Demi Lawrence is a freshman telecommunications journalism major and writes "Demi's Diems" for The Daily News. Her views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Demi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growth. If I had to describe my freshman year in one word, it’d be that one.
Mistakes were made, lessons learned. There were good days and bad days, and sometimes even good weeks and bad weeks. Changes came about slowly but surely as I became a self-proclaimed “adult-in-training,” and the bags under my eyes from minimal sleep grew bigger and bigger.
But if I can say one thing, it’s that I grew from August to now.
I’ll never forget the first night sleeping in my lofted, dorm room bed. I kept reminding myself to be careful to not hit my head on the ceiling when I woke up in the morning. My room still had that new room smell, somewhat like a new car smell. My desk was still clean, posters and pictures still straight on my walls.
Questions jumbled around in my head as I tried to not turn over and fall off my tiny mattress—I mean, I’d had a queen sized bed my whole life, and I was expected to just transition to a twin overnight? Amidst my internal bed size crisis, I wondered: Would I make friends? Would I make Dean’s List? Would I eat anywhere besides Chick-Fil-A? Would I learn enough to make my thousands of dollars of tuition worthwhile?
Reflecting now, I can clearly see that I did, in fact, make some great friends. I made the Dean’s List first semester, too. I only eat Chick-Fil-A about 3 times a week, and I’ve learned more than I could have ever dreamed, inside and outside the classroom.
I remember my first class, a Monday morning at 8 a.m. It was PFW 100, the hard, physical conditioning one. I was excited for the class itself, just not the time slot. I only skipped twice, somehow. I had an absence to spare, even.
I remember meeting who are now my two best friends. In that moment, I had no clue how important they’d become to me. We’d spend the rest of the year inseparable, taking adventures to sunflower fields in New Castle and to the Indianapolis Zoo. When one of us was sad, or had a little too much fun one night, we’d be there to pick each other up. We wouldn’t forget to give each other hell first, though.
We laughed together, we fought together, and, most importantly, we grew together.
I remember writing my first column and having it be utter crap. I had ideas, just no clue how to organize them. All I knew was that I wanted to reach people with my words, even if it was just one person. Somewhere along the way, I sort of got it figured out with the help of those far better than me.
The freshman experience is something unique to every first-year college student, but at the same time it's so similar for us all. Not everyone has a dreaded PFW 100 at 8 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and not everyone meets their best friends over a t-shirt compliment.
But we all were scared at one point, and we all were excited somewhere along the way, too. We all faced utter terror while studying for our first round of midterms, but we all felt the simple beauty of ordering cheap pizza at 2 a.m. with our best friends as well.
One huge thing I learned through my first year on this campus is something I feel as if everyone, no matter their age, can benefit from hearing; you cannot control what happens to you, only how you react to it.
Learning from your past is important, dwelling on it is not. Because learning is growth, and growth is power. We should never stop seeking experiences that will make us learn more about ourselves and the world around us, and something about a college campus really heightened that awareness for me. Granted, we do not need Muncie, Indiana, to learn and grow. But the welcoming hands of self-discovery and the unknown fit together quite beautifully.
The times spent here are the moments I will never get back. I can’t experience them on loop, and I can’t take them back and refund them for new ones. What I get is what I get, and it comes from what I make of every situation presented to me. More times than not, staying up late to laugh with friends was worth the grogginess I faced the next morning. Not to say you shouldn’t take your sleep seriously, but these memories aren’t on a permanent file. You can think back and remember them, but you can’t rewind and relive them fully ever again.
The songs you dance to at parties, the movies you cry to when you feel alone, the papers you finally turn in after working on them for an entire semester. That’s what this is about. It’s not even about being a freshman, really, though there is something golden about experiencing this all for the first time. It’s about living, not just existing.
Many people consider the “lasts” of life to be the most bittersweet. Instead, I see the “firsts” as such. I am never going to be able to feel what it’s like to sleep in my dorm room bed for the first night again. I’ll never be able to feel the relief of not failing my first college midterm again.
These “firsts” are something truly extraordinary. I try not to get caught up in the worry of not being able to feel these “firsts” again, but I can’t help but feel sorry for my future self because I know she won’t experience these things or feel this exact way again. It all just becomes normalized, it becomes less fresh and supple in our hearts and minds.
Call me the over-zealous, dreaming freshman. Tell me that life will become too real, too soon and that I’ll stop living it in metaphors. Because that’s what I am, and I own up to it without shame. If living my life as fully as I can even in the face of unknowns is a crime, then lock me up. At least I’ll be with everyone else who agrees with me.
I immersed myself in a world of unknowns these past eight months. It was terrifying, I won’t sugar coat it for you. But had I not taken risks or leaps of faith, I’d still be someone I look back on now and feel sorry for.
This is for all of us. Whether you’re here for the first time, or for the last, I hope you grew through it all. Make a change to be the change in the world around you. Change doesn’t need to be giant or immediate, and it doesn’t need to be for others. Grow, and grow in the way that best suits you.
Live for the “firsts” of life. Appreciate them as they happen as best you can. I know that sometimes we can’t always appreciate things in the moment, because we just don’t live like that. We typically appreciate experiences after the fact. But learning to live for this moment, on this day, and not worry too much about yesterday or tomorrow is one of the most important things I learned my freshman year of college.
Even if you are not a first-year student, I hope this academic year had special moments that shaped you, special moments of “firsts” that you are grateful for. Special moments you will remember forever and tell your kids about. College, traditionally, is only four years long, and compared to the vastness of our lives that’s a pretty short time to do all we are expected to do. Embrace the fear, embrace the excitement, embrace the significance of every experience you possibly can. Make mistakes and learn from them, too. But most importantly, grow.