What I learned from yoga pants my first year of college

When that creepy old man walked into the diner and stared you in the eyes. He turned to the stranger next to him and announced how much he loves living in a college town. Loves because of all the ass he sees in yoga pants. He turns back to you. A realization washes over you, and you sit there brooding. You stare him right back in the eyes silently screaming for him to go fuck himself. But you bite your tongue because that’s not how Momma raised you.

Instead you fantasize about what you would say if you opened your mouth. “Excuse me, pervert. Not only am I a college student, but I’m a wife. A mother. A veteran. Would you still objectify me if my husband or my kids were here? Am I not allowed the same respect you would have given them by keeping your comments to yourself?” Because he was talking about you, and in that moment he stole your identity without ever knowing who you are.

While this encounter may be more offensive, we make judgments about each other daily. I find this to be especially true on college campuses. We place labels on each other based on age, words spoken, the ways we dress, and the colors of our hair or skin. Over time, these judgments disappear as we get to know not only the people around us, but ourselves. College is the place to self-discover, and immerse yourself in difference.

Looking back on my first day of college, I can tell you that I had already set myself apart. I felt I was older, wiser, and more disciplined than the students around me. The funniest thing about that whole idea is that I blended in with everybody else.

During a group project, one of my classmates saw my profile. She then made a comment about how unbelievable it was that I was only 18 and had 2 kids. Even though I didn’t categorize myself with everyone else, I still blended in. Not a single one of my peers could set me apart from everyone else. After I introduced myself, they all had the same reaction. “No way! I thought you were like 19. You have kids?” I’m actually 24.

I made some harsh judgments about the younger freshman in my class, too. When I would listen to conversations they had with each other about their problems, I would roll my eyes. The complaints about roommates and the lack of time to hang out with friends annoyed me. Those were problems I would gladly accept in place of my own. Or so I thought.

It took a lot of self-reflecting to realize that not long ago, I had been there. I did what I wanted with my free time without a care in the world. I learned the most about myself in the time between graduating high school and starting a family. I discovered all the great things I was capable of. I found how self-motivated I could be. I learned about what it meant to have discipline, set goals, and achieve any task put in front of me. I also went out with friends, worked hard, travelled, and spent way too much money on food and booze. I spent that time getting to know myself, and that is what all of these younger students are doing now.

One of the beautiful things about being in college is the diversity. There are people from all walks of life with different cultures and interests. It truly is a wonderful place to do some self-discovery. From classes you can take to campus clubs, there is something for just about every interest. I think this can also be a bit overwhelming though.

I think when students are just experiencing the freedom of living away from parents, there is a struggle. Being able to pick and choose what you do and the people you hang out with on a daily basis can be stressful. How do you know if you’re making the right decisions? The answer is, you don’t always know. Just remember if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you’re uncomfortable, get out. If the people you are surrounding yourself put you down, get out.

“You are not someone else’s opinion of you.” -Taylor Swift

You know who you are and the kind of person you want to be. And try to keep that in mind the next time you find yourself making a hasty judgment. Don’t judge a book by its cover.