Due to some bizarre travel arrangements, and some plans that fell through at the last minute, I’m back at Clark three days earlier than is truly necessary. I’ve been sitting outside, pretentiously sipping an iced latte while watching all the first years move on to campus, trying to hide the overwhelming nostalgia I’m feeling.
I moved on campus a year ago yesterday, hugged my family goodbye a year ago today, and wrote my first blog post a year ago next week. Since then, I’ve made so many mistakes that it’s almost embarrassing. I feel like I’ve done some dumb stuff way more often than anyone else, but that also might be because everyone else is a lot better at covering up their mistakes than I am. That’s entirely possible.
But, despite all my mistakes after embarrassing mistakes, I learned. I learned so much, not only about collegiate life, but also about how to treat other people, and myself. After an hour of lists, coffee, and reliving vomit-worthy embarrassing moments, I’ve compiled the following list of the most valuable nuggets of knowledge that I took away from my first year of college. Some of them I learned from watching others, and some I learned from personal experience. Try not to judge me to hard.
1. Members of the opposite sex will inadvertently try to ruin your life
I have watched so many people ruin friendships and academic lives at the
expense of trying to impress members of the opposite sex. It’s never on purpose, and I can say with confidence that it’s a fairly common phenomenon that happens to tons and tons of people. Just be on your toes and know that every single member of the opposite sex, without fail, literally every single one, including me, you, your roommate, and your best friend, is accidentally up to no good.
2. The first people you meet will not necessarily be the best, last, or only people you meet
Keep your options open, and be friendly. You never know when you’re going to find new friends. If you’re doubting yourself, and convinced you’ll be friendless for life (we’ve all been there), keep your head up, or at least sideways, but never, ever, down. Remember that there are thousands of friend fish in the sea.
3. You are in no way better, smarter, or more important than anyone else.
Every time I see this happen, it just makes me sad. When you put someone down, or look down on someone, you immediately create a destructive environment. Clark is wonderful because everyone here is valuable, and just because someone is valuable in a way that’s different than you doesn’t mean that one is better than another. Be kind.
4. It’s totally okay to be homesick
Guilty. Guilty, guilty, guilty. Being away from home is hard. Being on your own for the first time in your life is hard. Not watching jeopardy on the couch with your mom and your obese dog is hard. I was so homesick last year, and it always struck at stupidly inconvenient times. I quickly found out that, shockingly, I was not the only person experiencing this, and that tons of people knew exactly what I was going through, and they were there for me.
5. Nothing and no one is worth it if it ruins your self esteem
I’m guilty of this. You’re probably guilty of this. Just about everyone I know is guilty of this. And it should probably stop. If someone is treating you in a way that makes you feel less than satisfactory, promptly do a 180 and run the other direction. You’re important, and you need to take care of yourself.
Last semester I was friends with not one, but two people who each had me wedged between “you’re an excellent friend” and “you aren’t good enough”. Bouncing between those two extremes is like a taking a siphon to your self-esteem and watching it slowly drain into the sewer. Interactions like that are draining not only to your personal life and friendships, but often, it leaks into the rest of your life, and no one wants that. Don’t forget to look out for number one.
P.S. Number one is yourself.
6. Sometimes, you just need to swap for French fries in the bistro and watch Netflix alone in your room. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Downtime/personal time/me time/nap time/hiding from the universe, or whatever you call it is so, so important. Everyone needs it, because no one is okay with spending every waking moment surrounded by other people. It’s human and healthy. Take a breather, check in with yourself, and marathon Orange is the New Black. This is also an excellent time to call your mom/dad/family member and remind her/him that you love her/him. She’ll like that.
7. If you get your work done during the day, you don’t have to spend your nights holed up in the library wishing you could be elsewhere having a fun social life.
I figuratively slap myself for this almost twice a week for not putting this together earlier. That’s just common sense. The amount of fun shenanigans that I missed out on because I was holed up in the library all night is way too high. Also, it gets really, really cold in there at night.
8. Do not make enemies with the people living in your room/on your floor/in your residence hall
I’ve seen this happen and it’s so uncomfortable, not only for you and your new arch-enemy, but for everyone living around you. It’s painful to watch, and it takes away from the group effort environment that the residence halls work incredibly hard to foster. I totally understand that not every human is 100% compatible with every other human, which is totally understandable, but that doesn’t mean you should declare war with someone you have to share a bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room with.
Know when to say no. Prioritize.
People will be holla-ing at you nonstop to do close to twenty-thousand fun, exciting things at any point in time. They all sound amazing, fun, and life changing. I’ll go ahead and tell right now – they aren’t. As much fun as eating wings and watching Lost in your roommate’s boyfriend’s room sounds, I can go ahead and tell you right now that it isn’t. Or who knows, maybe it is. But don’t forget that you have things to do. You probably have papers to write and essays to read and reading assignments to pretend you understand. Have fun, and take time to play Frisbee with your friend’s calculus book, but don’t forget that you have things to do, and that the world will not stop if you don’t attend every single social event that is happening around you. Conversely, try to avoid being a hermit. I once missed out on a movie theater/Chipotle adventure to work on a research paper, and at the time, I felt like I was missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, which was sad (and also totally not true), but I finished my research paper that had been haunting me for weeks. As much as I hate to say it, that was so much more satisfying than a burrito.