College Is Like an Olympic-Sized Diving Board—Wait What?

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High school feels like a tiny, safe bubble, like easing into a warm, comfortable neighborhood pool. Familiar faces, hallways, routines and a building you call home for four years. College, on the other hand, feels more like skipping the two-foot diving board at the pool and heading straight for the Olympic-sized board. You plunge straight into the vast, unknown, open water. Butterflies, anxiety and a longing to just back away from the edge crowd your head.

I attended the same school for my entire life, so high school felt comfortable. I couldn’t imagine a life apart from the building that became like a second home to me. I wanted to move on and begin a new chapter, but the mystery of that new chapter terrified me.

I feared everything as a child. Want to climb that tree over there? Nope. Try a new sport? No thanks. Rollercoaster? Heck to the no.  There’s a reason why I’ve never broken any bones and why it took me until the age of eight to learn how to ride a bike. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone required a forceful jolt rather than a gentle nudge. Unfortunately, this fear also hindered me from activities I might’ve actually enjoyed.

Then add introversion to the mix. Socializing for a more than a couple of hours drains my energy, and that’s even when I’m with people I already know. Now imagine combining fear and introversion and sending that person off to a huge, unknown university filled with strangers. I picture one of those cartoon heads spinning in circles.

Before college, sharing my writing with other people, even with people I knew since kindergarten, terrified me. Even just applying for College Magazine took a leap of faith. I remember re-reading my application essay over and over again and the nervousness that filled my stomach once I finally pressed send. Each week that I submitted an article, I received more and more positive feedback from my friends and family, and sometimes even strangers. The more I shared, the more confidence I gained in my writing. I conquered a fear and grew in my writing and I now have my own blog. If I hadn’t pushed myself, I might not even be writing right now.

If college isn’t a time to start pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, I don’t know when the right time is. In order to grow, you must push yourself from time to time. If you don’t push yourself to break free of your comfort zone, you hinder yourself from personal growth. Millions of different ways to push your self outside of your comfort zone exist in college. Maybe it means attending a new club by yourself where you don’t know anybody, maybe it means running for student government or maybe it’s something as simple as trying that weird food at the dining hall. Try joining an intramural sport you’ve never played or attending that book club you noticed at the local Starbucks.

Staying within your comfort zone limits your possibilities. Instead, push your self further and further outside of the comfortable circle you’ve created for yourself. Conquer your fears and live limitlessly. You’ll realize the “Olympic-sized diving board” isn’t so scary after all.

Sophomore at the University of Maryland double majoring in English and communications. Favorite things include Jesus and avocados.

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