left for my first semester of college, I cried the whole way to the airport. Every instinct in me screamed to turn the car around, jump out of the car or do anything to get out of what was to come. My mind frantically ran through all my options, but the only logical option was to take the flight, alone, to the other side of the country.
I had already bought the ticket and planned for the semester. I had told all of my friends I was leaving and cracked jokes about how excited I was to leave my parents. As much as I wanted to stay, I had to leave.
Change comes easier for some and harder for others. I have always struggled with embracing transitions. When I first turned 18 and people started referring to me as an adult, I would smile sheepishly and then promptly change the topic. I didn’t feel like a real adult. I could barely keep my room semi-clean, much less do basic adulting skills like taxes, paying utilities or managing a household.
But somehow, I made it out of that car and onto my flight. Once I actually arrived at college, people started referring to me as a college student or college kid. Here’s the thing. I didn’t feel like a college student. I felt like a fraud. I felt like I wasn’t really a college student. I was only taking 12 credits, and, aside from a class I was auditing, my classes weren’t ridiculously hard.
Unlike my friends who were studying nursing, music and art, I didn’t have to study or work on projects into the wee hours of the morning. I wasn’t completely broke. However, I didn’t have a huge group of friends, I barely left campus, and unlike half the freshmen class, I hadn’t found my future spouse by the second week.
During those first few weeks, I felt tricked. I had heard all these stories about how college is amazing, a time of self-discovery and ultimately a time to take risks. I didn’t feel amazing. So far, the only thing I had ‘discovered’ about myself was that if I ate fried food every day, my stomach would hurt. The only ‘risk’ I’d taken was sleeping in five extra minutes.
While things haven’t gotten magically better overnight, they have gradually improved. I joined a society, became a writer for The Collegian, chose a church and tried to befriend the people around me. And I found that while I didn’t feel like I was on top of the world, I enjoyed what I was doing and could be genuinely proud of my work at the end of the day.
While I still don’t know how to pay utilities, manage a household and pay taxes, I now know how to do ‘baby’ adulting. I now know what it’s like to be pretty much on your own. I know what it’s like to completely manage your schedule and decisions. I know what it’s like to wake up wanting to walk your dog or hug your mom and having to settle for a video of them.
Change is hard. Some transitions may never feel natural. You may never feel ready for certain changes. Although I now feel like a real college student, I don’t feel ready for graduation, marriage or having kids. And sometimes, after you make the transitions, you don’t feel like you’re doing it right.
However, sometimes you have to jump into the deep end of the pool. You have to sink before you start to swim. Knowing that you’ve survived change and transitions in the past can be a source of comfort as well as give you courage to make future changes.
For example, during my first semester on campus, I had to switch a class from credit to audit. It was a really hard thing to do, but now I know that dropping or switching a class is a valid option. Change can be tough, but as Dory from Finding Nemo once said, “Just keep swimming.”