I knew that going to college four and a half hours away from everyone I had known for my entire life was going to be hard, but I could not have imagined my first month being as difficult as it was. I like to call it my “Month from Hell.” Looking back on it it is something to laugh about, but it was surely one of the hardest times of my life.
For the first 18 years of my life I essentially had the same friends. Of course there were various additions and subtractions along the way, but for the most part we were the same group. I could be crazy and outgoing when I was around them, but around people I did not know that was not the case. I was and still am a socially awkward and introverted person, so making friends was difficult.
At Notre Dame our orientation week is hectic and filled with dozens of mixers and events designed to force freshmen into mingling situations. I wasn’t too comfortable in these situations, so I stayed in my room most nights binge-watching Netflix and then going to bed early.
The night of Tuesday, Aug. 26, however, was a drastically different experience.
I woke up at around 2 a.m. on the floor of my dorm room with extreme shoulder pain and blood all over myself. I had fallen off of my seven-foot high loft bed and into the metal arm of my futon, leaving me with a separated shoulder and a three-inch cut right across my forehead (nearly identical to Harry Potter’s famous scar). The next three hours were spent motionless due to the shoulder pain in the emergency room of the local hospital.
I finally got back to sleep on the much safer futon at around 5:30 a.m. Miraculously I made it to my class at 9:25 the next morning, running on less than four hours of sleep.
Walking into class with a massive bandage covering half of my face and a sling across my shoulder, I do not think I have ever received more stare-downs and double takes. I was the target of question after question about the previous night’s fiasco. I tried to play it off and act like everything was fine, but really it wasn’t. Telling the story over and over again got old quickly, and I just wanted to go to bed.
More than just going to bed, I wanted to go home. I wanted to sleep in my own bed where I never fell off in all 18 years of sleeping in it. I wanted to go home and spend time with the friends I started to miss so much. I wanted to go home where life was not so challenging.
At the end of the day, I knew that going home was not a possibility and that I had to try and stick it out. I struggled through the next two weeks trying to learn how to study, how to sleep in my bed again and how to be social again. I needed something to go my way. Sadly, nothing seemed to be going my way that first month.
One Friday I was beginning to make some friends in the dorm, and we went out to play soccer. Now that my shoulder was feeling a little better, I was so excited to get out and do something physical. I played goalie that day, and while running for the ball on what would be the last play of the game, I sprained my ankle. I walked back to my dorm as my ankle swelled to the size of a baseball.
I was injured again after for the second time in three weeks after going nearly seven years without a major injury. Things got even worse. I struggled to make any more friends because I could not go outside and experience the beautiful season of fall at Notre Dame. I had a tough time moving around campus, and I stayed in just about every night. By the end of every day, I was too tired from exerting so much effort doing the simplest things that the last thing I wanted to do was go feel awkward and uncomfortable at a dorm party.
I just wanted things to get better. No matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to make things go my way, but I guess that is the lesson I needed to learn from my “Month from Hell.” College was going to present new experiences I have never had to deal with before.
My first month was tough, but now, any challenge I face is nothing compared to what I experienced. My perspective has changed. College life still is by no means easy, but my outlook and attitude are better. We learn, we grow and we mature into our futures, not with ease and pleasure, but with frustration and challenge.