I’ve been cleaning up the files on my computer and I came across this guest post spot that I wrote for a friend. I know the semester has been well underway for a few weeks, but I thought it was worth a share even in mid-September!
Don’t even get me started on the fact that I am old enough to have my 10-year college reunion soon. I still feel like that 18 year-old who pulled up in front of Gardner Hall with her parents and matching Target bedding set. If I could walk up to that version of myself today, I might just slap her in the face… not in a mean way, just in a “Listen here, girlie” way so she’d know I was serious.
I didn’t have a freak-out or breakdown in college, per say. I walked in and out a relatively adjusted member of society. There are simply some things I wish I’d done differently. And luckily for you, I’m going to share them right here, right now.
1. Remember that change brings grief. Everyone is so excited the first few weeks of the semester. And yet, I found myself blinking back tears on more than one occasion. I wasn’t homesick; I was missing my “normal.” Every face, place, class, and relationship in my life had suddenly changed. If I could sit with the18 year-old me, I would tell her that it’s ok to grieve those changes. You don’t have to run past them and ignore the feelings. Acknowledge them, be sad about them, but then embrace the new adventures that lie ahead.
2. Eat with a different set of people once a day. Forget A, B, and C crowds. College creates a uniquely level playing field. Take the opportunity to walk up to a group of people and introduce yourself. The conversations will all start the same way: your name, your major, and where you’re from, but from there they can lead anywhere. Friendships start when someone is willing to take a risk and say, “Hey, can I sit here?”
3. Plug into a church by the end of your first semester. You can church shop for four years and still never find a home. Or, you can pray and decide that there is a timeline. Locating a church home is more than walking into the same church for the last service (Likely 10 minutes late) each week. Invest in such a way so that you are held accountable. Volunteer! I finally started volunteering as a junior and my church-going experience vastly improved. Those 4th and 5th grade girls were looking for me and I didn’t want to disappoint. When you feel known by a body of people, it’s hard not to love where you are planted… or sleep in.
4. Stop comparing your (love) story to anyone else’s. There will be people from your class who marry before they graduate. Engagements abound the spring of senior year. I mourned the fact that everyone else appeared to find their match in college. In retrospect, I wish I would have shook off the worry and sadness and just enjoyed the journey of my college years. Comparison stole my joy. (This is quite possibly the reason I would actually slap my 18 year-old self.) “Ginger, stop waiting and sighing and start living your story.”
5. Try everything. (Within reason!) I attended maybe 3 sporting events in all four years of my education. In retrospect, I wish I would have taken a walk out of my world in the theatre department and experienced all of the things my university had to offer. An art department on campus usually has a gallery. Music departments offer countless recitals. Even the science buildings offer displays. And yet, I can count on my hands the free concerts, multi-cultural events, or even socials that I attended. School is more than studying. College is more than your major. Intramurals would have been the perfect chance for me to do something I loved without fearing making some sort of a team. Audition, sign up, join, go on a trip… now is the time to learn how God has uniquely wired you to serve Him and love others.
6. Remember that friendships are seasonal. As we get older the breadth and span of our relationships get wider and wider: high school, college, camp, work, church, neighbors, family… and on and on! I can’t keep all of those balls in the air. As painful as it is, I had to finally realize that friendship works both ways. Some friends I bounce the ball to them and they joyfully send it right back. Others seem to… well, drop the ball. Not everyone will return your texts, e-mails, or calls. That hurts, but it’s ok. Mourning that change is healthy and necessary. We just have to be careful about hanging our happiness on a friendship or relationship.
7. Choose wisely. Indulgence is fabulous. Every once in a while I love having dessert for dinner, but my freshman year in college I made it a precedent. More often then not I walked up to the Belgian waffle bar and then topped it off… not with syrup, but with a trip to the Blue Bell Ice Cream bar. Just because you CAN choose anything in this newly independent phase (what to eat, when to sleep, what to tattoo, who to date) doesn’t mean that you SHOULD. Choices always have consequences.
“You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial.” 1 Corinthians 10:23, NLT
8. Stop worrying so much about post-graduation. My senior year of college I was tied up in worry knots. I kept asking that God would show me exactly what to do after graduation. I finally went and made an appointment with one of my favorite professors. Through tears I explained to her my deep desire to know God’s will for my future. I listed all the reasons why He should tell me exactly which job to take: I could obey Him quickly, I could stop worrying about this, I could spend more time praying about other things, etc. When I finally stopped talking she met my gaze and asked “But what takes more faith – an arrow that says “go right here” or taking steps each day to draw closer to Him? Your desire is to honor God with your heart, gifts, and talents. Where can you possibly end up in this world and not be able to do that?”
Do the work, use your head, make an effort, and then trust the Lord.
I’m sure I could talk to my 18 year-old self for hours on this topic, but those seem to be the tips that resonate after all these years. Everyone talks about how college is the best time in your life, and for that reason some people don’t seem to ever want to let it go. But I firmly believe that the present can be the best time in your life. So live in it, wherever you are!
“And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there…” 1 Corinthians 7:17, The Message