April 29th, 2017 at 3pm, I will be graduating from Grand Valley State University! I have had emotional, mental, and physical ups and downs in undergrad from my academic decisions, to my social/love life, to the journey of growing and discovering myself – which is still an ongoing process – . I am excited to note that in six days I will be achieving a milestone, however three years ago my demeanor would not have been as open to sharing this experience as I am today. Remembering the very moment I set foot on Grand Valley’s campus awaiting my dorm to the final countdown of graduation, I must say that each year I have learned a valuable lesson. Today, I choose to reflect on these lessons with the hopes that they will resonate with you: a fellow pending graduate, an alum, a soon to be college student or an interested reader!
“Lesson #1: Question your relationships when you begin to feel uncomfortable”.
During my freshman year, I roomed with a friend of six years only to discover that we would both be meeting each other for the first time. In the end, we found out we were not compatible. During my transition into a traditional dorm, I experienced sharing a 10.35′ x 14′ space with someone I had never spent alone time with and was now assigned to live with for 8 months. Neither of us intended on our friendship drifting apart, but sometimes it happens.
We truly did not know each other, and although I can only speak on my behalf, I believe we both assumed that because we had never been “close” (close enough to rub each other the wrong way and cause confrontation) we would be suitable roommates. Plus, during our six years of previous friendship, I had enjoyed her company, I respected her character, and portrayed myself (to the best of my ability) as a good and loyal friend. But, I never felt that I could fully be myself around her. I never felt comfortable truly opening up to her, and this should have been a warning sign. So, how did I manage to maintain this friendship from middle school to college? By being loyal, reliable, and kindhearted because that is how you should treat friends.
More importantly, that is just my character. I also try to avoid confrontation at all costs by being passive aggressive (if need be) and by treating others the way I would want to be treated. However, my point is, no one should feel obligated to closet their genuine selves for the sake of maintaining a relationship, and if you find yourself in that predicament, start questioning. Longevity means nothing. It is your integrity that has meaning.
“Lesson #2: Embrace change!”
This was probably the hardest lesson for me to learn. Due to my fallout with my previous roommate and a few others I became aquatinted with the previous year, I needed to develop a new social circle for Sophomore year. When entering college, especially during your first year, RA’s and other figures will argue that if you group freshman together, they will make friends because they all have something in common: they are unfamiliar with a new space and need friends to help them navigate through it. However, for someone who is reserved and strongly values their solitude like myself, this is not an easy task. During my Freshman year, I befriended people based on proximity, but when those people did not return to Grand Valley the following semester, I was left to do something I have never been comfortable doing: joining an organization.
When I walked into the general meeting, I knew no one. I came in with the hopes of finding friends but three years later, I am leaving with sisters! I have created direct and indirect bonds with a group of young women who will forever remain a big part of my growth during undergrad. Had I not decided to join this organization, I would not have met my best friend, I would not have challenged myself to take on a leadership position, and I would not have valued the importance of working and collaborating with others. So yes, change is scary, but no one matures in their comfort zones.
“Lesson #3: Fight for your beliefs”
For those of you wondering what my Bachelor’s will be in, I will be obtaining my Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology, and for the passed three years, I have disliked my major. Imagine trying to explain your frustration to family members and no matter how hard you try to explain your feelings you get a response of “How can you not like your major?”… or “DON’T SAY YOU DON’T LIKE IT!” or my personal favorite, “what you really want to do won’t make any money”. During my Junior year, I was fed up with psychology courses and my only concern was figuring out how I could combine my interests into a career. But I must say, that not having full support from your family when deciding to take a different route is hurtful, but it is not their journey. Fighting and standing up for what you believe to be true in your heart is more important!
Another example is within my social life. As stated previously, I met my best friend through my organization, but I also worked with her my Freshman year and had at least three classes with her Sophomore year. But ask me when we actually became friends: towards the end of 2016. Why you may ask? Because we are both strange and picky individuals when it comes to building relationships. Instead of us deciding to fight and pursue a friendship sooner, (due to fear of not wanting to bother each other or feel clingy) we prolonged the process. And although better late than never, you can imagine why graduation will be a tad bit bitter for us (she lives in Michigan and I live in Illinois) but, this now gives us a reason to travel!
“Lesson #4: Take risks!”
From August 2016 to April 2017, I have taken more risks in any of the months in between than I have in the passed three years of undergrad and it feels great! Socially, that consists of going out to events, having a drink every now and then, and even clubbing! Academically, it means being honest with myself in terms of what I like to do (career-wise) and having no shame. *If you’re wondering what that is for me, I still have no clue, and that is okay, but I will say that I enjoy storytelling. Sort of like what I’m doing now.
All and all, the experiences of college have shaped me into a wiser, better person. And to think, four years ago I did not think I needed any improvement.