There was a pause in my blog because I was actually working with college students and not just writing to them for the past few days. Move-In has occurred. The “visitors” are back on campus. I laugh just thinking about some of the interactions I’ve had since Saturday. Don’t worry, parents/families/guardians, we’re doing our absolute best every day to make sure they’re doing just fine. We love them and don’t even really know them yet. That’s Reason #678 that I love my job. Upon matriculation we fall in love with them and to be honest, never stop.
But, here’s the thing that students and the people that love them MUST understand. Students are going to make their own decisions–regardless of what any of us “grown folks” have said to them.
We build college up to be a time of self-discovery, exploration, experimentation, and the period of life when you begin making the journey home to yourself. We preach self-authorship and creating the life you wish you live, being the change you wish to see, “doing you”, and learning all of the nooks and crannies of who you are and what you want to be in this world. Amen! Preach on, preach on!
All of that stated above is true and Reason #679 that I love working with college students.
HOWEVER, with all of this freedom to play the game of life, another thing that we MUST get super clear about…I mean, like REAL CLEAR is that your actions have consequences. You are free to make all the decisions you want BUT you are NOT free from the consequences. We have turned college into into the “fake world” and we’re constantly preaching to students about the “real world”. Guess what? College is REAL.
You are not actually in a bubble. You are not made out of Teflon. Your actions could lead to self-harm and harm of others. Your actions could create long-term detrimental impact on your life and those you love, have loved, or could possibly love. As my pastor said tonight, The Universal Law of Consequences is actually a thing.
I know that it can be ridiculously hard in college to make a good personal decision. A decision–a choice–that is all your own and no one else’s. One that you can completely own up to and take accountability for without hesitation. You’ve got a lot of factors weighing on you at all times. Family, peers, professors, crazy staff members like me, and all the many sides of you that are playing a fiercely intense 24/7 game of Tug-of-War in your heart, mind, and soul. Oh, and your gut. Your gut is ALWAYS speaking to you. I mean, not out loud unless you know something about the gut that I don’t. In that case, please stop reading and consult your nearest physician.
What I firmly believe is that we know way more about ourselves than we take credit for. Sure, you might be 18, but if I asked you to list things that you’re 99% sure you’d never do or that you know would be really bad for you then you could do just that. When you find yourself in a multiple choice situation, your gut wakes up and it starts chattering like crazy. There is something inside of you pushing you towards “your right” answer. Notice, I said “your right answer” because what’s right for you and what’s right for someone else might not be the same. This is where it gets even more tricky, because when you’re in college–you tend to surround yourself with people who you feel are similar to you. So, if you are “the same” then you should be okay with doing the same things and making the same decisions as those other same people. Hmmm…my friends, that is false and irrational logic. This is why peer pressure is the downfall of most. You are not your roommate, teammate, or sorority sister/fraternity brother. You are, YOU! Your gut works for YOU. Don’t let someone else’s gut do the talking. If you do, then you’ll be subject to consequences that were never actually meant for you. You could have made a different decision. You could have manifested a different outcome.
This is so much easier said than done. I get it. You’re in college and the wannabe cool kid side of you is winning at tug-of-war. Sometimes, it takes a year or two to tire that kid out and wake up the side of you that has a better understanding of what’s important in life. Someone who has finally embraced what they value and want to live it out loud. No matter which senior I have spoken with throughout my 8 years of working with college students as a graduate student and as a professional, the cool kid never wins the tug-of-war tournament. In fact, at some point that person gratefully disappears from from the field.
Embrace who you are and what your gut is telling you. I’m not telling you not to explore or experiment but that’s not necessarily the best practice to have with every aspect of your life. Work real hard to muster up the courage to remove yourself from places, things, and people that don’t serve you and aren’t in your best interest. Leave that party. Quit that group. Don’t respond to those people. Don’t pop that pill. Put that cup down. Don’t go in that room. If the people you hang out with aren’t fans of your gut, then they aren’t fans of you and frankly, you can do better.
SPOILER ALERT! YOU WILL MAKE BAD DECISIONS!–you will make heartbreaking decisions during college, your actions will break your heart and the heart of people you love. This doesn’t make you a bad human. It just makes you human. Even if some people never find out about those decisions, you’ll always know and that is consequence enough. But, what you won’t do is wallow in regret and you certainly won’t accept that this is the best you can do. If you know you can do better for yourself then do that. People like me on a college campus always want to help you get back up after you fall down. We won’t even say “I told you so”.
If looking in the mirror ever becomes difficult, then let’s create a new reflection.
With everything that happens during the first semester of college and all of the options that are put on your plate, remember, your gut already knows what’s up. It has known you for 18 years. You know more than you think you know about who you are and who you want to be or want not to be in this world. Don’t silence that voice.
So, what’s your gut been telling you?