Going into my first year of college, away from home, as a first generation, only daughter, and youngest child in a Muslim family — I was in for a big surprise as I began my journey in learning some important life lessons.
I had to do some serious convincing in order to attend school away from home, as I had worked very hard to have the opportunity to choose where I wanted to go and what I wanted to study.
As cliché as it sounds, I knew where I wanted to go as soon as I stepped foot on the campus — but I still kept my options open.
For the sake of my parents, I gave the local university an equal amount of consideration, too — because honestly, it was a pretty great university – but my heart was still in one place two hours away from home.
Entering college, I thought I already knew what kind of person I was and what kind of person I wanted to be. But when I left all I’ve ever known behind – who I thought I was left too.
I became very vulnerable as it was time to make new friends, set my own curfews and make my own rules. These were things I had craved to do on my own after 18 years. Mistakenly, I thought everything would come naturally. But that wasn’t the case.
I used to think I was an open-minded person, open to meeting new people and trying new things, but after a couple months in college, I became closed off.
After new friendships faded, my attempts to become involved (as I always had in high school) were unsuccessful, and my definition of fun didn’t seem to fit with most others, I began to focus all of my energy on my studies alone.
Ignoring my inability to comfortably adjust into my new lifestyle left me lost in my own mind. After months of refusing any sort of help, thinking that would mean I couldn’t handle independence, I finally caved and realized that acknowledging my vulnerability was the only way to figure out who I was.
Here are the 5 things I learned during my first year of college:
1. Weakness is strength.
Times of weakness show you how strong you really are. Coming back from a low point, allows you to prove to yourself that you can handle what life throws at you.
Don’t be scared to open up and try new things, because you will most likely surprise yourself. Once I was comfortable enough with myself, I opened myself up and joined my college’s Muslim Student Association and let new people into my life, and they are now my best friends.
2. Be aware of your comfort zone, and be ready to step out of it.
You can’t grow if you don’t give yourself new space to. When you start to notice that you are “bored” or are going through the motions of everyday, you most often start to feel like you are waiting for something.
That something is new and out there but its also outside your comfort zone.
3. You need to cut ties, literally
Burn me once shame on you, burn me twice — shame on me. I’m all for second chances, so don’t take this too literally. But letting go of those in my life who I knew were toxic to me was hard — and definitely one of the most impactful decisions throughout my entire journey.
There will come a time when you realize you would swim across oceans for those you care about, even though they wont jump over a puddle for you. While not everyone in our lives will adore and care for us the way we hope, you owe it to yourself to distance those who make you feel weighed down or held back.
4. Nothing happens overnight.
Be patient with yourself. Everything will come in good time. Whenever I get impatient or wait for myself to achieve something, it just makes things worse.
Be patient with yourself good things come in good time.
5. Recognize those who support and encourage you.
Allow those who love you to support you. One of my biggest regrets was pushing away all of those who wanted to help me and encourage me — especially my family.
I felt as if reaching out would make it seem like I couldn’t handle my new independence, but I was wrong. My family is my rock along with my other supporters, and they are one of the main reasons I am who I am today.
It may be that the lessons you learn come at a faster or slower pace in life. It may be that you never have problems adjusting in new settings at all.
But whatever it is, remember to trust yourself in times of vulnerability, because ultimately we must be weak to see how strong we really are.
Written by Medina Khatib