What I Wish I Knew As A Freshman

With most students heading back to school this week, I want to share a post talking about my college experience and any advice I would have for incoming freshman. I’m definitely not qualified to dish out advice, but I can certainly reflect on my four years and discuss certain aspects I would have done differently, especially predicaments involving financials and long-term effects.

I understand that it’s not easy to make decisions regarding the future when you’re first starting off, everything appears to be more exciting than it actually is and you’re so focused on just living in the now. How do I know that? Because I disregarded any and all practical advice from recent graduates or people who actually did know better than myself. And if I could go back and listen I would because I often want to go back five years ago and shake my eighteen year old self and tell her that college isn’t just all about the partying and newly instated independence from your parents. So, I’ve compiled a list of things I would do differently in college if I were given the chance, and hopefully someone will listen.

If you live anywhere remotely close to your chosen university- LIVE AT HOME.

Although I loved living on campus and have so many great memories from doing so, I would also be significantly less debt now had I lived at home. I only lived 20 minutes from campus and chose to live there instead of driving there for class. Living at school definitely presents you with a different college experience, and I highly advise living there for at least your first year because that’s when you will meet most of your friends for the next four years, but if you have the ability to commute, do so, because once you graduate, you will be financially able to move out of your parents’ house. Now I am 23 still living at home because my student loans restrict me from doing otherwise. It’s probably time for me to start looking into my options. For instance, I could consider refinancing them with Earnest for one monthly payment at a lower interest rate.

Do an internship at least one summer during your college career.

I held two different internships during college, but neither of them took place during the summer. I was so focused on relaxing and having just mindless, part-time summer jobs that I waited until my senior year to have an internship, which I had to do during the semester, causing more stress on top of my already existing stress. Also, most summer internships that are full-time are usually paid so that’s a bonus! I would recommend doing it the summer going into junior year so that the following summer, predisposed at your “last” summer before the real world, can be yours for the taking. My friends and I lived at the beach that summer and I wouldn’t trade that for the world. It’s also incredibly crucial to have some type of internship experience when applying for jobs so keep that in mind!

If you have a meal plan, USE IT.

I know as well as the next person that cafeteria food isn’t always appealing or appetizing, but if you’re paying for a meal plan, you might as well get the most out of it and save your cash for other things besides eating out with your friends multiple times a week. Part of the reason I was always so low on cash during college was because my friends and I would decide to go off campus for dinner or lunch instead of swiping into the dining hall, or in later years, making food in our kitchen at the house. And trust me, I know the thought process of “It’s only $7” or “I get paid tomorrow so who cares” but once you start consistently thinking those things, the tab starts to add up and your checking account continues to diminish.

You do not need a new outfit every weekend.

I suppose this one more accurately applies to girls, but maybe not. Some weeks when Friday would roll around, my roommates and I would begin to think about what we would be wearing out that weekend and even between four full closets and over stuffed drawers, not one of us would be able to find an outfit acceptable enough to wear out. This resulted in a mall trip, usually ending in the swiping of our debit cards. Trust me, the black shirt you just purchased resembles the other 500 black shirts you already own.

If possible, get a part-time job.

I know that it isn’t always possible with heavy workloads during different semesters, but if you can, hold a part-time job during the school year. If you have to sacrifice a Friday or Saturday night for work, just do it. I promise that the frat party will be the same next weekend. You also don’t want to be that person who has mom and dad constantly wiring money to your account every week as an “allowance”, no one should be getting an allowance after the age of sixteen.

If you’re unsure about what to major in, go to community college first.

This might be my biggest regret. I went in as a History major, then to Communications, then into the School of Business until finally declaring Marketing my junior year.  Although I believe I received a good education at my four year college, those first two years of taking gen eds could have been done at any school for a way lower price. So, if you’re undecided, take your early credits somewhere else and then transfer to a larger school!

GO TO CLASS.

I’m not saying I was a no-show to every class or someone who just showed up for the mid-term and final, but I definitely did my fair share of skipping. Attendance can so critically effect your grade, it’s scary. It doesn’t matter if you ace every test, project and assignment, you could still end up with a B in the class due to lack of attendance. I understand there are times where skipping is necessary, but try to stay under the allotted amount of skips allowed per semester.

Starting college is such an exciting time that is filled with so much opportunity you don’t even realize. But the decisions you make during your time there truly do effect you in the long run. How much effort you put into each class, how you spend your summers, where you live, how much money you borrow in financial aid, who you date, what you do on the weekends. Everything has a consequence, whether that be positive or negative, is up to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23/Male/Heartbroken

We were the couple that would playfully argue about who loved each other more. “I loved you first, therefore I love you more”, she used to say. It was never with any intention of winning. It was just a cute way for us to pass the time; a playful game to see who would give up first. I can tell you that, eventually, I did win.

She gave up first.

We had a history. We met way back in high school through mutual friends. We talked a decent amount, and we hung out here and there but it didn’t lead to anything serious at the time. I was older, and preparing to go to college, while she was younger and still had years left of high school to see out. I didn’t think it would work at the time, but she did. I would ghost on her frequently, often times not returning texts or canceling plans. I’ll be the first to admit I could have handled that situation better, and I was not particularly understanding or as nice as I could have been to her. She could have given up on me. She probably should have. She didn’t.

Knowing what I know now it’s time I wish I could have back.

It wasn’t until years later, about halfway through my junior year of college, that we reconnected in a substantial way. After making plans and abruptly canceling them (again) we finally started spending time together. I was like any other 21-year-old guy; just happy to have a consistent lay. Even though I could feel something more significant blooming between us I couldn’t really see what was happening; what was very clearly staring me in the face. I figured it was just sexual desire or something like that as I was still very much that asshole that strung her along for years.

Finally, about a month after we reconnected, I realized what was happening; I like this girl. I might even love her. We started dating, and I wouldn’t reveal that to her for another five months.

I regret not telling her every single day, because I don’t get to say it anymore.

We separated in May. We were together for two years. The break-up wasn’t some aggressive, rage-induced screaming match over a scandalous night of infidelity, or any other reason that people would typically associate with a break-up. I think I would have preferred that because that would have given credence to a clear, identifiable reason. Don’t get me wrong – there was still plenty of sobbing from both of us. We just had a conversation in which she calmly explained to me that she had lost faith in us. She didn’t have confidence in our relationship, and it wasn’t something she could handle anymore. I can certainly accept and acknowledge those feelings. That does not mean I understand them. It felt like the, “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed”, of breakups. It left me confused, and made me feel pain I never thought was possible. I always thought of myself as a tough and resolute person. I could tough out anything and anyone. With a couple of sentences and a good-bye hug this girl had brought me to my knees, beaten and broken, and left me there.

It would be unfair of me to solely blame her for us not being together anymore. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons for that, and I don’t doubt my own culpability. God knows I could have been a better partner, and I have my regrets. There are things that I said and did that I wish I never had, and vise-versa.  But what I am having the hardest time with is the fact that she wasn’t willing to keep going. As stated I don’t fully understand why we split, but before it happened I did feel a shift in our relationship. Something didn’t feel right, and I believe it was this shift that caused her to pull the plug. It felt like a big, ominous shadow looming over us. However, it wasn’t always like that, and I truly believed that it wouldn’t persist. I expressed that to her more than once. You have your up’s and your down’s in a relationship, and if you love someone you work through them as best you can. I was ready to fight for her and our relationship because I loved her more than anything in the world. I still do. Walking away was just something I wasn’t willing to do. I think I’m more afraid of what that says about me than it does her.

I am still very much in love with her, which is unfortunate to say the least. It’s a feeling I haven’t been able to shake, and I’m not sure it will ever really go away. I genuinely thought I was going to marry this girl. It was even something her and I discussed a few times. Our naivety, in hindsight, is not lost on me. It is this continued love that has been my biggest obstacle. When you love someone more than you love yourself it’s a difficult feeling to shake. I often wonder if she still feels the same way.

We talked and saw each other sporadically for about two months after we broke up, and I expressed the way I felt a few times. She did not, and that is okay. She told me that we needed space from each other, and it’s been over a month since we have spoken. Given the time and lack of communication it’s hard not to wonder what she’s doing – or who she’s doing it with.

I would imagine this period of disconnect speaks for itself in one way or another.

When I originally approached the wonderful creators of this blog about this guest post it was with the intention of helping others. This has been my second “big” break-up, and while this one has hit particularly hard I thought that I might be able to provide some insight and advice to those who might be going through similar situations. “I’m fine. I am doing much better. I should write about it”, I told myself. I thought that I could share what I was doing to in my efforts to recover with the wonderful people who visit this blog. Your early 20’s is undoubtedly a difficult time, and failed relationships can muddle the already confusing brew of emotional (and physical, in some cases) stress one may be sipping on.

However, while I wrote this article I realized that I am not doing better. It’s been almost three months and I have made absolutely no progress in moving on. Every second of every single day is dominated by thoughts of her. Not all of them are sad, but even the happy thoughts sting a little. I spend a lot of time in my bed. I watch Netflix until 2 A.M. every night because I don’t sleep anymore, and when I do sleep my dreams are dominated by nightmares. I listen to a lot of the same songs her and I used to enjoy on my 40-minute commute to work every morning. Sometimes I cry, but I try not to. I avoid my mother because every conversation we have seems to lead back to my ex, which makes living at home more difficult than it should be.

My 3-year-old sister loved spending time with my her. I thought that by now she would have forgotten about her. A few nights ago, while at the dinner table, my sister gleefully asked me where she was. I replied with a half-smile and a simple, “I don’t know”. I went to my room and didn’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night.

It’s easy to think you are doing better. You want to believe that you can simply pick up the pieces, and mosey right along whistling Dixie. Your true feelings always show, and it’s important to recognize when you’re just not okay. I also think that it is okay to not be okay. Everyone moves at their own pace. Sometimes you even need a little help. That is why I recently decided to go and see a therapist. I’ve never put much faith in therapy or it’s benefits, but at this point I think that any healing I’ve attempted to do on my own has failed. It couldn’t possibly hurt to try, and perhaps it could be helpful.

I realize that his guest post may seem a bit sad and depressing. Some of you may even think I’m just a whiner, and that I need to get over it and move on already. You’re probably not wrong. After thinking about it, though, the thing that I want people to take away from this post the most is that at our age it is important to appreciate the things that are in front of you now. The hustle and bustle of your 20’s can cause you to lose sight over things that are truly important, even those that you love, and before you know it those things are gone. That can be anything from relationships to friends or even your parents, god forbidding.

Appreciate who and what you have whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tell her how thankful you are when she wakes up early to drive you to work because your car is in the shop. Answer her calls even if you’re busy, or at least text her back and let her know you’ll call as soon as possible. Offer to drive over to her place for once. Ask her how her family is doing. Tell her how beautiful she is with or without makeup. Ask her to play your video games or watch sports with you. Hold her as tight as you possibly can when you lay down together. Brush her hair when she asks you to. Give her a kiss and tell her you love her just because you can. Listen to her when she is feeling down and hug. Being appreciative isn’t always about expressly stating so. Often, it’s just about putting that little extra bit of effort and showing you care.

I still go out and see my friends. I drink socially. I play soccer every weekend. I go to the gym a few times a week. I do try to spend some time with my family. I think it’s important after experiencing heartbreak, even if you’re feeling utterly defeated and hopeless, that you try to continue to be yourself even if you feel like half of you is missing. Don’t let it paralyze you. Some people, like myself, just need a little help is all. It is my hope that in a few months’ time I can follow up this post and share how I’ve gotten to that place because then I might be able to help someone.

Until then it is my sincere belief that eventually – hopefully – the dust will begin settle and I will be okay.