Before you start packing your bag or filling out your first application, you get hit in the face with advice about college. On a top 10 list of college proverbs, you hear the phrase: college is the time to make mistakes. And despite the inner perfectionist in many of us, we all face this truth.
Anyone who finds themselves presented with independence and adulthood gets cursed to make more than a few mistakes.
Not eating enough vegetables, binging a new series instead of studying for an exam, spending all your grocery money on coffee, making out with a guy you said you were going to leave alone—these common mistakes might haunt your near future. (But they’ll be pretty harmless). This truth offered me very little comfort when in the middle of a seasonally depressed episode, my entire college career up to that moment seemed full of mistakes. It didn’t matter or soothe me that I’m young and bound to make mistakes. I felt crushed under the weight of ruining my own life before it truly started.
I thought I’d made a mistake in enrolling to Temple University. It suddenly seemed stupid to riskily pursue a career in the industry of journalism, and to move away from my friends and family just to satisfy my love of big cities. About a half a year of trying to act like a proud Temple Owl passed and by the beginning of the spring semester, my constant sadness and exhaustion hadn’t disappeared yet. When I didn’t feel sad, I slept to avoid human contact. Either way, my lifestyle didn’t exude positive health.
My tendency to look at the metaphorical grass on the other side wasn’t helping. I couldn’t help but think about all the happy students that surrounded me. I seethed with jealousy over the students who enrolled in all the universities I’d decided not to commit to during my scramble to find a college in my last few months as a high school senior. Only so many podcasts existed that I could subscribe to in effort to avoid thinking about my internal conflict.
But eventually, I decided to tackle the issue head on. I started researching page after page of university transfer applications. It all seemed so doable; most universities only wanted transcripts, letters of recommendation and test scores. I basically went through this process as a high school senior and I felt ready to do it all again. I felt giddy and hopeful at the prospect of finally finding somewhere I could feel like I belonged.
After less than a week of scouring through university websites for a chance to successfully uprooting my life for a second time in less than a year, I came to a list of realizations.
First, I didn’t want to transfer. All the stress and risk of setting myself back a semester seemed even less desirable than staying at Temple and facing my unhappiness. Sometimes you know when to not push yourself beyond your limits. I couldn’t push myself to face the kind of duress I would put myself under if I made the brash decision to go back to square one.
Second, blaming Temple for my unhappiness would never help me. My homesickness buried me in sadness, and it didn’t help that the tons of work I needed to do caused me extreme exhaustion. Mistakenly identifying Temple as the root of problems, instead of the way I went throughout my days, wouldn’t solve my problems.
I’m an introvert. Spontaneously making friends with nothing more than the commonality of going to the same college sucks. I made a few friends despite that difficulty we all struggle with on some level, and I didn’t want to leave them.
In my heart of hearts, I really did want to stay in Philadelphia. Regardless of the numerous phone calls to home threatening to take the first train out of the state, I do like it here. Once I got past my apprehension of everything around me (and occasionally, the lingering smell of garbage), I appreciated this first brush with independence in the city.
I didn’t experience the picturesque love story with Temple that every college student on T.V. goes through with their school. I didn’t immediately feel like I belonged here. I didn’t feel that I’d found my place at my first walk around my block. I didn’t feel it during my first class. Even after managing to find my 8 a.m. class with ease, I felt like I wandered into the wrong room in the wrong school in the wrong city. I didn’t feel it during my first night in my apartment. I didn’t even feel it during my first trip to the library, wearing a Temple T-shirt, while doing my homework in the well-known cozy library couches. Though I looked like an advertisement in a brochure for Temple, I still felt like I could’ve gone elsewhere and done better.
I felt it nearly two months into the spring semester, after publishing one of my first articles for The Tab Temple about life as a black student at a Temple University. The article displayed a lot of the uncomfortable feelings I couldn’t tell my peers about, concerning my discomfort with Temple as a predominantly white institution in the middle of North Philadelphia. But my pride at having my hard work published and appreciated outshined any of my anxiety about discussing such a touchy topic. I finally felt like the real journalist and accomplished student I was trying to look like. Sure, I still struggle with social anxiety, a fear for my future, homesickness and sadness. But, who isn’t afraid of a mouthful of things? To feel like a “real adult” with a degree, I eventually need to understand that I’m going to deal with tons of hard situations.
And I learned a lesson that will make dealing with those things easier: I can’t run away and avoid things that don’t immediately please me before making an attempt to understand and appreciate them.