When we meet someone new, we sit down with them and get to know them. We ask them about their day, what inspires them, what makes them happy. We sincerely listen because any good friendship begins with an understanding of who someone is.
Being a freshman in college presents the opportunity to sit down with yourself again like you would a new friend. With high school behind you, it’s a chance to turn the page to an unwritten, fresh chapter. It’s a time to reevaluate what matters most and least to you. I believe that too often we overlook the peace and serenity that is found by sitting with ourselves for a moment.
Any strong friendship requires an abundance of kindness. Kindness to listen patiently, and kindness in making mistakes. Being thrown into the chaos of college life during a pandemic is about as scary as it sounds. There’s never been a time we need to treat ourselves with kindness more.
PSA: It’s not weird to take yourself out on dates. One of my favorite ways to lift myself on hard days is to put on an outfit that makes me feel good and head to a coffee shop. I’ll write, do homework, listen to music, whatever makes my heart happy.
I’m not here to tell you that you only need yourself because that’s not true. We were designed to be rocks for each other. Rather, I am here to encourage you to be that rock for yourself as well. At the end of the day all we have is ourselves, and what a joy it is to love yourself like an old friend.
My first couple of weeks here were especially a struggle. I don’t think that is something that is talked about enough. Being a freshman is hard enough to begin with, and sprinkling in the obstacles of a pandemic makes jumping through hoops twice as hard.
I had to take a leap of faith and network like it was nobody’s business. I’m doing a heck of a lot better now after finding my people, but it took effort to overcome the difficulties that were out of my control. Now that I’ve stumbled past the awkwardness of being new to KU, things feel a bit more “normal,” for whatever that word is worth anymore.
What I learned in those first few weeks is you don’t always have control of everything that happens to you, but you are in control of how you respond.
We overlook our capability to overcome adversity. It’s a matter of letting go of every negative thought that floods our mind and amplifying every fragment of positive self-affirmation. And that is hard work.
I’ve had some days where I’ve done absolutely nothing. Every day is starting to feel the same now. I wake up, chug iced coffee, login to Zoom, watch video lectures (usually at 2x speed) and so on. The days start to blend when your scenery stays the same. The classwork seems optional some days because I never truly get to interact with people on the other side of my screen.
The reality of it is dreadful, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way.
Growing up, family and friends would ask if I liked going to school, and it was always a beaming “yes.” From kindergarten to the abrupt end of my senior year in high school, I was relentlessly passionate about school. I feel like something is missing now because school feels like a task rather than an experience.
The repetition with a lack of satisfaction is draining. I like to remind myself that what I am feeling right now is completely normal, and I hope that reading this makes you feel that whatever you are feeling is normal, too.
While recognizing my potential, it’s been equally as important to validate every feeling I’ve had.
Validate it. Deal with it. Let it go.
This means I have gone on spontaneous serotonin-inducing drives down Iowa Street listening to Harry Styles “Fine Line” album on repeat. I’ve laughed until my stomach hurt and danced like nobody was watching. I’ve even carelessly gone for a swim in the Chi Omega foundation dressed like a ghost just for a TikTok challenge.
But it also meant I cried in the Anschutz Library bathroom 30 minutes before closing. I think we’ve all been there. Your best is enough and sometimes your best is messy and emotional. It’s OK.
Recently, a friend and I went to McLain’s to study in the morning. It felt like the epitome of fall. The air was comfortable, but when the wind blew, a slight chill brushed my skin. Reds, oranges and browns painted Jayhawk Boulevard. When we arrived at McLain’s we sat near a window, and not long after we unpacked our backpacks my friend was already distracted and staring out the window. I asked her what she was looking at, and she told me to turn around and look at the leaves.
“It looks like something out of a movie,” she said.
It sounds silly, but we realized we had never taken a moment to watch the leaves fall. It was magical; we laughed and talked about how we sort of take everyday natural beauty for granted.
Life is full of “something out of movie” moments, but you have to be on the lookout for them. You can romanticize your life, even when times are tough.
I don’t know if it’s just the freshman in me, but I’ve had a plethora of days like this. My friends and I will talk about how stunning the campus is or how grateful we are to have crossed paths. I think it’s a difficult but admirable thing to practice gratitude during a time like this.
I’ll never know what I “missed” during my first college semester. One of my upperclassman friends said that there was a day where they would pack all the freshmen in the football stadium and we would learn chants. I went to the first home KU football game with a couple of friends who were also freshmen and we did our best to teach ourselves the chants. I’ve had to teach myself a lot of things this semester, but I like to believe I’ll be a more courageous human because of it.
I wonder what I’ll tell my future kids about this season of life. Thus far, I’d tell them that it taught me what it means to truly love yourself — to embrace yourself wholly. It taught me that friends (in COVID-friendly doses) make everything better. It taught me to validate, deal and let go. It taught me to romanticize my life. It taught me that apparently, you can never have too many cute cloth face masks. Ultimately, it taught me a whole slew of things including how to be a friend to myself.
Through the highs and lows of my first college semester, I’ve been lucky enough to have not caught the virus, but some people I love and care about haven’t been so lucky. COVID-19 rates continue to rise. There is still no clear end in sight, but as Harry Styles would say, “treat people with kindness,” including yourself.