College, in Chapters

Chapter One: Freshman Year (2010-2011)

This year is the year of confusion, depression, and misunderstanding, all wrapped up with a ribbon of neurosis. This is the year I move away from home. This is the year I get really lonely and distressed all the time. This is the year of zero perspective and lots of timidity. This is the year everything I really knew about myself changed.

Freshman year is the year I realized that life rarely ever goes as planned. Basically, it never goes as we have it planned. My freshman year still teaches me things about myself when I sit and reflect on it. A big thing I learned is that I want to be grounded and settled in a home (rather than living the inconsistent and competitive life of a vocal performer, which is what my major started out as). I was still struggling intensely with perfectionism (and the guilt that goes along with striving constantly for perfectionism).

I crashed a little bit. I moved home and changed my major to Linguistics. I moved on.

Chapter Two: Sophomore Year (2011-2012)

This is the year I walk off stage from my own life. I wrapped myself up in grades and working, and aimed to stay out of the spotlight and remain generally inconspicuous. My previous self – the one driven by performance and social interaction and theatre and appearances – took a nap. This self would get irritated and angry when I (or anyone else) tried to wake it up. The part of me that was left was quiet, robotic, and a little apathetic. I wasn’t singing. I wasn’t acting. I couldn’t even bring myself to sing for fun (and maybe even had a mini-meltdown at little things like when friends insisted I sing for Rockband at a party). I just couldn’t bring myself to be who I had used to be, or who I wanted to be again. I didn’t have the energy and I didn’t have the grit. I still didn’t quite understand what had happened in chapter one, but I was drifting along.

I changed my major again, this time to Health and Wellness, and I kept going.

Chapter Three: Junior Year (2012-2013)

This is the year I healed a little bit. This is the year I confronted my napping performer, and forced her to get back to my voice teacher, and I even signed up for an acting class. These two things forced the apathetic and sufficiently functional part of me and the pure energy/vitality part of me to talk things out and cooperate. That acting class was therapy. It was a small, intimate group, and it was good to have a class that involved more than sitting in the back of a lecture hall and then slipping out quickly to drive home. I had people to talk to and open up to, I had monologues for which I soul-searched and reflected to find inspiration. My voice teacher helped me come to terms with the concept of meeting myself at my own level, regardless of where any past me had been; I learned to come back to basics and fundamentals, and rebuild on that.

There is a moment I could pinpoint as a break-through of sorts during my acting class, but ultimately it was affirmation that things were getting back on track inside of me. The following summer, my social life improved (and by that I mean it actually existed again), and I saw a huge upswing in the health of all of my relationships in general.

Chapter Four: Senior Year (2013-2014)

This year is (obviously) still happening. But I’m back. I took a huge opportunity to audition for my university’s top choir, and I made it. Just this was a significant victory for me with all of what I had been through with confidence, and losing my voice and ability to perform. I knew I’d enjoy just singing with people again, but didn’t anticipate the flat-out music therapy it would actually be for me. Without the music, the socializing, and the emotional support that comes with being a part of this kind of family again, I’m convinced my college years would be ones that leave me with very few people I care to even check in with past graduation; I would never reminisce on the days of quietly sitting in lecture halls and only having friends during the course of each class for the sake of getting notes when I miss a day or two; and I would never have healed as much as I have so far (And we’re still less than halfway through this chapter).

I’ve come to a point where I am really very happy with my life for the first time in… Well, if we’re being honest, ever. This year has also thrown a lot at me, and I know myself, and I know I would plummet emotionally without having reached this level of awareness, stability, and contentment.

I’ve learned some pretty significant things so far this year, as well…

  1. For so many years, I’ve been striving for “balance.” For goodness sake, that’s what my whole degree is about. But I know now that I don’t believe that people ever really have every dimension of wellness in a happy equilibrium at one time, all the time (those dimensions being physical, emotional, social, occupational, mental, spiritual, and environmental wellness). Wellness is a continuum that requires being present and self-aware, and being able to know what part of your personal grass you need to water to make it as green as you want it.It’s a process; it never ends. But this means I don’t have to try and be the perfect, calm, well-balanced girl who wakes up early every morning, is satisfactorily productive each day, is always up for going out with friends (or even always has friends to go out with), never says the wrong thing, spends time meditating, working out, and doing yoga, and also has a dream job through which I feel transcendentally fulfilled and enlightened.  And without this pressure, I can enjoy and appreciate the current state of my life, knowing that it will never quite be exactly like it is right now ever again.
  2. Between actually having friends that don’t live 400 or more miles away from me this year and a recent sudden and tragic death in my family, I’m realizing just how important people are to me. Three years ago, I would have definitely said that I’m an introvert. I laugh at this idea now, and thrive knowing that I’m actually loving living outside of my comfort zone and jumping into social situations that would have terrified me at any other point in my life.I’ve always been okay with the distance (physically and emotionally) between me and my extended family, as they all live a couple states away from me; but now I see them really as an extension of my family. I know that sounds like a stupid and redundant way to put it, but there are so many definitions of family: one of them is the kind that lives where ever and maybe you get Christmas cards updating you on their lives and you just get used to not really having them around or involved, and the one I’m intending now is the family that means that there are people rooting for you and that you get to cheer for and embrace, no matter where they live. Hey, my little cousins are the closest things I’ll ever get to little siblings and I can be a person that encourages and helps them feel better about themselves and be better people! And there’s no one else in my life I could really get that opportunity with.
  3. Friends are important. Accepting that you can be perfectly happily friends with some one else without being their bestfriendeverinthewholewideworld is more important. Everyone in your life is different. Each relationship you have is completely unique and has something so individual to offer. You don’t have to text people everyday, or be the most important person in the world to some one in order to enjoy doing things with them. People are like books to me: they have their motifs and themes, their memorable moments and quotes and experiences, unique feelings and perspectives that only each one can give you. And, you don’t know how little or how much you want to get involved with a book just by, well, merely looking at its cover (cliche alert: my apologies).
  4. Ultimately,

“In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” – Aaron Rose

…and it’s up to you to keep yourself open to finding this light, and recognizing this time. Enjoy Appreciate what you have and what you’re going through right now, in this moment.

Oh, and I changed my major again. This time, I made my own (thank you, Integrative Studies). I settled on a curriculum for my degree entitled “Wellness and Personal Development.” I even get to keep my previous degree plan in the form of a minor, so I didn’t waste any time at all.

Things work out okay.

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2 thoughts on “College, in Chapters

  1. This is a really honest post! I love the tone and to read about your growth as a human. Sometimes those lessons suck, but you have survived and thrived through it all! I’m really proud of you 🙂

  2. Pingback: 10 Things College Has Taught Me (Wednesday Things) |

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