Guess what? College wasn’t the best time of my life. I sure thought it was supposed to be, though, and that made it all the more miserable. I have been thinking about my college days a lot lately. I went to (and LOVED) the HelloGiggles “Letters To My Younger Self” show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, hosted by the lovely and hilarious Ingrid Haas, and this really got me thinking back. Then yesterday, I had a patient who had just started college and had left to take time off for a myriad of reasons and setbacks. I felt a real connection with her, because I just about dropped out of college myself. For many, college is truly a “golden years” time. It absolutely can be. It is an amazing time. I don’t regret my experience and I learned a lot, but I was pretty miserable. College might not be the best time ever, and that is okay.
My patient told me she had been struggling in college due to health setbacks, being away from home, going from intense physical activity to no activity, and feeling overwhelmed with the vast amounts of people. She said college guys were scary, like suddenly she wasn’t around guys she knew and trusted anymore but rather scary college men. I couldn’t have related more. I felt just as overwhelmed and lost when I started at the University. The good news? I could tell her with 100% confidence that life does indeed get better after college. College may be a blast for some, but others have a little more blooming to do.
Now, I am a sucker for movies, ideals and romance. I basically spent half my life writing screenplays for my ideal life in my head. After the usual teen angst and struggles in high school, I was poised for college to be “my time”. A new me would be born: The real me. The better me. The perfect me. No pressure; it would also be the best time of my life.
Welllll… It was not the best time of my life. I was terrified. The sheer number of people on campus was paralyzing. I was lost, and knew no one would know if I missed a class or if I were sad or if it was my birthday. I was dumbstruck by fashionable and cool girls from the East and West coasts that took over the streets of my hometown like a runway. I had no clue that I was categorically not stylish – I wore tennis shoes to bars, and suddenly in my own town I felt like a complete townie idiot. There were hot guys, or like my patient said, “men” everywhere. There was partying that I never even dreamed possible. The coursework was hard and I had to actually study for the first time in my life. I also really missed living with my family. Then I broke my elbow and I was stuck fumbling with a sling for the first several weeks. I was not off to a flying start.
My self-esteem spiraled downward. I made “cool” friends, only to feel frumpy and not skinny enough and overly studious. I studied constantly, dieted and exercised. I let my friends make me over until I hardly recognized myself. I went out, against every bit of my homebody nature, night after night. I hooked up with guys so my friends would think I was “normal”. Bit by bit my soul was vanishing, as was all of my passion. I remember one day lying on my futon, staring at my Tupac poster and listening to Janet Jackson’s The Velvet Rope on repeat, just crying for hours. My friends didn’t even like Tupac, what was I doing?
I remember hearing people outside laughing and going to bars while I built my O Chem molecular models. I remember walking home from the library at night and hearing frat guys making fun of my giant backpack. Where in the hell was my awesome sexy college life? Where was my glorious self-discovery? Why did I feel like such a poser nerd? I decided to drop all of my classes. I decided I had to do something “cool” instead. Maybe I could be a writer? A television producer? An econ major? An actress? Anything but a nerdy pre med student from Wisconsin trying to look like a cool New Yorker away for a fun college free for all in the Midwest. Well, my Dad wasn’t really having that. I agreed to take some classes in journalism and mass media. Low and behold, this did not make me “cool” or score me my fantasy college life, and back to pre-med I went.
I could go on and on. The awful guys I dated, the shame filled partying I forced myself to do, the self-hatred as I ran as fast as I could on a stupid treadmill, getting rejected by guys I had crushes on… It was an all-time low. I wish I could say it got a lot better, but it didn’t. It got a little better. I eventually had an amazing and supportive roommate who made me feel good about being studious and sort of anti-social. I had a ton of family support. I finished college and started medical school. Then I slowly started to accept who I am.
It hasn’t been an easy road, but the most important thing I did for my happiness was to become what I am. One needs to be gracious, polite, considerate and kind to people, but outside of that, the only person you really need to fit in with is yourself. Only then will you find your place in this world. There is a very happy ending – well, middle really – to my story: I am extremely happy. I have an amazing family, husband and friends. This was only possible because I finally learned to accept myself and to genuinely think I am awesome. I am. The best part of finally being so awesome? I can look a 19-year-old in the eye and tell her that everything will be okay. I wish I could have told myself, but at least I can tell others.
It will be okay. College doesn’t have to be the best time of your life. If it isn’t, your time will come.
- You don’t have to party like everyone else
- It’s okay to study a lot
- It’s cool to study a lot and to be passionate about it
- There are “nerds” in every field, not just the “nerdy” ones
- Dress how you want to dress
- Obsess over being healthy, not being skinny
- Please don’t smoke!
- You don’t need to “hook up with people”
- You don’t need tons of friends, you need good friends
- When you love yourself, you will feel loved
- Being yourself is what makes you cool
- You will find your true friends
- Respect yourself
How is college going for you fine people? What are you looking forward to? Let’s make it a goal, no matter how good life is we will keep trying to make it better. For ourselves, and for each other. xo
Featured image via missom.wordpress.com