College has been hard. But not always in the ways I expected.
And before I elaborate on that, I want to preface this blog post with the note that this post is going to be a little all over the place. But that’s kinda how my brain has felt recently.
With three weeks left of my freshman year I can already say that college has challenged how I see myself in more ways than one. And while I’m proud of myself for that growth, at times it’s been personally unsettling and disappointing.
In high school I was in the top 10% of my graduating class. I held leadership roles in multiple organizations. I wasn’t always a straight A student, so that was how I was able to justify to myself that I didn’t define myself by my academics. I was able to trick myself into thinking I didn’t care as much as I really did. I compared myself to my friends on occasion, but since we all had different interests- we all had things we excelled in individually- it was never a true comparison.
Then I got to college. I was a Walter Williams Scholar- grouped in with other freshmen who had high test scores and GPA’s like me. We are all on the journalism path, with many of us having previous journalism experience. And while so many of these people are my friends and are people who I adore and respect- I’ve come to terms with I’ve fallen into the comparison trap.
The thing that I excelled in and that set me apart in high school, is no longer what sets me apart here. Which is why I’m here. To go to the best journalism school in the country with other students who are doing the same. It’s one of the things that I love about this school, but it’s still been something I’ve been grappling with in my mind.
I am now among a group of people where I don’t have the highest GPA or the most experience or the clearest idea of what the hell is going on. And that isn’t a bad thing. I want to be surrounded by people who are better than me, because they help push me to be better too. But that also doesn’t mean that that is always easy for me to accept.
It’s forced me to take a good hard look at myself outside of my academics. Because if that’s the only thing I judged myself on, I would lose my sense of self.
Another area of my life that I’ve been thinking about more since getting to college has been my relationship with my religion.
Growing up, Mansfield wasn’t the most religiously diverse place in the world. When I was in high school, most of my friends went to my school AND my church. Or if they didn’t go to my church, they went to a different church in the Mansfield/Arlington/Fort Worth area.
Now that I’m in college, that is far from the case. A lot of the friends I’ve made may have grown up religious, but they are choosing not to practice now. And I’m continuing to meet people who come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds.
I’ve joined a college ministry called Ukirk that is part of First Presbyterian Church in downtown Columbia. It’s small, but I love it.
Since coming to college, I haven’t been super good about making it to church every Sunday morning. I’ve figured out that I like church events that are more discussion based, where I can hear different perspectives and it’s more interactive. More of a small group type of ministry. Fortunately, that’s what most of Ukirk is.
So in that way I feel like I’ve strengthened my relationship with God, because I’m determining how I connect with Him best as I’m becoming more of an adult.
But one thing that has weighed on my heart this semester is the decision that the Methodist Church made at the special session of the general conference. Members at the conference voted to strengthen the Methodist Church’s ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages.
I was baptized Presbyterian, but for most of my life I’ve been a part of Methodist churches. Since moving to Columbia I’ve been going to a Presbyterian church, but I had assumed that wherever I move after college I would still check out the local Methodist church first. That is no longer the case.
Now that I’m in college, I have more friends who identify somewhere on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum than friends who identify as straight. I was lucky and had a pretty progressive upbringing, so I’ve always been pro-LGBTQIA+ rights. But now I don’t know how I can look my friends in the eye and say “I fully love and support you for everything you are,” while still being a part of a church organization that says the opposite.
And I hate that. Because to me, church and God have always been about love and community. Some of my biggest supporters from back home are part of the Methodist church. And I still love them dearly and know that as individuals, they also do not agree with the decision the Methodist Church made.
Between finding a church that I liked on my own for the first time and spending a lot of time thinking about the decision the Methodist Church made, this year has really been a time of reflection on how I want to carry my religion into my adult life. It’s also been a time of separating God from the church as a whole in some ways. Because unfortunately the Church can let me down, but God doesn’t. I’ve also figured out that I let myself down even more when I don’t include God in my life.
On Monday I had my first appointment with the person who will hopefully become my regular therapist in Columbia. I liked her a lot, and she helped me talk through a few of the things mentioned in this post. I plan on seeing her again before I leave Columbia for the summer.
I’ve been lucky. Between my mom being a social worker and my grandfather being a family counselor, my family has always been very pro-therapy. I went for the first time when I was going through some health stuff my sophomore year of high school, and when I wanted to start it up again before my senior year kicked off, my parents were all for it.
I found someone who I really liked back home. Her name is Elisha, and I still see her when I’m home for school breaks. Even when I didn’t have anything necessarily going “wrong” it was still nice to go and talk to her about once a month my senior year. I would often go into her office thinking I didn’t have much to talk about, and then before I knew it our hour together would fly by.
It calms my anxiety to have someone to unload things onto, who can also help me process the things I’m feeling. The way I describe it is I always feel lighter when I leave therapy.
And even though I’ve always known this, I thought I could get away with not having a regular therapist here. I really thought I would be okay with only talking to Elisha on breaks.
I did okay with that the first semester of college. It wasn’t too difficult. Nothing serious really popped up.
This school year I’ve been a front desk attendant at my dorm, the Honors dorm, working the late night shift of either 10pm-1am or 10pm-3am, depending on the day.
The night before the first day of class for the spring semester, when I walked up to the front desk for my shift, the guy who was working the desk before me was in the process of helping a resident. The guy claimed he had a package, but we couldn’t find it. He was super high, and at the time I remember thinking that there was a chance that he had already picked it up and had just forgotten about it.
Me and the guy working before me tried to help him, and because he was so high and confused, it turned into about a 10 minute interaction. He had a friend with him who ultimately took him back up to his room. Before that interaction I had never seen or talked to him before.
The next day our RA told us we had a full dorm meeting. There were several Honors College employees there, and the mood was solemn. They informed us that a student had passed away earlier that day in his dorm room. When they told us his name, I realized it was the resident who I had interacted with the previous night.
I immediately freaked out and told the building coordinator what I had seen. I knew that the police were probably going to be retracing his final steps to try and figure out what had happened to him. But what irked me was that as far as I knew, I was one of the last people to see him alive, and I didn’t even know it at the time.
For the next few days I dealt with feelings of whether or not I should have done something, because he was clearly so high when I saw him. My parents and friends reminded me that he was not the first or last person I’d seen high while working at the desk, and he had a friend with him.
And even though I’ve moved past those feelings of whether or not there was something I could have done, I still think about his death more than I should. Because I only had one interaction with him. That was it. I didn’t even know him. But I also didn’t know when I talked to him, that I would never have the opportunity to again. And I think that’s what gets to me. How final it is.
So I would say it was that experience and the fact that I realized I kept lingering on it that made me realize I should probably find a regular therapist here in Columbia.
I told my aunt tonight that I like being go-go-go all of the time, but sometimes it keeps me from taking the time to fully process everything that is happening around me. And therapy helps with that. It’s healthy for me. And I’m not ashamed to talk about it, because the more we talk about, the less stigmatized it will become.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of tours to future Walter Williams Scholars. It’s been fun getting to show them around and to talk to them about why I love Mizzou so much.
But I’ve also tried to be honest with them about how college is not always easy. Because I know that if they are a Walter Williams Scholar, they probably have the same extreme need to overachieve as me and my friends.
I’ve talked about how I dropped a class this semester, and while it initially made me doubt who I was as a person, it ultimately was for the best. I’ve talked about how it’s been difficult to be so far away from my family. I’ve talked about how important it’s been to learn to say no. I’ve talked about how figuring out how to adult has been STRESSFUL.
I’m hoping that by being honest with these incoming freshmen, it will help them to realize that while it may look like everyone around them has their s-h-i-t together, that is FAR from the case.
I’ve learned that college is a lot of faking-it-til-you-make-it. My friend Janae has told me she thinks I’m the one adulting the best in our friend group. I’m pretty sure the main reasons she thinks that are because I write literally everything in my planner, I keep my dorm room clean 90% percent of the time and I do my laundry on the same day every week.
And those three things are small, but it’s that consistency that helps keep me sane. College has been all about learning how I best operate away from home and away from everything that was once familiar.
But while I’m a girl who loves her routine, it’s also been fun to break away from it on occasion. I’ve loved doing things like staying up until 3am talking to my roommate about random stuff, going on adventures with new friends and getting back into dating. In March I went to a concert in Arkansas on a school night with a friend just because I could. And we had the absolute best time.
It’s my routine that allows me to enjoy the random. And learning that about myself over the past year has been important.
There’s been all kinds of things I’ve learned outside of the classroom since coming to college. And it’s kind of thrilling to know I have so much left to learn during my time here. Even when life has been stressful, the the three things I haven’t doubted are 1) I made the right choice in coming to Mizzou, 2) God is looking out for me and 3) no matter what, my parents have my back- all the way from Texas.
If you made it to this point in this post- CONGRATS. It was long and sporadic. I’m looking forward to this summer when hopefully I can close a few of the tabs in my brain.
In a life update, this summer I will be a counselor for a Jewish summer camp called Camp Sabra that is located in Rocky Mount, Missouri on the Lake of the Ozarks. I’m super excited for this new experience and to be loving on kiddos while being surrounded by the great outdoors. And I’m hoping to get a lot of blogging done in my free time. 🙂