I use hate in the past tense because I hated college, but I don’t hate it currently. Maybe that’s because I’m not there right now, and I can look back and reflect on all those long, emotionally draining lessons I learned there. I don’t hate college still because the past two and a half years taught me exactly what I don’t want out of life, and about the person I never want to be again.”
I won’t slander my school. It doesn’t deserve that. In reality, I’m probably one of the very, very few who didn’t enjoy their experience there. To give you a mental image, University of X (UX, for short) is a beautiful place, with a picturesque green surrounded by gorgeous brick buildings supported by massive white pillars. There are fountains along the sidewalks and even a set of arches where you’re supposed to kiss your significant other. This place is straight out of a post card; it is the definition of a college town. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t good looking. The girls are skinny and fit, the guys are tall and tan. People fall in love here. People find their bridesmaids here. Some people never want to leave.
When I first got to UX, I was still 17. I counted down the days; I had been packed for at least a month. I had my entire body out the door, maybe a pinkie finger left at home. I told my friends how ready I was for this huge change and the last thing I ever felt was fear. I had no high school sweetheart left at home; I had nothing to hold me back from the “best four years of my life”, as I had often heard it called.
The beginning of freshman year was typical. I bounced around from friend to friend, trying to meet new people who mimicked my friend group at home. I yearned for the security of a clique because that’s what I was used to, but I never found it.
Instead, I met a guy. We dated for a while, and it was fun for the most part. I told him I loved him, because I thought I did (I didn’t). I joined a sorority and thought that was the solution to all my problems. On the surface, I looked like this pretty, skinny sorority girl who loved her school and was thriving in a new environment. All that mattered to me is that my friends and classmates from home would see my Facebook pictures or Instagram posts or tweets and think, “Wow, she loves school. She looks great.” Who cares how I actually felt? I was so good at convincing myself to be happy, that I started to believe maybe I was happy. I wasn’t. I was so far from happy and healthy. I was confused and lonely and sick.
I threw around the word “love” too easily. I lost the meaning of love in college. I was unsure of the difference between love and infatuation. I still don’t know what a healthy relationship feels like. I went from boyfriend to boyfriend to boyfriend, and my relationships kept failing. I thought to myself, on multiple occasions, “What the fuck is wrong with me?” I remember the last words one of my ex-boyfriends said (actually, texted) to me: Good luck finding someone to marry you. You have too many issues.
I had two relationships with guys that really sucked the life and love out of me while simultaneously watching my parents’ marriage fail. By the end of those relationships, I had no idea who I was as a person or if love was even possible. I had never in my entire life been more lost. I poured every single ounce of myself into those relationships. I was so convinced that I would fall apart if I ever had to be single because I didn’t know who I was. I clung to those relationships like lifelines, even though I was already sinking a million miles a minute. I didn’t have many girlfriends in my sorority, so I spent more time with whichever person I was dating at the time. It was a vicious cycle that always made me feel more alone than anything else. And loneliness is scary. Loneliness is what drives people crazy.
There is a saying that always haunts me. “People think being alone makes you lonely but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world.” I lived with 50 girls in my sorority house; I was on our executive board. I dressed well and went to parties and got asked to formals. I went to the library and worked out at the gym. Physically, I was surrounded. But I always felt alone. I never once felt content. Never.
Maybe it wasn’t them, maybe it was me. Maybe it was both. The sad part is that I knew in the back of my mind that this wasn’t the place for me. I ignored it. I was scared of confrontation with myself. I settled for misery my entire sophomore year.
I spent the first half of my junior year still pretending to be happy. I was finally single for the first time in a long time, and I have to admit the stress began to lift and I didn’t have to try so hard to pretend. I was sort of happy. I had been so miserable for two years that I had almost forgotten what happiness was like. But I still didn’t feel like myself. There was still this undeniable cloud of loneliness.
At college, my environment was so wrong. It’s like a bunch of puzzle pieces which all fit together and there’s a spot left for me but my piece is a little bit worn down and it doesn’t fit anymore. It’s too loose in some parts and it doesn’t click the right way. In my heart, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be at UX anymore. I was TERRIFIED of the word “transfer.” For me, that word was a synonym for failure or reject or loser. It wasn’t until this winter break when I realized that I am sick of being unhappy. After two years of failed relationships and broken friendships, it’s finally time for to change my environment. So I did it. And I’m moving to the city, and for the first time I have never been happier.
So, I hated college. I hated who I was in college and I hated how I lost my sense of self for such a long period of time. But I don’t hate the people or the place. I don’t hate those gorgeous brick buildings where I had my favorite genetics class, and I definitely don’t hate the few people who I will still keep in touch with. I’m not resentful towards those whose college years really were the best four years of their lives. But I needed a fresh start, and that’s okay.
If you’ve been unhappy for too long, you will eventually hit a wall. It’s a harsh reality check that confirms that not only do you want a change, you pretty much need it. It took me two and a half years to decide I deserve to be genuinely happy. I hope it doesn’t take you that long. Don’t be scared to make a change. Don’t be scared if it’s not what everyone else does.
They say to be careful which bridges you burn. I say, be thankful for the place you came from, but if you never want to go back there, go ahead and burn the bridge down.