When I was 17 years old, I remember parking my car in the biggest parking lot I’d ever seen. I walked up to a building that looked to be the size of my local shopping mall and I felt a rush of adrenaline sweep over me. It was so big, and I felt so small. With my backpack hanging on my shoulders, I gripped both hands around the straps, took a deep breath and starting navigating my way around campus.
The first, or another year of college, enables us to take a step back and truly analyze our lives; where we want to go, what we envision for our future, what direction we want to boldly take and who we want to become. Looking back, I was terrified but I also learned so much about myself and what type of person I wanted to be. The real truth is, I wish I had enjoyed my experience so much more than I did.
With school comes more than just sororities, fraternities, parties, dating, friendships and lessons. Of course, all of these things are equally important and please indulge in them all! Aside from that, there is a tendency to feel constantly stressed, anxious, confused, worried, alone, struggling to be accepted and so much more.
For 3 years straight, I was stressing to the max and had no social life because I was trying so hard to be perfect, to “have it all figured out” and maintain some type of control over my life.
So, for those of you who are just beginning here are 3 pieces of wisdom that I WISH I applied to my life when I was in your shoes.
Encouragement #1: Feel all of those things you’re feeling
Very often we don’t want to feel uncomfortable feelings. We try to shove them aside, dismiss them, hide them, don’t talk about them, pretend they’re not there and “be strong.” What comes along with any journey traveled is a plethora of emotions – some wanted and some not. But we cannot, CANNOT numb ourselves out from pain or all those emotions twirling inside of us.
That’s the beauty of living life! We get to experience it all. So, when you’re feeling sad, cry. Confide into a friend about what’s going on inside of that smart brain of yours. When you’re feeling defeated, be still and quiet and see how you can take a step forward. When you’re feeling lost, ask for guidance. Whether it be from a professor, a peer, a counselor, an administrative assistant, the librarian, anyone, ask for help. What I know for sure is that I could not have reached any level of success without the help from others. One thing I did do well, was to ask anyone and everyone for help when I needed it. Remember, we’re all in this together. We’re all human.
On the contrary, when you’re feeling happy spread the love! Perhaps encourage someone else and support them. The happiness truly is contagious. When you’re feeling proud of an accomplishment, celebrate! We sometimes overlook the good things in our life because we’re quick to focus on everything coming up.
Don’t be afraid of your feelings, they are there to guide you and bring you one step closer to knowing your own heart.
Encouragement #2: Practice presence in all situations
In my Leading by “Being”: The Power of Presence and True Connection keynote, I share four ways that we can cultivate presence in our everyday lives and to realize the power of authentic human connection. For this encouragement, I’ll share a little bit of that program to help you get started.
First, what is presence? What does it mean to be present in your life? In short, it’s to be in attendance to what is happening around you in any particular moment. In other words, being awake and alert instead of automatic and distant.
Let’s try practicing presence now. While reading this blog, where are you right now? Sitting down? Standing? Laying down? Take a moment and feel the weight of your body against your chair. You’re welcome to close your eyes if you want to. Let your whole body sink into wherever you are. If you’re standing, feel your feet on the ground. Imagine that they’re glued to the floor, feel the hard surface of the ground beneath your feet. Notice your breath at its natural state, don’t try to change or force it.
Just for 30 seconds, be here. Stay in this space. Can you feel a sense of calm? Can you realize where you are? It’s truly as simple as this. This is presence. Being grounded in your environment so that you can notice where you’re at and experience it all.
While you’re in class, practice presence. When you’re walking through the buildings and halls, while eating lunch – practice presence. It starts with simply feeling your body against your surface and turning into your breath. Going inward. From there you can witness how beautiful your experience is and how lucky you are to have this education and this human life available to you.
Gratitude is one of the side effects of being present. It wakes you up to all that you have and deeply allows you to cherish everything in life.
Encouragement #3: Find resources that make you calm and happy
College is hard. There is no question about it. Deadlines, tests, homework assignments, festivities, responsibilities, group tasks, all the above and more.
Just like you would prepare for a test, you have to prepare and take ownership of how you will cope throughout the year.
Here’s what I want to invite you to do. Make a list of everything that makes you happy, calm, and relaxed. For example, a few of mine are: a bookstore or holding a good book (I love the smell of books, it brings me instant peace.) Taking a walk-in nature is very soothing to me. My oil diffuser, particularly lavender oils. Calling a dear friend and catching up on life. A really good yoga class or exercise. Meditation.
All of these are what we call resources. So, when you are stressed or overwhelmed you can return to this list and pick the best thing that feels the most good to you in that moment.
Please please remember that this is not forever. You won’t be in school forever so enjoy it while you can! Soak in every bit of it and remember to be awake, alive and present to it all.
You deserve to enjoy this journey. You deserve to be happy. You deserve joy.