It’s been quite a while since you’ve heard from me, I know. I’m excited to share a very unfiltered version of my transition into college. While this is a little overdue, I want to talk about it all: socially, mentally, and physically. I just came home for Thanksgiving break, and then we have two more weeks until the semester is over. While it seems delayed, I am finally ready to have this conversation full-heartedly. I can so easily tell you that it’s going to be hard. Still, it’ll be worth it, and ultimately that is what I’m going to say to you. Again, I believe that so many people who try to give advice brush over how much college turns your entire life upside down. So yes, I am going to say that you will eventually be able to find pure genuine happiness. Still, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Also, everyone’s story is different, but this is my honest transition into college.
First of all, the hardest part right off the back was that I felt that I needed to put my passion on hold. As you can guess, everything I create here is my passion. It is my passion to start these hard conversations and advocate for mental health issues. But you may also notice that I haven’t posted since August. I had planned to take some time away from publishing content for a couple weeks while I adjusted, but it was never my intent to stay away for this long. My passion hasn’t faded, it’s just tough to find time for yourself in college. I have been very committed to my academics, and I have dedicated a lot of time to make sure I meet every single deadline. I’m glad that I worked so hard on my work, but with the little free time I did have, I used it just to relax. However, I am so passionate about creating this content that I felt a pang of internal guilt for not doing so. I preach all the time how important it is to take time for yourself, and there I was beating myself up for doing just that. At the end of the day, I am creating content out of my own desire to do so, but that sometimes means that I can’t create content like it’s my full-time job. Next semester I hope to find a better balance so that I can create content on a more regular basis. Still, until then, I’ll be proud of what I’ve put out there as long as I am creating something meaningful, and that will have an impact.
Another standard piece of advice that is given is that you are going to change your major. It’s true, or maybe you’ll be like me and go through three different majors within your first semester. In high school, I was known for being the one with a set plan for the rest of my life, but somehow I got to college, and that all changed. In short, reality hit. I used to want to be a journalist and wrote my college application essays on how I wanted to “break the era of ‘fake news.’” While journalism still does bring me enjoyment, after 3 years as a part-time high school intern, I was already drained out. It became a daunting task to write an article. Now questioning my plan for the first time that summer, I developed a passion for nonprofits and social entrepreneurship, which is what brought me to create my blog. It also just so happened that my school had an excellent nonprofit management program. So I thought: crisis averted, my plan may have changed, but I still have a plan. Anyone who knows me knows that I have to have a plan, I just have to. By some miraculous chance, I come across a professor who turns my entire plan upside down. Bless his soul, but he had me questioning my whole future. But through meeting with him, I was able to find a major that excites me and makes me hirable after graduation. In a perfect world, I still want to be a social entrepreneur and turn everything that I’m doing here into a career, but you don’t need a degree to do that. In the meantime, as a new advertising major, I’ll be able to take classes that I enjoy, teach me about business, and foster my skills, which will equate to a career that allows me to express my creative side. And you know what? I don’t have a full plan right now, and that’s okay. Don’t make the same mistake I did and try to figure your entire life out within your first semester.
Depending on how familiar you are with my story, you may or may not know that I am a student-athlete. Which comes with a whole new set of challenges for my transition. I finished my first season as a college athlete, and that is a big reason why I couldn’t find the time to write during the first part of the semester. To start on my first day on campus, I had no idea what to expect. I had the realistic expectation that I wasn’t a top recruit, and I’d be fighting my way up from the bottom. It was a hard truth, but one I had already accepted before even stepping on the court. Whether that was true or not didn’t really matter because it put the wrong mindset in my head. I already had in my head that I was barely good enough to be there. That really took a hit to my confidence, and my physical performance reflected that. Pre-season is mentally and physically exhausting. That entire week I either felt like I was going to cry or throw up. My first couple of days on campus were awful, and I didn’t know if I’d ever find my place within the team. I barely had a relationship with anyone on the team, and it was discouraging not to have someone on the team I could go to for support yet. Towards the end of the week, I started to come out of my shell and started showing my personality a bit more. I became comfortable with my teammates. I ended up forming a great bond with them, which made my transition a lot easier. Eventually, something with my confidence just clicked, and I was able to get a better mindset. I still accepted that I wasn’t the most talented player. However, I still contributed something important, and I had the potential to contribute physically eventually. I also realized that I had nothing to lose, so I might as well just have some fun playing the game again. (all of this happened within the first week)
Even though I fixed my mindset and found my place among my teammates, the season still had more challenges to come. I still didn’t believe in myself all the time, and that was very draining. Around the middle of the season, I experienced a relapse in my depression for the first time in 3 years. I became extremely burnt out as a result, and the thought of going to practice made me want to throw up. That’s sadly not an exaggeration; I remember sitting in statistics gagging because I had to go practice after class. The worst part was that no one knew I was struggling. I pulled away and isolated myself as much as I could and kept it all to myself. To that, I say: I should practice what I preach. But I find it extremely difficult to be vulnerable around people; obviously, I have no issue being vulnerable in my writing, so this is how I coped. During this time, I lost all my motivation and my competitive drive, I could barely see the point in pushing through, and I broke down more times than I’d like to admit. Of course, I hid it very well because I was always so dang happy with so much energy, but no one noticed that I was faking it for a long time. This does have a happy ending: I wasn’t faking it by the end of the season. On Wednesday morning at the campus chapel service, when I was around my breaking point, our guest preacher’s sermon topic was “healing.” I started tearing up from the very beginning, and that was the day that I took back control. I opened up, more like broke down, and got connected to resources that helped me through this, and I started to feel like myself again.
That was some heavy stuff, but I can’t talk about my entire transition without talking about my social life. Long story short: I don’t have much of one. However, I’ve started to have a little bit more of one compared to before I came to college. The truth is, I don’t have any urge or interest in fitting into the college party scene. It’s never been my thing, and that makes you feel very out of place sometimes. When my friends finally got me to go with them to a party, I ended up having a panic attack and leaving before midnight. It took a couple weeks after that experience for me to leave the dorm on a weekend night. I eventually did, and I’ve had some more pleasant experiences since then. However, I began to feel separated from my friends because I didn’t go out often. I was content with myself and my choice to not engage in that part of college, but at the same time, I wanted to make memories with my friends. It’s a thought that I’m still wrestling within my head. However, my friends have always been so understanding of me and still included me whenever I wanted to be involved.
Lastly, I ended up becoming friends with people I never would’ve guessed. The weirdest part, I couldn’t tell you how or when we all got close because of it just kind of gradually happened. I really felt alone during the first few weeks because I didn’t fit into any of the groups that were starting to form. It really seemed by the second week everyone already had a clique. Our group took a bit longer, but one by one, we started bonding, then one day, we all just clicked. This sums up my entire transition: have a little faith.
I’m thankful for this entire semester, even when it put me through hell. I can honestly say that I have never been so genuinely happy and at peace with myself. The tears were genuine but eventually so was the smile. It’s okay, to be honest about your struggle. Remember that both of these pictures is the face of someone who struggles with a mental illness. It may be an invisible illness, but it’s just as important as any other illness.