To a first year college student,
If you attend Wake Forest University odds are that you've just moved in, spent your first night in the dorm, and you are preparing for the inevitable goodbye to your parents. If you've already started classes, or you're on the quarter system, don't worry- this letter applies to you too.
Three years ago, I was in your shoes. I was moving in to my dorm, located in a state 3,000 miles away from home. I was anxious about this thing, college, that I had been hearing about my whole life. I'm sure people have told you that it will be the best four years of your life and that you will love every minute.
I'm here to tell you that college is a tad overrated. I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, because if you know me you know I love optimism, but college isn't always all that it is cracked up to be.
Before you freak out, yes college can be amazing. But like everything in life, the amazing times are juxtaposed with difficult ones.
It is hard to be away from your family, friends, and the comfort zone of "home," even if you're only going three miles away.
Classes will be difficult, and guess what, you're probably going to get a C. But a C is totally okay. Life extends beyond academics, and contrary to what your college acceptances told you, your GPA never fully defines you.
I think the hardest part about college, one that has taken me three years to figure out, is that we all tend to put up facades. We all want to be perceived as okay, as normal, and as surviving and thriving.
You've perfected the outer look of happiness, while your inner being is filled with anxiety and depression. You walk around comparing yourself to the gads of other first years and upperclassmen and ask yourself why you don't have your shit together like they do.
Reality is, none of us have perfected anything. We're all messes. The true triumph is realizing that it is okay to be vulnerable. It is okay to not be okay, because this world is messy.
When I was sixteen, my perfectly healthy dad got ALS. He didn't even make it to the end of the school year. In fact, the hour after my APUSH exam, I stood with my family at his graveside funeral. The pain of losing my dad has been unbearable. Its hard to tell people at my school that I come from a single parent background. Simply put, it is really hard to not have a dad.
I hid from that pain for so long because grief was weakness. I bandaged my wounds with fake happiness and busyness. But then I learned these methods really don't work. So for the past year and a half, I have sought therapy, essential oils, and engaged in meaningful conversations about my mental health, and mental health in general. I will always have a scar from the loss of my dad, but I know that trying to bandage it with the phrase "I'm okay" is never going to lead me to the path of healing.
If you get a C, your world won't end. If you don't pursue Greek life, you matter just as much as someone who does. And if you don't feel yourself, seek help and speak out.
Because one thing that still exists in college is this idea that we all have to be perfect.
No one is perfect, and no one ever will be.
Be vulnerable, be honest, be yourself. Seek help, talk with others, and don't do life alone. Because if I have learned anything these few years, it is that life is precious and irreplaceable. You matter.
College might not be the best four years of your life, but you're going to be stretched. You're going to fail at times, you're going to drink too much coffee, and you're going to cry. What I hope you learn most from your in these next four years is the beauty of vulnerability and the art of breaking down that facade.
Because the world might dictate what it wants you to be, but you have the choice to show the world who you really are.