And like that, it’s over.
The year I had been anxiously awaiting has come and gone, and with it came some valuable experiences, lessons and friendships. I have found a home in Bloomington, and this home has provided me with more knowledge in all facets of life, far beyond the textbook. While the year was anything but consistently easy, that’s what made it such a fulfilling experience: the lessons, the harder times and the constant desire to find the mold I’d like to fit within. The hardest lesson of all, however, was learning that there is no exact mold. I cannot and should not aspire to be malleable enough to fit the standards set before me. Instead, I must stretch my imagination, goals and aspirations to create my own mold, one where I am not too comfortable, but comfortable enough to continue reaching a little further, to continue seeking that next milestone. A year ago I would have assumed this mold was limited to just my academic life; however, if there is anything I have learned this year it is the interconnectedness that is life. I can no longer isolate each aspect of my life into its own category, assuming that other areas won’t spill over and mix. There is a lot of spillage. A lot.
Life’s messy. But it’s better that way.
Nothing fits the cookie cutter I once tried to shape my life with. Everything affects everything else, whether it be socially, academically or athletically; they are all interconnected. There were weeks where one aspect of my life would completely dominate another; stressful weeks in school resulted in lackluster personal habits, late nights and frustration. Testing times in friendships and relationships left me longing to take a break from reality, all aspects of reality. On occasion I called home and asked for permission to crawl in a hole for a couple days and escape it all. I never found a suitable hole. Instead, I learned to face these harder times head on, whether I wanted to or not. Throughout high school I tended to mind my own business, keep my nose safely nestled in a textbook and refrain from doing anything that wasn’t related to homework on Friday nights. At IU, I peeked out from behind the textbook and never looked back. I found my academic passions, surrounded myself with people who make my cheeks hurt from smiling, and finally made taking care of myself a top priority.
Freshman year was hard, but it was also wonderful. It is a year I will cherish.
Here is a brief list of the lessons I can remember best from the year, some relate to me, some to others, all to college.
1. Always bring an umbrella to class.
2. The “Testosteroom” is another name for the weight room between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. on Friday nights. You have to witness it to understand.
3. Never trust a guy who wears socks up to his knees that are not compression socks. Just don’t.
4. Always wash your face before going to bed.
5. Few things are worth being out until 2 a.m.
6. Sleep is not for the weak, nor is it overrated. Go to bed.
7. Buzzfeed quizzes are not a waste of time, unless you do more than ten in a row. Then it is time to reevaluate.
8. Don’t measure yourself by your relationship status, unless it’s your relationship with yourself; that should never be complicated.
9. Obtain the largest, warmest and fuzziest sweatshirt you can find. Live in it.
10. Take good care of yourself; eat well, sleep, smile and breathe. Sometimes it feels like you’re all you’ve got, and that’s okay.
11. Take a deep breath at least three times a day.
12. Smile when walking to class.
13. Don’t break up with anyone over the phone, or at 3 a.m. Nothing good happens after 3 a.m.
14. Listen to your gut. It knows all.
15. Fear is not an adequate reason to not do something.
16. Existential crises are perfectly acceptable, and you’re not the only one.
17. You always have time to hug a friend, wipe a tear or be a shoulder to cry on.
18. Laughing until you cry is the best feeling. Don’t try to mask it, even if your make-up gets smudged.
19. Always take advantage of an opportunity to wear heels. Just be sure to bring bandaids.
20. Be open, share your thoughts and don’t fear judgement. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”
While I’m still learning and trying to practice these lessons in my own daily life, I cannot wait to see what the future holds. The unknown can be scary, but that’s what makes it so exciting.