Dear Freshman Jessica,
I have decided to take the time and effort to write you this letter because I know you need it. Really. You think you know better but you’re wrong. I can see through the smiles and the small talk and the social media posts and “everything-is-great-why-would-you-think-otherwise” facade. You’re homesick. You’re stressed. You dread large social gatherings. You sleep five hours a night (on a good night). You really hate calculus. You hate the rain and the humidity and the snow and are really starting to regret not going to sunny UCLA with the rest of Glendora High School.
And I’m not judging you; I get it. I’ve been there. And despite what you think, a lot of people wouldn’t judge you either. Because (even though you’re too stubborn to believe it), you’re not the only one who feels this way.
You don’t need to feel ashamed for not having the time of your life because everyone else is. Please stop scrolling through Instagram, stop comparing your life to other people’s and stop letting societal expectations on college life make you feel like you’re a loser for struggling a little bit. This isn’t Legally Blonde; undergrad isn’t glitter and butterflies and rainbows and waltzing unicorns in fields of poppies and chrysanthemums.
College is hard. Moving across the country to a strange city is hard. Being 18 years old and trying to pick your major that is supposed to guide the rest of your professional life (spoiler: it probably won’t) is hard. Making new friends can be hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The people who constantly post pictures on Instagram about how much they love college life and how many friends they have and how life is so easy and amazing are either very, very lucky or lying because they feel just as scared as you do and try to hide it.
College isn’t a complete and utter misery either. The people who tell you that you’re in for four years of woe, tears and torture are probably just like you. They haven’t figured it out yet either. Like everything else in life, you need balance. In this case, balanced expectations. There will be bad days. And there will be extremely bad days: you’ll fail a midterm and feel homesick and out of place. You’ll get the flu during finals and start crying during office hours. It happens; c’est la vie.
But you’ll have good times — great times — too. You’ll also go on spontaneous UniMini trips at 2 a.m. and jam to loud music while “studying” with friends. You’ll stay up too late talking about life with your roommate, get roped into joining random clubs and have all sorts of fun on Saturday nights. You’ll do all these things and more.
I know — you feel like you need to spend every hour of every day studying because you don’t belong here, but please (for the love of god), just relax. Imposter syndrome is more common than you think. You’re a hard worker, and although maybe not every midterm, paper or problem set will go your way, you’ll bounce back because you deserve to be here, life is more than school and momma did not raise a quitter.
And low-and-behold, you probably didn’t find comfort in any of that. Cause, again, I know you, and it’s always the same thing when other people give you great advice. I know, older-wiser person, but you don’t understand you’re not here right now you’re not me you don’t know my life.
And that’s where you’re wrong. I do understand. I was there, I am you and I do know your life. And I’m telling you, right here, right now, that you’ll be okay. I’m not saying junior year Jessica won’t have her own share of crap she’ll have to deal with; she too will have her good days, bad days and very bad days. But even though she can be stubborn, anxious, stressed, pessimistic and over-dramatic, at the end of the day, her life goes on. Although she has a tendency to blame herself too often for the pitfalls of life, at the end of the day, she knows that she’s just a small bean trying her best and tries her hardest to find joy, even in her bleakest hours. And trust me, she will find it.
Go easy on yourself. Everything will turn out to be alright.
So please, sit back, try to relax and make the most of this new, scary situation (and spoiler alert: You’ll begin to pull it together a little during the spring!)