I wish when I embarked on my college quest in June 2020, someone told me I was about to travel on a zigzagged path, not a linear one. My life has never been consistent; I've had many physical and emotional changes spanning the last several years of my life.
Why should I have expected college to be any different?
I went into college with too high of expectations. I took two summer classes — flex, I know — and they prepared me to do well even during a pandemic. I met all my future friends on Facebook, but these friends were not sustainable. Everyone I met during summer 2020, I have not talked to in almost a year.
I do not want to discredit those who meet people online — not everyone met online should be stereotyped as a bad person for sometimes exhibiting alternate traits in person. My sister, Taylor, found her Villanova University roommate on Facebook, and they remain roommates and friends to this day.
I struggled to realize my freshman year that you do not have to be friends with everyone you meet. My friends I met virtually were drug abusers, heavy drinkers and a gossip mill. While my parents and therapist told me my friends had toxic personality traits, I let these friends influence me otherwise. For some people — myself included — it is hard to get out of a cycle.
School was alright because it was online. I had the best grades in my life.
This caught up to me. Upon transferring to IU, I lacked foundation in many course subjects. Remember that when life takes you away, it is hard to get back into the normal swing. Online courses became more challenging and professors adjusted their grading more fairly as we adapted to the pandemic. Also, as we fade back to normalcy, I am prepared to be back in the classroom.
During my own first semester at college, not everything was a mistake. I kept my family close and trusted my gut. I encourage all students in college to remember these two objectives. Everyday, I called my parents, telling them about my failures and how unhappy I was in my current state. I continuously told them I wanted to transfer.
Finally, they came aboard. I wish I understood it was okay to take breaks. I looked for available college credit during the days leading up to my summer enrollment at IU. I actively struggled to sit still and felt like I was falling behind — even though this was not the case.
In the blink of an eye, with the credit hours of a junior, I sit in upper level classes at IU. I ponder, “What other lessons do freshmen learn in their first year of college?”
I could contemplate this question for hours or realize it ultimately does not matter. I believe everything happens for a reason. I learned valuable lessons during my unpleasant first year, full of stupid decisions with bad people. The main lesson: be true to yourself, friends and family.
There’s one Miles Davis quote that I thought about over the last year as life changed dramatically. He said, “it’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note — it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.”
When my life started sliding sideways, I relied on those close to me to help fix it.
Harping on early college mistakes is dangerous. Instead, learn from these mistakes and move on. Remember the characteristics you cherish in a friend. First, go find people with those characteristics. Second, embody those characteristics in yourself.
I found that taking time for myself and grounding myself back into basic family principles led to significant measurable growth. The second you take time for yourself and do not accept defeat, you grow. I have additional time in college to continue growing and finding friends who are ready to make a difference within our community.
John Hultquist (he/him) is a junior studying community health with a double minor in urban planning and community development and nutrition.