My apartment in NYC is right by NYU so I’ve had the privilege of watching droves on droves of students move into the dorms over this last week. It has made me think about the time, centuries ago, when that was me. When I packed up my belongings into suitcases and showed up with my Bed, Bath and Beyond hamper at the pearly gates of USC, my parents in tow. Man, it seems like a long time ago. Man, it seems like yesterday.
I often feel like fiction—books, television, movies—present freshman year as being all fun. How PSYCHED are you to leave your parent’s house and finally get to do what you want? Are you psyched? Maybe. But maybe, like me, you’re also scared.
I wasn’t very happy about going to college. Looking back on it, I wasn’t ready. I was a young 18. I was incredibly attached to my mom. Going to college was like being forced with pliers away from her, from the comfort of my home, my bedroom, my routine, my friends. I was devastated. Frat parties? Cute boys? Who could care when my heart was broken.
My wonderful pal Deb Caletti wrote a novel called The Story of Us about the flip side of leaving the nest. Her protagonist, like me, isn’t ready to fly yet. I love that book. I treasure that book. There are few tales of what it feels like to be us—the little ones who just want to stay put, if only for a bit longer.
Eighteen looks different for all of us. For some, it looks like independence and adventure. For others, it looks like the stage right before. I wasn’t a butterfly yet, I was still a caterpillar. Maybe you, new freshman, are still a caterpillar too.
I just wanted to tell you that that’s okay. You will learn, eventually, how to enjoy your experience at school. And if you don’t? Maybe that’s okay, too. I do not pretend there is only one way to get it right in life. There isn’t. But if you’re struggling right now being away from home, if you’re feeling lonely and scared, please know that you’re not alone. I was where you are. Many others are too. It will get better. Hang in there.