It really is amazing how much you learn in just a year of college, and I’m not even talking about school-related stuff. I want to share with you guys 10 things I learned that have become really valuable lessons to me.
1. You are going to make some mistakes and be embarrassed. Honestly, I made a lot of silly mistakes in my freshman year and unfortunately there were usually other people there to witness them. The good news is everybody has their stories, and if you just take it as a lesson in humility, you’ll learn to laugh at yourself and move forward.
2. Be who you are. In college if you try to be lots of different people, you’re going to be thought of as fake pretty quickly. You are at college well if you live there every second of every day and if you commute at least the majority of every day. Which means there’s no more pretending to be a certain person while you’re at school and coming home to be someone different. This is your life now and you have to decide who you want to be.
3. You aren’t going to be best friends with everybody (and that’s okay!). I went into college with the mind-set that I wanted to be friends with everybody in my class. I tried to get to know a lot of people because I wanted everybody to know who I was and like me. I learned pretty quickly that you can’t be friends with everyone. I also noticed that the people who seem to be friends with everyone on campus have usually lost their identity in others because they’re trying to be everything to everyone. I did make some great new friends, but even all of those friendships didn’t turn into being best friends with the person. While it’s fine to be friendly to all the people you meet, it’s okay to just have a couple of really close friends you can trust.
4. There are healthy levels of trust. Coming into college I struggled with the idea of levels of trust. I thought that in order to be a fair friend, I had to make sure I was sharing basically my whole life story with anybody I wanted to consider my friend. After somebody I thought of as a friend betrayed my trust, I had a mentor say to me, “You know, there are levels of trust in friendships. You don’t have to either trust a person or not trust a person.” It totally started to click! It’s not “either I trust them with everything or I don’t trust them at all.” It’s “I can trust this friend with this amount of information or this kind of information.” Those levels can be different for different friendships, and you learn about where those levels stop based on how the person handles what you do tell them.
5. Don’t go into every relationship like it has to be “The One.” I learned this lesson early on in my freshman year. I spent one day with this guy and I felt like I knew everything about him. After our first day of actually talking for more than five minutes, he asked me to be his girlfriend. Instantly my mind was going crazy thinking of all the great perks of having a boyfriend, and of course I said yes. After a couple of weeks he wanted to step away from the relationship and said he needed some time. With my “This has to be The One” attitude, I spent every day waiting for him to be ready. I did everything I could to be a good friend. I would be ears to listen, a friend to give advice…I even sent him daily devos. After about a month, we got back together. From the first day we hung out again, something didn’t feel quite right. I was overcompensating so much to try and make it feel right, trying so hard to make him happy. One day I hadn’t heard from him all day, yikes! Finally he called me and said we needed to talk, and just like that, I was a single lady again. The problem for me was not that this guy was so perfect and I lost him (nobody is perfect!), it was that I was forcing so much to make the relationship work. People, it was never going to work. It wouldn’t have mattered how much harder I tried or how much more energy I put into it. It wasn’t meant to be, and that reality would have been so much easier for me to accept if I had enjoyed the moments as they came instead of jumping to huge expectations.
6. Stick to your values. There are tons of people out there and you don’t need to do anything that isn’t “you” to earn friendship. There are plenty of people who will accept you for exactly who you are. It’s not okay to change who you are, who you’re friends with or what you believe to make things work out in a friendship or relationship. Even if it seems insignificant at the time, don’t let anybody make you feel inferior about your values or who you’re friends with. If someone won’t accept who you are because of a value you have, that’s when the relationship/friendship needs to end. It’s perfectly fine to have friends who believe certain things that maybe you don’t, but if that affects how they think about you or treat you, that’s when you have a problem. Be honest about who you are, guys. I tried being somebody I wasn’t to make a friendship work, and at the end of the day I just felt guilty and empty. After I couldn’t handle the feeling anymore, I had to be honest about how I felt about it at the risk of the friendship ending. Friendships that are worth having won’t end when you are honest about who you are!
7. Don’t be afraid to have fun. Have lots of dance parties! A few of my floormates and I had these on various occasions including stressful days, finals week, breakups and other moments where we just felt like having fun. Sing really loud to the radio. Tell your crazy stories. Participate in as many on-campus events as possible! Make the most of the free moments you have during the day because these are the moments you’ll remember!
8. Get involved! Whether it’s a club based on your major, a community service project or just an on-campus event, getting involved is the way to get to know people. You could meet your closest friends in the clubs you get involved with. I met one of my closest school friends after being elected a class officer! One of my floormates made a couple of really close friends from the education club she joined based on her major. My roommate joined ROTC and met a lot of friends through that. Involvement builds relationships!
9. Get to know potential mentors. You are so blessed to be on a campus where you are surrounded by faculty and staff there for you. Take advantage of them! Ask them to go out to coffee with you or have a conversation with them! Ask them questions! A lot of these people are open to getting to know students and would really love to get to know you better. I know a lot of professors who would go to the dining hall for lunch and eat with students. These people want to get to know you. They can be great mentors in your life if you open up to them. Your college years are important ones in becoming who you want to be and having a few mentors you can turn to for guidance is a really awesome thing. Be on the lookout for those kind of people that can enrich your life and give you the push you need.
10. Confidence comes from the inside. This one might sound obvious to you, but for me it wasn’t. For a while I looked to other people to help me feel secure with who I was. The problem is when you lack confidence, other people sense that and that influences how they see you. If you want to be confident, you have to be okay with who you are first and then you’ll find other people will be, too. I had to keep telling myself that I’m allowed to like who I am before anyone else says anything about who I am. If it goes the other way around, you’ll never be okay with who you are because there is always a critic. Find your security inside yourself and show people around you who you are.