As we near the end of our first semester of college, first-year students may find themselves struggling. I know this feeling because I am feeling it myself. Despite the warnings, I don’t think any of us anticipated this year going by as fast as it is. The beginning of the week starts, and the next thing you know, it’s Sunday night, and we’re starting it all over again like clockwork. There seems to be little time for ourselves and I am here to tell you that you are not alone in your struggles.
In the rare event that I have no work, I find myself sitting somewhere on campus, whether in my room or Memorial Hill — contemplating what is to come. What does the future hold, here and beyond? Am I smart enough to face the real world? How different will next year be — and will I even be the same person? Will my friends still like me? And so many other questions that scare the hell out of me, but are necessary to ask. Whether or not you have caught yourself in moments like these, they are real questions, and it is okay to ask them.
For many of us, this is the first time we’re living on our own, away from our families, friends, and the people we have relied on our whole lives. College is meant to be hard. But that does not mean you can’t ask yourself those difficult existential questions. I have learned that asking the hardest questions about ourselves and our future yields the most rewarding results. College is a time when we learn who we are, what we want, why we want it, and the steps we must take to get there. People say that college is meant to be where we figure stuff out, but nothing actually prepares us for the figuring out process. We seem to be left to do it on our own.
I have heard people on campus questioning if they will even make it to graduation just because they didn’t do the best on their first midterm. I have talked to people who fear going out on the weekends because they think they’ll fall behind on their work. I know people who are afraid of making friends because they don’t want to push them away when things get rough, and people who are afraid of losing the friends they have made over the long breaks back home. There are so many emotions unraveling at this time of year, and it is okay to have them.
Nothing prepares us for how accelerated everything is in college. How does anyone have time for themselves when they have an essay due and have already asked for an extension? There are times when self-care may have to come later, but it’s crucial to make sure that it comes eventually. As the days grow darker and winter approaches, do not be afraid to seek the help you may not know you need to get through it all. If you have free time during the week, go somewhere you can sit and be at peace with yourself for a few minutes. Use the resources of the Counseling Center if you feel comfortable doing so. Talk to a trusted friend, whether that means someone here or from back home. Talk to a professor that you have a good relationship with. Write down how you feel; I used to journal, and even though I’ve fallen out of the habit, I remember how fulfilling it was to put my thoughts on paper, even if I was the only one reading them.
I know a lot of that sounds easier said than done. It has become easier for us to put on a facade, and hide our true feelings; we even hide them from ourselves sometimes. But, a lot of the time not everyone has it all together the way it may seem. It is easy to lose track of time in college and life. It is easier to think about what we want than to go for it. But I am here to tell you that when you find yourself in a place of distress or struggle, you are the only one that can get yourself out of it at the end of the day.
I am not writing this op-ed to tell anyone what to do or assume how anyone is feeling right now. I am writing to let you all know that you are not alone in any of your thoughts as we near the end of the semester. A lot of your friends may not tell you how they are feeling. Some people may not be struggling at all. But no one is alone in the general feelings of living and thriving in college. Sometimes knowing that we aren’t alone is enough.
While this is directed toward freshmen because it is our first experience here, every person on campus is not alone. While it may get easier as the years go on, we all need a reminder that someone else might feel the same way that we do. I am not a professional, but I am human, as we all are. So, the next time you wonder if you should take the extra five minutes in the shower, take ten. The extra set in the gym, do two. One more chapter of the book you're reading on the quad, read two. We can’t get any classwork done if we aren’t taking care of ourselves first.
Utilize the resources around you, and never blame yourself for asking the hard questions. Never lose yourself in pursuit of the goals we are told to have, and never forget that you aren’t alone.