A Bump in the Road

Why Freshman College had to break me before I could grow

Building 1516: a temporary home

Enter an average, 18 year old girl on the cusp on adulthood, walking back to her dorm room after another long day of college orientation and half-hearted social interaction. She heats up some Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, flips on the TV to find a Harry Potter movie marathon, and then proceeds to cry into her mac n’ cheese for the next hour or so (and then sporadically for the next two days). Remember a girl you may have seen crying at any given point during UGA orientation? Yep. 4 weeks ago, that was me.

“What is learned out of necessity is inevitably more powerful than the learning that comes easily.”- Malcolm Gladwell

Luckily, I won’t sit here and give a sob story—things eventually got better, I gained friends, did surprisingly well in my classes, and I started crying considerably less everyday- but at the same time, I can’t say that this roller coaster of a month was the “best time of my life!” as I see garnishing so many Instagram uploads. Freshman College took me on an introspective journey of self analysis. This experience gave me the starkest, most untouched look at myself, from which I had to assess and grow from.

Me and my old friends on “College Day” (while I still had my life together)

There I was at the beginning: a small David that was terrified of the Goliath that stood before me.

The massive campus, the sea of unknown faces, the discomfort away from home: it was all too much. I couldn’t understand why I missed my parents so much when I dreamed of an independent life. I couldn’t understand why I would get so lost trying to find the most obvious of places. I couldn’t understand why my roommate couldn’t just wash that one dirty plate that has been sitting there for weeks. For a girl not completely comfortable with the fact that you can’t understand everything, this caused quite the emotional challenge. I would see my friends at home having an unforgettable final summer together, which made me regret even applying for this experience. The isolated feeling that hung in my stomach was killing me.

And then came along Abbie, then Hadar, then Jordan. We saw the new Spiderman movie in a sketchy theater, stole a Razor Scooter from a frat house, and yelled at the TV when we realized that Michael Phelps wasn’t going to face a real life shark during Shark Week. The memories I have with them filled the void that grew from missing my friends back in North Cobb. I had the opportunity to meet those three who I believe I have strong friendships with, along with so many other kind people that traversed this journey alongside me.

I started excelling in my classes. I could go somewhere without getting horribly lost (Thanks, Google Maps. Also screw you, UGA Bus App). I found comfort in my schedule, worked out at a gym for the first time ever, and began to think of myself as an actual college student. It’s weird how you can fall into a routine and spend everyday with a handful of people for a couple weeks, yet feel like you’ve known them for years.

Hadar, me, Abbie, and Jordan (in spirit)

So why was I still so lost here, at the school I had seemingly been prepared to go to for years?

And then came 118 Magnolia Terrace. My opportunity to volunteer at Habitat for Humanity’s Athens chapter gave me the basis to build my own answer for the crisis I was experiencing. There, I met some incredible people, got closer to my UNIV 1103S classmates, and sweat. A lot. One volunteer named Caleb shared with us how he turned his life around through Habitat for Humanity; that he was finally “making something of his life.” He was scheduled to win an actual award for his transformation, and I could tell through the excitement in his voice that it meant a lot to him. His kindness struck me as I shoveled dirt in the brutal sun, and through his own story, I realized that I had the power to pull myself out of the ditch that I unconsciously threw myself in when I first came here.

On the site of Habitat for Humanity! I’m on the far right, a.k.a. the only asshole who forgot about the color scheme.

I was my own Goliath.

I’ve always been unnecessarily critical of myself, but I didn’t know how hard I was on myself the first couple of weeks for no good reason whatsoever. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right, and I beat myself up over it. Everyone has a messy transition into college, whether they want to admit it or not. Although mine may have been on the messier side, I was never alone. While some people are in bad situations, I had the power to change mine, since the only thing holding me back was myself. So, I got fed up with being depressed. I took charge and changed my roommate situation. I started living the independent life that I had been dreaming of since watching Legally Blonde for the first time.

Freshman College forced me to look at myself and learn from my flaws. I realized that I am my own worst enemy. Independence holds different meaning from freedom, and while they may go hand-in-hand, independence is a situation, while one can only achieve happiness from freedom. I grew to be independent, yet I wasn’t free until I broke the self-bound chains that tethered me to negativity. I decided to change myself, and all it took to make my life better was a tiny mental contract: I can do this. With this experience under my belt, I feel compelled to help anyone having troubles with their first weeks of fall semester. “You can do this, because I did that. You are not alone.”

“David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.”-Samuel 17:1
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