college is the best four years of your life… right? when expectations blur happiness.

when i was in high school, all i’d ever wanted was to escape the confines of the small town in which i lived, population 12,000. though i loved the valley, i was aching to explore and adventure beyond its isolation with the hopes of exploring cultures, making new friends, and adventuring across the globe, hiking boots, camera, skis and sharkies in tow. 

as you can imagine, my expectations for college were not entirely synonymous with the reality that was independence, exploration, growth and change.

my first year was full of excitement after i joined a new rowing team, became president of my residence hall and met hoards of new people, including my first slightly serious boyfriend. after the first semester, the cloud of adrenaline cleared and i was left with confusion of my future, anxiety in my classes, and immense heartbreak. my three months in the pacific northwest were nothing what i’d imagined. soon, though, i’d build secondary expectations out of lack of understanding of an alternative. 

in the following semesters, i accepted a resident assistant position, began my first truly serious, though goofiest, relationship, and encountered stage after stage of increasing depression as my relationship with my parents became infinitely rocky, our two amazing dogs died, and i grew distant from my teammates and friends.  

after such grueling emotional chapters, i’ve realized that maybe college does not so much present new challenges that have never before been faced, but accentuate those that are swept aside, illuminating challenges within ourselves that must be faced, that we must overcome in order to live healthier, more fulfilling lives. maybe it’s university that is the most audacious indicator of who we are as people while showing us how we can improve ourselves and become more compassionate and loving, happier and more satisfied with our lives and ourselves. 

my third year in washington was yet another unfamiliar, demanding beast, though in distinct ways. upon deciding to accept a resident assistant promotion, i decided i could not commit my energy, time or happiness (or lack there of) to another year of rowing with the team. though i knew i’d made the right decision for my ra position, my residents, my academics, and, most importantly, myself, i found another uphill battle awaiting me: weight and fitness. after a solid year of drowning in stress and ultimate sadness, i’d gain a significant amount of weight, though some of it muscle even though i’d been practicing with the team incessantly. it was the first time in my life that i’d packed on a notable amount of weight. 

all my life i’ve been focussed on being healthy, for my health is a great contributor to my personal happiness. i love playing sports, working out, and being fit. though doctors claim that 30 minutes of exercise three times a week is an essential, healthy level, i knew i needed more. but more much more? 30 minutes a day? i continued to work out after i left crew, but i didn’t change my diet, as i was still anxious about my familial challenges. i was smart, right? i’d succeeded in high school, and now at the collegiate level. i was confident and capable. but after 9 months as a junior, my weight and bmi (body mass index) remained the same. i’d gained the freshmen 15+ as a junior. frustrated and down on myself, i knew a change was, though incredibly difficult, vital. 

i could never have anticipated the change and growth that has occurred in my life in the last few years. and in all honesty, college has violated every expectation i’ve ever formed. i’ve found myself disappointed, lonely, vulnerable, terrified and immensely self-conscious. 

as i write this in the last few weeks of the summer before my last year in undergraduate school, i begin to realize how essential an absence of expectations is. and slowly, very slowly, but surely i begin to expect less, think less, and laugh more, smile more, and do more. 

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