When I look back on my past three years of college, I have a lot of mixed feelings. I grew up in Ann Arbor and was inevitably a Birkenstock-wearing tomboy who wasn’t too excited about life in college because this was already my home. The Big House was just “the stadium,” and I hated the drunken college students who would yell at us when we would drive by like they owned the town, when it was actually mine.

I bought my first pair of heels about two weeks into college because I was told that I should have a pair of wedges for sorority recruitment. I looked like a chicken walking uncomfortably in thick tan heels from house to house and had no desire to pretend I was anything but an Ann Arbor girl who really just wanted to find a new place within my home. I went to mixers, date parties and late nights and had a blast. I had a really fun time doing fun things, mindless things.

I had a really fun time until I realized I had no idea who I had become or what I wanted. I was in a place, unaware of how I’d gotten there, and at a loss as to how to move forward. I thought I was the only one in this school who was scared shitless about the future. However, I soon realized that I was actually in the majority of students on this campus who have no idea what they really want and are just finding their way one step at a time.

I relied on people more than I wanted to, but soon learned that it was OK and normal to do so. I hated the fact that I wasn’t perfect and couldn’t control everything. No one told me that college isn’t all just one big party, late-night study session, exam or paper; it’s just four years of your life. I had this idea that I needed to be a certain person, make regular appearances at Skeeps or Rick’s and prioritize my wardrobe, and it took me three years to finally ignore those and just do what I wanted. It took me three years to prioritize myself.

I tried to talk myself out of my major for two years. People told me that English was just a lot of reading and talking. Well, it is. It’s a lot of reading and even more writing. But it’s also a lot of work. I’ve gotten to write about the perspective of flowers, the female perspective of dominant male figures in Greek mythology, the relationship between magical realism and surrealism and the character development in Charles Dickens novels. I really couldn’t be happier. I’ll graduate with a double major in English and political s cience on April 30.

This school is huge. I’ve had my fair share of challenges navigating it even though I grew up here. I’ve had to sacrifice friendships, make hard decisions and push through some really challenging times. But the thing that no one tells you is that so does everyone. I’ve realized that more people on this campus fight battles every day than anyone ever tells you. Yes, we can all go to Skeeps and Rick’s and pretend like we’re fine even if we aren’t. We can hug and complement each other’s lipstick color or necklace, vineyard vines shirt or Bean boots. Or we can start having real conversations about the hard things. I’ve done both, and I’ll probably continue to do both. I’ve just realized that I care a lot more about the hard stuff, because it’s usually the most important and eventually can lead to some of the best stuff. I’ve had more tear-filled conversations, stomach-churning anxiety and tense walks than some people on this campus, but I’m fine with that.

If I could go back in time, I’d have a lot to tell myself. To my freshman self, relax. It’s OK to care. To my sophomore self, it’s OK to have hard times. You can’t fix everyone else’s problems, but you can take care of yourself, in fact you should. Junior me, take a deep breath. You’re human. And now, I hope those of you who have some time left at this school will take the time to grow as an individual. Learn what you like, what you value, what you want, what you have, and enjoy it. Be kind to yourself and trust that you’re not the only one who has felt what you feel. Voice your opinions and concerns, your insecurities, your fears, your values, and learn. Learn a lot. Be respectful and appreciative. College has been a humbling experience in many ways, hardly easy, never boring, always weird — and getting weirder. I’ve made a family and a new home within my home of Ann Arbor. I’ve made best friends, a lot of mistakes and memories that will last me forever.

Ann Arbor will always be my home. I will probably always honk at drunk students on Saturday mornings, get frustrated when they walk in front of my car for five minutes without looking up from their cellphones and shake my head when I see sorority girls chanting out of windows. But I get it now. I’ve found a new appreciation for my home and feel so lucky to have been able to spend four years with some of the most amazing professors, GSIs, peers and administrators in the country. In April, I’ll be graduating college. I’m terrified, but at least I can admit it.

 

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