College /ˈkälij/ (noun): a place where young adults go to seek higher education, spend life savings on tuition and cheap alcohol, gain weight, procrastinate, cry, and question their morals
Okay, okay… college is so much more than that.
In reality, starting college is the perfect time to try new things, meet new people, grow up a little, create your future, and ultimately re-invent yourself. On this journey, every college student will encounter a new situation that will test their strength and their morals. With mom and dad all the way back home, unable to intervene on your decisions, there are times when the little devil and angel will be arguing with your conscience…
Should I start this final paper that’s due tomorrow morning or go party with my friends?
Angel: “You’re in college for one reason… to further your education and get a degree. Stay in and work on your paper, your GPA and successful future self will thank you later!”
Devil: “Paper shhmaper. You know you’d have more fun with your friends than sitting on your computer all night. You’ll miss out on all the fun!”
The struggle is real! There is an incredible amount of pressure placed upon millions of college students…pressure from our parents, professors, the job market, and American society. It’s no wonder we are all hungry for a little bit of freedom and stress relief! With the freedom of college comes the chance to make decisions and grow and learn from those choices on your own. There are times of stress, temptation, and questions about the future. During these trying times, I found my faith.
Let’s sit down for story time…
Your homegirl grew up as the oldest of five children to two of the best parents in the world, who also grew up in crazy-huge fams (mom the youngest of six children and dad in the middle of eight). I guess you could say big families are kind of our thing. Every family has a different way of doing things; there are different values, rules, morals, lessons, religions, economic and social backgrounds. Growing up, I can remember a few lessons my parents taught me over the years, like “treat everyone the way you’d like to be treated” or “use your manners” or “don’t do drugs” or “don’t swim out too far without your floaties.” I remember always having an early curfew, always having to ask permission to go ANYWHERE (actually…this never changed), and I remember going to church and sitting through hours of Sunday school, which I thought was a big waste of time at the age of eight.
Throughout high school, I continued to attend religious education classes held through my church until I was confirmed at age 17. As I grew older, I learned a lot about religion and faith. However, I never fully understood what it meant to be a true woman of faith.
Why did I endure all those years of religion classes? When will these lessons truly apply to my own life? Can God really hear me?
These questions were answered as soon as I stepped foot into my freshman year dorm room.
During my preparations for my first year of college, I never felt more nervous and unprepared. For the previous eighteen years of my life, my parents and peers were my main sources of guidance in all areas of my life. From tough decisions to curfews, I always turned to my family or my friends for answers. However, when I waved goodbye to my parents form my dorm room window, I was on my own. It was time to make my own decisions and somehow find a way to get all the answers.
Sure, mom and dad were just a phone call away, but college is a time to learn independence. I was adamant about this. As the oldest sibling in my family, I wanted to prove that I could be a leader and that I could make it on my own. This is when I realized that the little lessons from my earlier years and the lessons I learned about my faith would offer me the greatest guidance.
I openly admit that my freshman year of college was incredibly stressful for many reasons. I understand that thousands of college freshmen experience similar feelings of stress and anxiety, but for some reason, I still felt so alone. Luckily, I had an amazing roommate (hey Leah) and some incredible friends that I am so blessed to have in my life to this day. These people gave me the little pieces of strength that I needed to get through the rough days and enhance the good days. I kept asking myself where in the world I would be able to find the strength I needed to continue to endure this changing time in my life.
One day, I reached a breaking point. I was homesick, severely anxious, in a tough long distance relationship, busy with a full-time college schedule, tempted by outside sources, and completely undecided on a path for the future with so many pressures to choose that path immediately. I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t sleep, I barely ate, and I felt like my life was spiraling out of control.
By the grace of God, I found this quote:
“When you are going through difficulty and wonder where God is, remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test.”
This quote struck me and continues to stay with me to this day. At this moment, I turned to my faith. I finally began to ask God for guidance. I asked Him to help me to know what to do with my life. I asked Him to calm my nerves and give me reassurance. I asked Him to give me the strength to endure these obstacles as I grow to be a young adult. At this point, I began to understand what years of religious education prepared me for. Even though I felt alone at times, I never was and never will be. My upbringing prepared me for the hard times; the stress, the temptation, the moral tests of adulthood.
The interesting thing about faith is that it works in mysterious ways. Strengthening my relationship with God allowed me to stay motivated to make changes in my life. I tried to eat healthier, appreciate the easy days, stay hopeful through the tough days, pray daily, and stay open-minded about where my young adult life would lead me. I learned that I shouldn’t put so much pressure on myself to be independent. The fact of the matter is that my parents and friends will always be there for me and it’s okay to call them every once in a while (they really start to miss you too). I learned that God answers the call as well, but sometimes He doesn’t answer right away. The teacher is always quiet during a test…
Today, as I prepare to begin my junior year of college in the fall, I look back on where I started. Many of my questions have been answered and God did answer my call after a few tries. After my freshman year of college, I made the decision to transfer schools, take the time I needed to choose a path for my future, get healthy (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically), get involved in my faith community, serve others through volunteer opportunities, and continue to strengthen my relationship with God. I became a woman of faith.
Adulting isn’t easy and we all handle it differently. There will be temptation, stress, anxiety, tests, and questions. You may think that the answers lie ahead, but sometimes, you can find the answers in your heart and up above.
To anyone struggling with understanding their faith or dealing with a trying time:
Patience is key. As humans living in the 21st century, we want immediate answers. However, good things come to those who wait. God is working on you.
Take a deep breath. We often underestimate the power of meditation. Deep breathing works miracles and it allows us to gather our thoughts and be more productive. Take time to relax.
Reach out when you need help. You are NEVER alone. The Lord walks with you wherever you go. Family, friends, religious leaders, and community members are always there for you. Use this to your advantage and thank them.
Take time for yourself. This goes along with that deep breath. During a hard time, we lose sight of ourselves and what our goals are. It’s important to take a moment to remember what you enjoy, reflect on the things you love, and appreciate the positives.
Listen to your heart. Especially during college, there will be times of temptation and pressure, not only from peers but from the rest of the world. Remember what drives you and recognize the steps to get there.
God is always listening. This one speaks for itself. He listens, He answers, He saves.