What I Wish I Knew Before I Went Off To College

When I was little, college seemed like it was eons away. I remember passing in front of Nicholls State University as a child and thinking, “WOW! COLLEGE! That’s really big place! I want to go there one day!”

Every time we passed on LA 1 with the Nicholls’ fountain in sight, it sparked a long discussion about everything I wanted to be from a dentist to a teacher. Take a guess at what I did NOT choose:)

Let’s rewind to the year 2011 (when first generation iPhones roamed the Earth). I was a graduating high school senior who was quite scared to leave home and I have no shame in saying that. For months when I went to bed each night, I asked myself the same questions. “Jessica, what makes you think you can do this? What are you getting yourself into? You are an average student. Are you cut out for college?”

If I could go back in time, I’d give that teenage girl a nice, long talk starting with this….

“Are you scared? GOOD! This is good! It means you are pushing yourself like never before. Remember all those years you challenged authority? This was preparing you to stand up for what you believe in and what is right despite the majority. Remember all those times you chose to do what YOU wanted despite the crowd? This was preparing you for those times when you will have to choose fun or future. You have all of the tools in your belt, you just have to know when and where to use them.”

I remember the day(s) my parents and I packed up my childhood bedroom. I think I felt every single emotion humanly possible and I remember thinking, “Jess, you will never forget this day as long as you live” and it’s true, I haven’t.

There were so many moments I felt like Andy from Toy Story when he packed up his toys and went off to college. Everything from socks to dental floss made me cry, yes you read that right. Not even kidding, I cried over dental floss.

What I realize now is that it wasn’t the actual silky, minty thread I was crying over, it was everything the dental floss represented.

It was the dental floss my mom and I bought together at our local grocery store, the store I went to ALL my life. It was night after night flossing my teeth in my bathroom, the bathroom I watched myself grow from a tiny tot who needed a step stool to a young woman who was college bound. It was hearing my mom say, “Don’t forget to floss” each time she heard me turn on the water in my bathroom, the only bathroom I had ever called my own.

I knew trips to the grocery store with my mom would be on the weekends when I had to drive an hour to “visit” my family. I knew I would have to find a new grocery store where I knew no one, shopped alone and bought my own dental floss. I knew that I was going to have a new bathroom that I would share with someone else. I knew that there would be no one to remind me each night to floss.

Everything was changing so fast and the little things were beginning to impact me heavily.

Heck, I just typed two paragraphs where I express how dental floss impacted me on a spiritual level. I never thought I would care SO MUCH about those little moments because let’s face it, I was a sassy teenager who was too cool for any event that didn’t require a nap.

What’s the saying? Don’t cry over used dental floss? Oops! I did!

Onto the good stuff! I was clearly a basket case the day I drove off to college. My mom drove my car because I was entirely too emotional to drive and the entire way she tried to cheer me up with everything from Celine Dion to N*SYNC, but I wasn’t having it.

It was raining that day (go figure) and I see absolutely no coincidence. Heard the phrase “rain on my parade?” I kept thinking, “Jess, you should be excited!” I was mad at myself for not feeling excited like my friends. They could not WAIT to move out and go to college!

Each time we talked about moving, I would act like I was excited and ready, but deep down I was dying. Many times I had to stop myself from saying, “How in the world are you guys jumping for joy!? Do you know what’s about to happen?”

The truth was that I felt like I was leaving my old life and trading it in for a new one. I can now admit I was afraid of becoming something, as strange as that may sound. I was afraid I would change and I loved who I was. The fear of becoming someone else and losing touch with where I came from absolutely terrified me.

What I would go back and tell that teenage girl would be exactly this,

You will change. You will absolutely change and I think if you give this new girl a chance, she will surprise you and you will grow to love her! You will face things (SOON) that will rock your freaking world like Michael Jackson and you will survive just like Gloria Gaynor said you would. You’re a fighter and you will never be defined by your mistakes, but you better learn from them, missy! Everything and I mean EVERYTHING is fixable except death- remember this, recite it, tattoo it if you must. You won’t forget where you come from. Why? Because you carry everything you have learned with you every. single. day. you’ll see by your actions and choices. 

Have faith in your future self. I’m biased, but I think she’s pretty swell.

This story turns brighter, much much brighter. It didn’t take me long to realize that “letting go” was actually not letting go.

It was letting “grow”. 

You see, it took me a semester and a half(ish) to figure out that what I was actually afraid of all this time was change. I quickly realized that I was fearful of not being able to “have it all together” because all my life someone who loved me was physically present to put everything back together when I couldn’t.

I also realized that “having all together” is a crazy lie we read about in fairytales that involve animals that clean your house for you and don’t even get me started on kissing toads…

I leave you with this last piece of advice:

Want to know a secret? Want to know how to survive this next step? Really? Truly?

Water your seed. It may be with the tears you shed in your closet as you talk to your bestie on the phone every day, but water is water! Nurture your plant by speaking kindly to it, showing it love every day and never forgetting to give it a little sunshine. Most importantly never, ever give up on it even when it is wilting. 

Now go get em, Tiger or Colonel! You have a dream to chase.

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