The first time I came home after leaving for my first semester of college at Drake University–a long five hours away from my beloved hometown–I cried in the middle of a Target parking lot. It was the most embarrassing kind of crying, the kind that starts with a single tear over something silly until finally, it turns into sobs of embarrassment mixed with uncontrollable laughter at the ridiculousness of it all. As my mom and I entered the store, I told her I was considering transferring schools. She reminded me of the reason I chose Drake in the first place; I’d wanted a change. She was right.
For many high school seniors, college is exciting because it’s a chance to reinvent yourself.
For me, reinvention was a huge reason why I chose to go to Drake. In high school, I was shy and quiet. I’d lived in the same place for most of my life, had the same friends since kindergarten and only been to a few parties. I craved something new and exciting. Going to school in a new city where I didn’t know anyone seemed like the perfect way to become the person I’d always wanted to be.
Who exactly was that person?
Wiping tears as I searched the personal care aisle for deodorant, I almost laughed. Deep contemplation was supposed to happen while lying awake at 2 a.m., not while wandering the aisles of Target. I focused on choosing a deodorant to distract myself. Dove or Lady Speed Stick? The answer was simple: Lady Speed Stick. I’d been using it as long as I could remember. If only I could feel this confident about choosing Drake.
I had high expectations for college and in many ways, it was everything I dreamed it would be. The professors were kind, the class sizes were small and I loved Des Moines. But I was still waiting for Drake to change me into a social butterfly.
In fact, college hadn’t been the transformative experience I’d expected it to be at all. Coming home made it clear that even after two months of college, I was still the same me. I was still going entire days without speaking to anyone but my roommate, turning red every time I had to find a seat in class and staying in my dorm room while my friends went out to parties.
I hadn’t even begun to come out of my introverted cocoon.
By the time we reached the sock section, I had finally managed to calm myself down by assuring myself I wasn’t the first person to question my entire identity in the deodorant aisle of Target. I started inspecting a pair of fuzzy socks from the clearance rack. I already owned many pairs like it, but they were so adorable I couldn’t pass them up.
As my fingers continued to run over the fleecy purple polka dots, my phone buzzed in my pocket. I was surprised to see a text from a girl I worked with on campus, only the text wasn’t work-related. She said she was looking for new friends at Drake and just wanted to chat. We texted back and forth as I stood there in the sock section and agreed to hang out when we got back to campus.
In the checkout line, I stared down at my trusty Lady Speed Stick, the familiar fuzzy socks and the new text from a potentially new friend. I realized I probably didn’t need to change who I was to be content with my college life. I’ve happily used the same brand of deodorant forever, I can never pass up a cute pair of socks and I’m extremely shy.
Still, someone wanted to be my friend.
Going to college in a new city alone wasn’t going to change one of the core parts of who I am, no matter how much I wanted it to. I’m still shy and I’m always going to be, but that’s okay because college shouldn’t be about trying to become someone completely different. It’s a chance to take leaps and get out of your comfort zone while still staying true to yourself.
I followed my terrifying dream of going to school in a city where I knew no one, and while it didn’t transform me into someone completely new, it did teach me–with a little help from my strangely reflective, thought-provoking trip to Target–how to be okay with the person I already was.