Students are beginning to move back onto Campus. And even though the most moving I’m doing is the 7 minute commute to school everyday, I am being fed glimpses of the hustle and bustle from my on Campus friends via Facebook and Twitter. I can imagine the heaving of boxes and crates, and the unloading of suitcases and backpacks. I can imagine the unpacking of childhood memories, the storing up of hugs to save for a rainy day when things aren’t going the right way, the parents lingering in the doorway–not quite ready to say goodbye, but wanting to see you spread your wings and fly–the hushed “I love you”s, and the long, drawn out “Goodbyes.”
Freshman, eventually this feeling will become familiar. Right now, the car is unpacked after numerous trips of carrying things one at a time, but eventually the car will be unpacked after two or three trips of stacked up boxes that defy physics and gravity. Right now, you want your parents to help (or maybe you don’t), but eventually you won’t. And it’s not because you don’t want them to stick around; it’s because little-by-little, step-by-step, you grow up. Don’t fight this feeling. Embrace it. Embrace your independence, but also be time conscious. Because, yes, you have all the time in the world to complete that project, but eventually you will realize that all the time in the world is less time than you think.
Just like things in your room will find a niche, you will too. But before you do, you will walk into the Dining Hall the first day of classes and feel overwhelmed with the amount of faces you don’t know, the number of places you don’t fit. When this happens, do not walk out. Do not retreat to the library. Push yourself out of your comfort zone little-by-little by sitting with people you don’t know. Join clubs. Get involved with activities on Campus. Eventually, the places you don’t fit will be outnumbered by the places you do. And eventually your dorm room will become your “home away from home.” You will find comfort in the rearranging of beds, the sound of the person breathing 5 feet from you, the closets that aren’t really closets but they get the job done, and the mattresses that aren’t quite as comfy as yours at home. And maybe you won’t sleep well at night, but that’s what naps are for. Because in college, everywhere is a bed if you try hard enough.
Speaking of bed, you will learn there’s a time and a place for decaf coffee: Never and in the trash. I’m just being serious. No, but for real: caffeine and Ramen noodles will become your best friends. But don’t complain about the food. I know it’s not as good as your Mother’s or whoever’s, but it’s certainly better than going hungry. And speaking of hunger, you will feel this ache in your stomach from missing your home no matter how near or far home is. Call your parents. Call your friends. Call your family. And when the nights are great, and the days are going right, write a letter addressed to you. Mail it to yourself. Walk to your mailbox. Open the box of metal. Pick up that letter, and save it for a day when the nights are longs, and the days are going wrong. And know that present you might not be your friend, but once upon a time, past you was on your side.
And if you’re not into the whole letter writing thing, have your family write you one. Have your family write one about what they’ve been doing with their lives. Because when I went to Guatemala, I knew my family missed me, but they carried on their lives as if they didn’t. Because missing someone is a sign of loving someone, and it’s better to be missed when you’re gone than not to be missed at all. My friend told me once about the best letter she received from her Dad. He was telling her about going to McDonald’s and ordering a large fry, and not having anyone to share it with. And it wasn’t about French Fries and throwing away the excess. It was about being missed in absence.
This journey is about losing yourself and finding yourself. And one day you may wake up, look in the mirror, and not recognize the face staring back. This is ok, because one day you will find yourself again. You will find yourself in the friends you make, the friends you leave behind, the choices you make, the laughs you share, and the hearts you break. And success doesn’t depend on grades, but that doesn’t mean don’t try. Because, I don’t want to sound cliche, but you don’t know what you can do until you try, and sometimes you need to spread your wings and fly.
And life is filled with disappointments, believe me, I know. This journey is hard, but I want you to know people are willing to walk it with you, willing to be a crutch when you fall hard, willing to lend a helping hand or a listening ear, and willing to be a friend.
And don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, because the most rewarding friendships I’ve made are the ones that have sprouted out of my openness. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up, because you are braver than you believe. Some days you may feel small, but you are big enough–big enough to make a difference, big enough to matter, big enough to succeed.