I’ve been out of college for almost two years now, and time away from that reality has illuminated an insane amount of truths that I was blind to at the time.
Let’s start with who I am now, before we get into the mess I felt like at various times throughout college. I want to put into perspective just how little your college tribulations define who you become as an adult, even a young adult.
Life now: I’m 23, I live in New York City with my long-term boyfriend, who possesses every quality I’ve ever desired in a human being, and yet still somehow manages to keep surprising me. I have a great job, with flexibility, responsibility and autonomy, that also allows me to chase after the opportunities I’ve always yearned for– like traveling to 4 different countries since college. I have fun friends from all the places I have lived, a great relationship with my family and the absolute joy of running this website with talented women from all walks of life. My world is by no means perfect, but it has largely turned out the way 18-year-old-me hoped it would.
Now, let’s flashback to some of my finer moments in college. Freshman year was undoubtedly the most lost I have ever been as a person. It definitely wasn’t the last time I’d feel lost, but it was unequivocally the most. Maybe you might feel same right now.
There was just so much change to my universe that I was sucked into a vortex of drastic self-discovery without any concept of how to get out. I had new friends that were remarkable souls and taught me more about life than anyone had before, but we also made bad decisions like it was our job. I’d broken off my 3-4 year high school relationship, so not only was I brutally confronted by how much of my comfort/confidence was rooted in that, but my first real heartbreak quite literally caused me to behave like a crazy person. Not to mention I was distant from the family and friends I had been close with my whole life, so identity crisis was at an all time high. I know very well that I’m not alone in this either. It happens…all the time.
Then as college went on I still at times made decisions I’m not proud of and repeatedly beat myself up over it. There were many times that I drank too much, fought with friends, chose the wrong guys–and kept going back, spent every penny of the little money I had to my name and repeatedly bit off more than I could chew in all aspects of my personal and professional life. I never slept, was often involved in some kind of romantic drama and pizza bites were a key food group.
At the end of the day, there was always some absurd mess to laugh with my friends about over boxed wine or cheap vodka mixed drinks.
And, unlike most people, my college struggles are detailed all over the freaking Internet in the archives of the HuffPost and blogging universe. Millions (not an exaggeration) of readers have commiserated with my young and personal journey since I started doing this blogging thing at the ripe (and stupid) age of 19. Most people would be embarrassed about that now, but I’m not. I’m not because it’s a normal part of life, and even though I know that now, no one told me that at the time. So every heartbreak meant I was going to be alone forever. Every failure or rejection meant I was never going to achieve success. Every mistake meant I was never going to get my life together and become a responsible adult.
But that simply isn’t true, and I want you to know that. So here are 14 things you need to read, really read, and understand if you’re in college and plagued by some of the self-doubt that comes inherently with that stage of life. You’re going to be OK, trust me.
1. You’re going to change your mind and change course x10000000 times before you find what you’re actually passionate about. That’s OK. Maintain your drive, and don’t allow the changes to discourage you from finding what you really want to do in life.
2. It takes time to adjust and transition into adulthood. Don’t be afraid to accept guidance, and don’t beat yourself up for still needing some help sometimes. You don’t instantaneously convert into a functioning adult the second you finish unpacking your freshman dorm room. It’s a process, and that’s normal. Strive for independence and autonomy, but be open to support when you need it.
3. The romantic drama and struggles you’re encountering early on in college will NOT be that way forever. Though that first cut is always the deepest, it actually does get better. So don’t let your first encounter with heartbreak scare you away from finding the second one, third one, fourth one, etc.
4. Did I just say fourth heartbreak, etc.?!? YUP. That’s a critical item on this list, you’re probably going to fall in love/like/lust more than once. Not to strip the splendor out of love, but more trial and error actually does lead to more effective decision-making. Each time you learn what you do and don’t want from a partner, you get one step closer to finding someone that has everything you want. So try to find some joy in the process, and don’t let it make you feel like a failure. You aren’t.
5. Similar to high school, you don’t take your giant college friend/party acquaintance crowds with you. So whatever drama or confusion you have going on with large social groups, I promise it’s meaningless in the real world. Don’t stress about it.
6. Latch on to a few really reciprocal and supportive friendships, cultivate those and aim all of your concern their way. Those are the only ones that will last you in the end. They’re all you really need to care about. The rest is background noise.
7. A bad grade isn’t going to kill you. Heck, many bad grades really won’t kill you. I’ve had several post-grad offers, and you know how many companies asked me for my college transcripts that I spent years obsessing over? Zero. Zilch. None. Now, that’s not always the case, but more and more companies care about what you accomplished overall in college, more than the letter grade you got in Chemistry class Junior year.
8. Mistakes are actually necessary, just learn from them. Seriously, I’ve gained more from my bad decisions than I have my good decisions. Bad decisions cause you to think, assess and consider. They make you question WHY you did something, and that teaches you why you shouldn’t again.
9. It’s OK to be weird. You may feel pressure to assimilate and morph into a persona of what you’re supposed to be in college, but the only right way to be is yourself. You really don’t always have to be the stereotypical college chill girl, as this Vogue article captures so well.
10. There are bucket list items you won’t be able to do in college that you can STILL do after college. These four years aren’t the end of your fun life. For me, I sulked to no end about not being able to study abroad when I was in college. But when I graduated and saved up some money, I was able to go abroad anyway. Don’t let anyone scare you into thinking post-grad is the end, it’s just a different beginning.
11. Shallow attention won’t grant you real gratification and self-worth. In college-world, it can often feel like true beauty and popularity are determined by Instagram likes and people at parties, but that’s not real. It’s an ephemeral satisfaction, and one that almost always evaporates after you abruptly exit that reality. Don’t focus on it, and certainly don’t let it bog you down. Direct your attention towards what really matters–your heart, your integrity, your passion and your kindness.
12. Just because you’re broke now, doesn’t mean you’ll be broke forever. You’ll be fine. You eventually will operate on a budget, get a full-time income, manage your student loans and maybe charge a few things to the ole credit card during job transitions and moves. Everyone does it. I spent an ungodly amount of time in college distraught about my lack of savings, but truthfully that’s an incredibly common situation for students and it’s OK.
13. You can’t change people who don’t want to change. Because we all mature and grow at vastly different rates during college, we’re undoubtedly confronted with conflicts of expectation. This is a trap so many fall victim to and it can crush you. If someone isn’t rising to the standards that you need to be happy, don’t force it. Let them go. Save your soul and move on. Trust me.
14. If you’re feeling lost, overwhelmed, frustrated or confused, remember that it’s only temporary. This is not your forever, it’s your right now. So try to enjoy it. Try to focus on what makes you feel happy, free and empowered.
Don’t let self-doubt and uncertainty for the future keep you from enjoying some of the best moments of your life. Breathe it in. Hold your friendships close to your heart, your drink in a steady hand and your head high. You can do anything.
Lexi is the founder of HerTrack.com. She is also an SEO Nerd living in New York City with her cat and collection of cheesy coffee mugs. Lexi contributes to a number of online publications and is always trying to get involved in the conversation. She’s an advocate for equality, knowledge, healthy relationships, compassion, self-confidence, integrity and above all, love. She’s addicted to caffeinated beverages and people who make her smile.