What I Would Tell My College Freshman Self

College freshman Noelle

Can you believe how quickly the past four years have gone by? It seems like only yesterday I was registering at Baylor’s band camp (a true nightmare) and moving into my dorm as a college freshman. Back in August 2015, I was a completely anxious and terrified girl heading into a world of unknown. I often wondered whether Baylor was actually the right choice for me as I had a difficult transition from Hawaiʻi to Texas and had to forge my own path to see where I fit in. Some days (not just in my freshman year) were extremely lonely and I felt like would never find my place in school or in the world, but four years later, here I am: a Baylor University graduate with a lot of experience and…no job! I’m laughing on the outside and crying on the inside. I joke. Anyway, I’ve acquired quite a bit of knowledge since my time as a college freshman so here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.

  • Failure is okay– I hate to admit this, but I failed my political science class twice before I barely passed it on the third try. Admittedly, I took the class once as a sophomore but skipped class multiple times because one of the students kept threatening to shoot anyone who walked on his property (yes, he was) and also two times during my extreme depression spell of junior year, so I didn’t have the best experiences. I am thoroughly interested in politics, so the course should have been up my alley, but I couldn’t seem to pass the tests no matter how hard I tried. Every time I received a failing grade on either an exam or for the class in general, I felt like a complete piece of shit who didn’t deserve to be at a higher education institution. However, I’ve learned that failure is a normal part of growing up and how I react to my defeats is more important than the grades I receive. Luckily, I did a complete 180 in my last year at Baylor and earned the best grades I’ve ever gotten!
  • You’ll find a family in unexpected places– Once when I was a college freshman, I wrote a lament over my lack of true friends in my journal. I had a few truly wonderful people in my life at Baylor (Stephanie, Wilson, Adam, and Aaron who are all still my close friends today!), but I always felt out of place no matter where I was. After I decided that I didn’t want to be in Baylor’s band anymore, I felt even more lost. It wasn’t until I got both of my jobs in the athletic department (Baylor Bear Foundation and Athletics Communications) that I finally felt like I had a space at Baylor where I could actually be myself. If I didn’t stick it out at school despite my overall discomfort, I would never have made a home in athletics where I found two of my best friends in the world (Lo and Jonathan), wonderful mentors, and once in a lifetime experiences.
  • You’ll lose people you love and you’ll have to get through it– When I first started college, I had people in my life who I don’t speak with or consider companions anymore. Two of those losses were extremely heartbreaking and I still don’t like to talk about them with anyone. While I would like to say that it all gets better and I’ve learned to move on without those people, I honestly can’t. However, I have had to push through and live whether I have everyone I love by my side or not. One of the most difficult parts of growing up is realizing that people won’t always love me the way I love them and I have to be okay with that. I’m still learning to accept the losses and broken hearts, but I hope that one day it won’t hurt as much to remember the memories.
  • Try not to skip so many classes– I place equal blame on my janky ass alarms not working and my f*cked up sleeping schedule for how many classes I’ve missed since I was a college freshman. Let’s just say there were a lot of days where my seats were empty. Even though I tried to make it to class on time (or at all for that matter), I often chose to sleep in, which was not a good decision. I missed a lot of classes in which I would have learned many important and relevant pieces of information that were probably helpful on the tests I failed simply because I loved sleeping. I still and always have loved sleeping, but I would tell my college freshman self to get your ass out of bed and just go to class, dammit! Your $46,000 of debt will thank you.
  • Remember every special moment– It wasn’t until my last semester of college did I really begin to take in and treasure my experiences at work and sweet times with friends. I know it’s a cliché, but time truly does go by in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, college was over. I’m thankful that I made my senior year video that showed brief seconds of my final year at Baylor, otherwise I would have forgotten the small details of my life in Waco. It’s easy to be caught up in school work, volunteering, work, and a social life, but I wish I remembered and savored every second at Baylor.
  • Your mistakes don’t have to define you– I’ve made my share of mistakes not only at Baylor but also in general life, but I know they don’t have to determine who I am. One error of judgment in particular seemed like the end of the world, but I came out of that time with experiences that shaped me and made me a better person. No matter how awful the mistake, it doesn’t have to decide the person I am or who I become.
  • Stand up for yourself– I’ve had some incredible experiences at work, but I also struggled through many painful changes and said goodbye to people I really loved. My time at work drastically transformed over the three years and while I’m glad I didn’t quit within that time, I wish I stood up for myself more. Whether it was a combination of societal norms for women, my status as the only woman of color in the department, or my overall fear of certain figures in charge, I still should have said something when I was pushed aside and disrespected. I’m learning to speak up more when I deserve more than I’m receiving and when authority figures are just simply being pieces of sh*t, but it’s taken me three years to get to the place I’m in. I would tell my college freshman self to stand up for the badass you are and to never let any man (or woman) treat you like crap.
  • Your beliefs will change– I couldn’t repeat this lesson more! I remember what I used to think when I went to church all the time (those journals are an actual misogynistic nightmare) and while I became much more progressive over the years, I didn’t thoroughly develop my beliefs until I was in college. Even as a college freshman, I was unaware of certain atrocities in the world and it took me a while to decide what I believe in. Thankfully, I’m learning and growing everyday, but I’ve established a set of values and morals that I can defend and share with anyone I want.
  • A fun one: men ain’t shit (applicable in every situation)– I like to repeat this mantra in any and every occasion. I think it speaks for itself.
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