May 5, 2017: Dear Incoming College Freshmen
Dear incoming college freshmen,
College is the weirdest thing ever.
One moment, you’re jamming out at a free concert with your new best friends. The next, you’re sobbing on FaceTime with your parents, begging them to let you drop out and come home. The next, you’re screaming your lungs out and waving a shaker as hard as you can: Auburn snatches a victory over LSU. The next, you’re gagging as you force-feed yourself overpriced on-campus food with no nutritious value whatsoever. The next, fall weather finally hits, and you can sit on the grass for more than five minutes without becoming a sweaty mess. The next, you feel like you have no friends. The next, you’re hugging the friends you really do have before driving or flying back “home” for Thanksgiving. The next, you’re realizing that home isn’t as much home anymore, because you have two homes now. The next, finals are upon you, and they suck. They suck real bad. The next, you feel like maybe you’ve got your feet under you for second semester; you know where to eat now, you know how to study now, you’ve got it a little more figured out. The next, life hits you over the head with a golf club and knocks you down, hard. The next, you’re being touched by some of the most powerful sermons you’ve ever heard. The next, you get a leadership position in your favorite student organization. The next, you’re nervous, stomach in your feet and brain spinning around, before you go on a retreat for that organization: you don’t know these people, and what if they don’t like you? The next, you’re crying tears of joy for answered prayers. The next, you’re wondering when your other prayers are going to get answered.
And the next, you’re packing up your dorm.
College is wonderful and hard, all at once. It is surreal, new, and terrifying. It’s a bunch of things all mixed together, and this conglomeration of qualities makes it very weird overall.
It is possible.
You might have some days where you wake up wondering if you can make it through this thing. You might spend September thinking about May and asking yourself if you can really get there. Some days will be doubt-filled. You might feel disillusioned. If you’re anything like me, you’ll say something like, “I knew parts of college would be hard, yeah, but I never thought it would be this hard.” (Let’s face it, I’m dramatic.) College is amazing: There are opportunities and adventures waiting here. But, like all good things in life, college isn’t perfect. It’s scary and difficult. Sometimes I think it’s only so hard because it’s so wonderful; maybe you can’t have one without the other.
With that in mind, my biggest freshman year advice to you is this: You will find out life’s possibilities when you do what seems impossible. You will discover God’s abilities when you do what you’re incapable of.
Do the thing. Wake up, get out of bed, and live your days. Be daring in the mundane mornings. Refuse to live in fear. Choose faith instead. You’ll probably still feel afraid—I know I did—but you’re doing the thing anyway. Courage is more about acting when you’re afraid than not being afraid in the first place. So be brave in walking forward.
Tuck this letter away for if you have a night like I did three weeks in—the tear-filled FaceTime back home, wanting to call the whole thing quits, you hate college, it’s too hard, you can’t do it anymore. Maybe you won’t have a night like that, but I imagine you might have those same feelings at some point or another. It’s my hope and prayer for you to wake up the next day and try again.
I’m not trying to scare you. I don’t want to make you feel like giving up on this whole endeavor before you even start. College is great, I promise. Some of my favorite memories are at Aubs, one of my favorite places on the planet. I love Auburn, I love my new friends, I love UPC, I love so much about this year. But there are parts I haven’t loved, too. I want to be real and honest, and college is honestly tough sometimes. But it is worth it, for the good parts and for its toughness. It is worth it to do the thing that seems impossible, if only because you learn that it’s not impossible.
If you’re a Christian, I pray that when you encounter moments you can’t possibly pull yourself through, you let God carry you. I’m a big believer that God actually gives us stuff we can’t handle because it makes us rely on Him. College has humbled me; I have realized my own humanness and His God-ness. I pray that college teaches you the finite limits of your own strength; it certainly did for me, and it was painful, but it has led me to the Rock that is higher than I. I pray you’ll turn to Him, too. If you’re not a Christian, I hope that the moments when you run out of your own strength make you consider something more. When the tough times of college strike, I hope you’ll try Jesus out. He can help a lot, I promise. Either way, when you encounter stuff you just can’t handle on your own, I hope you’ll realize that you don’t have to handle it on your own. You are not alone, and you will never be alone, not at any point this whole year.
Freshman year will give you fabulous memories, put you in uncomfortable situations, fill you with joy, and set you on challenging paths. In the moments when it’s awesome, be grateful. Tuck those times away to remember forever. In the moments when it’s not so awesome, just put one foot in front of the other. Give yourself lots of grace with each step. And at the end of this weird, winding road, you will look back and see a miracle. It may not be the miracle you were expecting, but it’ll be one nonetheless. God will fill your freshman year with miracles. It’s scary, but it’s worth it: Show up for them.
Cheering you on all the way to the finish line,
(“The Freshman Fifteen” is a year-long blogging project posting every fifteen days of my freshman year of college. Follow along for life updates, deep thoughts, and everything in between.)