I will graduate from college in 4 days. Among the many things on my mind right now (essays, finals, finding a job) is freshman year. Who I was, how I felt, what I expected.
I remember standing in the hall of my dorm after moving in and watching my parents walk down the hall and leave. They did not cry, like in the movies. Instead, they hugged me goodbye and walked away. I watched them disappear around the corner and the tears that had been collecting on the rims of my eyes spilled over. I stared at the wall where they had been for just a second, then I walked back into my room, closed the door, and cried softly for a few minutes. Just like that, I was alone and my life was different.
I was a different person then than I am now. I was so shy, even though I’d already made so much progress the year before. I was closed off, without even realizing it. I was scared, but brave.
I’m still shy, but it’s nowhere near the same as it was then. Social situations still make me nervous, but it’s not paralyzing anymore. I can still be very awkward and it can still be embarrassing, but I’m more aware of it now and willing to push past it. I never thought I could be as outgoing and friendly as I am now. I still surprise myself sometimes. There is still progress to be made, but past me would be proud.
Back then I wanted to make friends more than anything. I’ve never had more friends than I have now. I still struggle to form close friendships, but it’s something I’m working on. I have a best friend and a tight group of friends that I have grown to love – and that makes me so happy. (Still never had a boyfriend, maybe next year)
I’m still scared of all sorts of things (talking to professors, asking for favors, going to large social events). But last year I hopped on a plane – for the first time ever – and flew to England where I studied abroad for 5 months and faced so many fears. I always thought that being scared and being brave were the opposite, but now I know that you can’t have one without the other. It wouldn’t be an act of bravery if there wasn’t something to fear. And it took me a long time to see that I had been brave all along: In high school I went to homecoming freshman year by myself with no plans of meeting up with friends; I applied for college even though my parents told me we couldn’t afford it (I also applied for the FAFSA); I moved to a city where I knew no one and I started over. It was one of the bravest, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
I’m proud of who I am now, but I’m also proud of who I was then. I was shy and awkward and scared, but I was also strong and smart and brave. And, most important of all, I was willing to change. And I still am.