I’ve been home from my first year of college for about a week now, and it has been just enough time to get some rest and reflect on how the Lord has used me and stretched me beyond anything I could’ve imagined. This school year didn’t start out how I wished it would by any means, with me staying in the country (miss you, Stockton), but God knew exactly what He was doing. There were lessons I needed to learn, people I needed to meet, and prayers I needed to pray in order for me to grow deeper into the calling that has been placed on my life. Like in most things, hindsight is 20/20, so here is a list of lessons (brace yourself, it’s kinda long) I have taken away from the past nine months:
1. My mom was right. About everything. She was right about me not needing as many t-shirts as I brought. She was right about that extra piece of furniture I just HAD to have during move-in, which ultimately came home at Christmas. She was right about who I am and what God had told her He has for me. For example, my mom knew I was going to change my major months before I realized it was the right step, and she was gracious enough to keep it to herself and let me figure it out on my own. She was right about me eventually being thankful for the way her and my dad parented me, and let me tell you, this one was HUGE. I can’t tell you how many times I called my mom just to thank her and my dad for how they raised me. The kind of person someone truly is will show, and parents’ hard work will come to fruition (or not), as soon as kids move to college and get their first taste of freedom. Thankfully, my parents instilled Godly wisdom and truth during the 18 years I lived in their home that I was able to lean on far more than I ever thought I would.
2. It’s okay to stop studying sometimes, and actually live life. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, and the Lord had to use multiple people to intervene so I would get the point. Yes, an exceptional GPA is ideal, but it’s not the be all end all. Coming in as a Health Science major wanting to go to medical school, my grades were what I cared about. They were my complete identity. I took so much pride in answering the latter of the two questions every freshman is asked at least a billion times: what’s your name and what’s your major? My grades HAD to be perfect, or else my life and career would be over far before they ever started. I learned quickly that this is no way to live. John 10:10 doesn’t say “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that you may have a 4.0!” Absolutely not. While it’s not a bad thing to care about grades because the Lord told us to do everything with excellence, as if done unto Him (Col. 3:23), they shouldn’t be the sole focus of our time and energy. Jesus said that he came so that we may have LIFE, and have it more abundantly. This means it’s okay to stay the full length of the football game instead of skipping out early to go to the library, it’s okay to close the books and return to the land of the living after studying for hours upon hours, it’s okay (and encouraged!!) to actively listen to your preacher on Sunday instead of running through the to-do list in your head, and it’s okay to treat yo’self after a big test and get ice cream with your friends. It’s all about balance.
3. You’re going to find exactly what you’re looking for. There are many different types of people and groups in college, and the exciting part is that if you put in enough work, you will find exactly what you’re searching for. If you’re looking for those friends who will sit at the library and study with you far after the sun has gone to sleep, they’re always there – shoutout to Club Moody!! If you’re looking for the friends that will go out with you every weekend, they’re everywhere. If you’re looking for the friends that will come pick you up and drive you home when you go out every weekend, they’re around. If you seek friends who are down to go on spontaneous midnight drives and frequent Fuego/Whata runs, maybe even see a random animated kids movie at 11:30pm on a Tuesday (I’m looking at you, KC & GB), those people really do exist. If you’re looking for the friends who will call you every Sunday morning to make sure your alarm went off and you’re awake/getting ready for church, or hold your hand while you get your first haircut in over a year, it may take a little extra searching but trust me when I say those people are definitely there. College is a cool time to figure out who you are and who you’ll become, and the kinds of friends you seek will help shape you, so choose wisely!
4. Living with someone in a 12×13 space is hard. Be a good roommate. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say most people are very used to having their own room before coming to college. It’s a weird feeling, not having to share a living space for 18 years, then suddenly sleeping three feet away from someone, but being a roommate will teach you so much about yourself. Having a roommate in such a small space is definitely a learning curve, especially if you don’t know each other well before move-in, but after the awkward first couple of nights everything begins to feel more normal and comfortable. Carol and I came to value the deep friendship that comes with sharing a shoe box; the late night talks, the multitude of dumb snapchat stories, the mountains of laundry we eventually put away, the vow to *never* turn on the overhead light, THE MEGABED, the roomie showers when we would jam to Ben Rector and take way too long, the most magical off-brand mac and cheese we’ve ever had, the “A” wall, the obnoxious drawings of our friends posted on our door for the whole hall to see, and the five million alarms it took to get us up in the mornings – it will all be loved and missed. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but we always made it work. So, thank you Caroline for being the best first roommate I could possibly have, and for still wanting to be my friend! #longlive330
5. Yes, college boys are cuter than high school boys, but chill. There’s no rush. That statement pretty much says it all. Sure, college brings about a brand new dating pool different than the guys you’ve known for the past 13 years. They’re great, but these sweet boys are still trying to figure out who they are away from their parents and have so much growing to do, same as us. Instead of sitting around, wishing and waiting we would meet the perfect guy already, what if us girls used the time in between to become the Godly women our future husbands deserves? So often, I believe girls feel almost entitled to an incredible man because God wouldn’t want anything less than the best for His daughters, right? He does want the best for us, but as the daughters of the King, are we doing our part to grow in our faith and be the incredible women the sons of the King deserve? To me, it seems clear it’s a two-way road. If I expect the guy I’m going to marry to be so enthralled with the Lord and to be growing and obeying His commands, I should be working to do the exact same. There is absolutely no rush, cute boys will always be around, so ladies let’s take this time to become the faithful and strong women of God our incredible future husbands deserve.
6. No one cares who you were in high school; start fresh, be the best version of yourself. College is unique in the fact that no one knows who you are. There may be a handful of people from your high school or a GroupMe you kind of know going into it, but besides them, you are completely unknown to the masses. This can be both terrifying and invigorating, as you can truly be anybody you want to be. Coming from a small town where almost everyone knew either me or someone in my family, it was an odd feeling when “I’m Maddy Ray” meant nothing to people. They didn’t know any of my siblings, my mom wasn’t on the PTA with theirs, and they didn’t grow up next door to my childhood best friend – there were no connections. This blank slate creates such an opportunity to forge your own connections and create the reputation that will be attached to your name all across campus. Nobody really puts value in what happened in high school because we aren’t there any longer, so trying to fall back on the identities you’ve created for yourself won’t hold you up any longer. You can comfortably be 100% yourself, and people will absolutely love you for it, partly because they don’t know any better and partly because the truest version of you is the best version of you.
7. You’ll find people who will quickly become your “family”. Not everyone you meet in college will become a lifelong best friend, but the lifers will definitely come. These are the friends you will call and tell everything to, the friends that will both encourage and challenge you, the people who make you question how you made it through the past 18 years without them. These are the people that will make your first birthday away from home one to remember, and will bring you dinner when you lose track of time in the library. They offer light and love and speak into your life in ways you didn’t know people your age ever could. Companions like these make you do dumb things, like assign everyone a FRIENDS character (I’m Rachel lol) and hold a Friendsgiving before everyone parts ways for a painful 5 days. It sounds so weird because last August they were all strangers to you, but these people are one level higher than the average friend group. They’ve become your family and have helped make college your home.
8. Make stepping out of your comfort zone a regular activity. So much is new once you move out of everything comfortable and into a place you’re not used to doing life in. It’s a whole new world of experiences, people, and opportunities. Especially the first year, everyone your age is in the same boat of being lost and confused and homesick. I promise you, most people will completely understand and maybe even be grateful if you introduce yourself and sit next to them on the first day of classes. Odds are, they want a friend in class just as much as you do, and it may take you getting out of your comfort zone to make it happen. College was the first time I had ever experienced having to possibly eat a meal alone, and it scared me to death. I can’t tell you how many times during my first semester I took lunch to-go and sat in my room, eating and doing homework by myself. Transitioning from high school and home life to complete independence is so hard, and it will be a lonely road if you never put yourself out there.
9. Life will get busy, but don’t forget the end goal of your studies. You are here to get a degree. Let me say it again for the people in the back, YOU ARE HERE TO GET A DEGREE. Yes, college is fun and there is a multitude of things to do, but don’t forget why you’re here in the first place. So much can get in the way of your studies, such as sorority/fraternity commitments, intramurals, academic clubs, on-campus organizations, and many other things that are good things. After graduation, all of these things will fade away, but your degree – the piece of paper that will propel you into the real world – will stand. If you came in wishing to become a doctor and you’ve stuck with it, then by all means work extra hard to make that God-given dream come true. If you came in undecided, take classes and work hard to decide what you might want to spend the rest of your life doing to bring glory to God. If you came in one major and decided it wasn’t the best option for you, explore all the different possibilities out there to be the best vessel for the Lord in the expansion of His Kingdom. These four years are so much more than studying and libraries and GPAs, but they are the sole foundation for why you stepped foot on this campus in the first place – don’t lose sight of what you came to do.
10. No other time in life will be as unique as right now, enjoy every bit of it. When else in life will we be surrounded by people our own age and it be completely normal? Never. When else in life will we eat with our friends, live with our friends, go to class with our friends, take road trips with our friends, cheer on D1 sports with our friends… okay, do absolutely everything with our friends? Never. This time is so unique and exciting, and no other chapter of our lives will look similar to this one. College is the best and it’s the worst. It’s the most fun and the hardest ever. It’s unmatched. I’m so thankful I have three more years at my incredible university, and I pray they are the slowest moving years of my life. In the beginning I didn’t want to be here, and if I had my way back in August I would’ve spent this entire year across the Atlantic Ocean. I can’t even begin to convey how glad I am God had different plans regarding the “when” of my time in England. I needed to grow, and the Lord is using college and the people there to do it.