I don’t know how I made it through my freshman year at the University of Florida. Stumbling between friend groups and majors, I constantly switched classes and jumped back and forth between different clubs.
But that’s in the past now. If I could leave a message to my past self, it would look like a roadmap. A path to the five secret weapons that saved me, and will continue to do so for the rest of my college career.
And who knows? Maybe these college items could save you too.
1. My Mother’s Personal Cookbook Full of Secret Family Recipes.
Now that my sophomore year at UF is in full swing, I can confidently say that I’ve eaten enough ramen noodles to last a lifetime. I miss the comfort of my mom’s sweet honey curry chicken and the familiarity of my grandmother’s lunchtime arepas. The spices would cling to my hair and clothes and accompanied me like an old friend as I grew up. I’ve lost that ever since I left Miami. In Gainesville, my hair smells like DollarTree shampoo. I use scentless laundry detergent due to my roommate’s allergies. The cacophony of my family’s cooking scents that once stuck to me like a shadow are now gone. Cooking with my family’s recipes would bring my past life to my current one in Gainesville, and hopefully save me from my ramen noodle ways.
2. My Coxswain Paper Plate Award
During my freshman year at UF, I became a coxswain on the women’s novice rowing team. I direct, lead and encourage the members of my crew every day from the ninth seat of our rowboat. Last year, our coach held a paper-plate award ceremony. My team members drew me their own cox box and microphone—the universal symbol of a coxswain—on my paper plate. They handed it to me with smiles on their faces and told me how grateful they were that we were all on crew together. My heart broke. I’ve never received anything like that before. I want to hang onto that small paper plate as a reminder of the friends I’ve made and the hard work I’ve put in at crew. It’s up on my wall right now.
3. Bill Watterson’s collection of Calvin and Hobbes Comics.
My dad would read these to me growing up. Calvin’s eccentric rants and prolific statements used to soar over my head when I was younger, but now, with each reread, his deranged monologues go in one ear and don’t go out the other. I can read these comics and laugh alongside my dad and Bill Watterson. These comics bring back happy memories of my father and I. They remind what it was like to be a child when things get complicated in my semi-adult life. Thank you, Calvin and thank you Hobbes.
4. My yoga mat.
I was never a yoga person. I used to think yoga was strange and unnecessary until my roommate dragged me along to a late-night vinyasa class at Southwest Recreational center. Our instructor, Alexandra, changed my life. The stress of college and the pressure of the world all drip away when my foot crosses the threshold of her warm, dim and comforting little studio. Yoga helps me ground myself when I feel on edge. It’s my way of relaxing and saying thank you to my body after it’s carried me through a long and trying day. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine having a yoga mat. Now, I can’t imagine my life without one.
5. My Journalistic Aspirations
My freshman year at UF, I was completely lost. My major changed faster than the weather and I struggled to find my purpose at university. But I think I’ve discovered that now. Because of my grounding sessions at Southwest and even my time reading Bill Watterson’s work, I’ve finally found a home in the college of journalism and communications. I want to be able to make a positive change on the world through my writing. My writing can work as a way to speak for the silenced. This is my purpose. Now that I’ve found it, you can bet I’ll carry it with me wherever I go throughout university.
These items are my roadmap now. They carry a special place in my heart and mind. If I could go back, I would tell my past self not to worry. These things would anchor her and guide her throughout college. She’ll be okay.