Lessons From My Pseudo Freshman Year

hello all,

Disclaimer: this post is a little different from what I normally do, it’s a li’l bit of reflection with some life-lessons-y type stuff at the end, so if you want Life Tips without context please scroll to the bottom now.
That being said, here’s the backstory: I went to high school for three years in a smallish suburb in Illinois, living a pretty normal life. (Although maybe a little too nerdy and queer to feel 100% normal.) Right at the end of my junior year, while I was caught up in exams and a bunch of music performances and a job that was inexplicably stressful for a teenager, my dad took an out-of-state job. My seventeen year old self looked around, considered sleeping on a friend’s couch for a year so I could finish high school in my hometown, and then started packing. I walked out of my shitty job in tears shortly after I finished my final exams.
At some point, I found out about a dual-credit program at my new city’s university. This has different names in different places, but basically, you take a college course and it you get credit from the university and credit for high school. I poked around and realized that, while the program was intended for high school students to spend most of their time in high school and take one class on the college campus, there wasn’t a limit on how many classes you could take through the university. I decided to avoid a new high school entirely, set myself up as homeschooled for my “senior year”, and signed up for a full-time college schedule.
Academically, it was a great decision, hands down. I learned more than I did in high school, I figured out what I really wanted to study (even if I have issues with it), and staying at this college means that my education won’t be the financial disaster that I would’ve had to deal with at some different schools.
Socially, the year was kind of a mixed bag. We moved in the end of July, and being in a new city without knowing anybody, with no job and no classes, was incredibly boring. (So I started this blog. Hi!) When classes did start, I dealt with a lot of anxiety about social situations; the idea of talking to people was so uncomfortable that I largely avoided it, especially because I was a year younger and had trouble explaining just how I schemed my way into the school. (Although when I did think I was starting to become friends with someone, they’d invariably a) disappear into their own busy schedules, or, b) try to date me. The latter sounds flattering, but is incredibly discouraging because as soon as people figured out that option b wasn’t on the table, they committed to option a.)
Taking all of this into consideration, here’s the stuff I learned:

Hobbies Are So, So Important

Basically, having interests and skills is really important for maintaining your sanity, especially if you suddenly have a lot of time on your hands. If you’re usually busy, it’s easy to fill up a few hours here and there with social media and tv, but eventually that’s going to start to wear you down if you do it a lot. (And you may not even realize you’re experiencing burnout from it– you’ll just feel irritable and bored but not know why.) Having interests outside of the passive consumption of entertainment provides:

  • a way to pass the time
  • stuff to talk about with other human beings
  • a confidence boost, especially with athletic or creative hobbies

It’s also important that you keep an open mind going into hobby stuff; it’s worth trying something even if you’re not sure what you’ll think. Also, you don’t have to like something just because your friend likes it, or because you liked it in the past. A good hobby will keep you engaged with your life, but a bad one can actually make you feel worse, so really listen to how you feel.

Some potential hobbies:

  • music: learning an instrument, composing, going to concerts, and playing in a band/ensemble are all A+ hobby options
  • exercise: historically, I haven’t been the most active gal, in part because of some bad experiences with organized sports and in part because I’m really lazy, although I’ve been uncharacteristically active this summer. Swimming, hiking, rowing, roller/ice skating, and dancing are all great ways to keep active that I personally enjoy, if you’re looking for exercise other than running.
    A lot of people love running but please, please do not convince yourself that you hate all exercise if you hate running. Running sucks in a lot of ways, and exercise should be fun, as corny as it sounds. Also, trying to alter your body (to be skinnier or whatever) isn’t a great motivator for exercise, because it revolves around feeling bad about yourself. Personally, I like to use it as a way to blow off steam. (Just gonna throw this out there: if you’ve got a lot of pent-up sexual or emotional energy, exercise can totally take the edge off.)
  • blogging rocks, like it’s so flexible because you can be as serious or as casual as you want
  • arts, crafts, & DIY — I dunno, make stuff, fingerpaint the walls, go nuts, that’s all I’m gonna say about this
  • volunteering/activism — not sure I want to call this a hobby, because they’re so important, but it’s true that if you’re looking for something to do, getting involved with an issue you care about can be really rewarding
  • vanity type hobbies — this one can get expensive, but experimenting with your personal style, cosmetics, hair, etc. etc. is a solid form of self expression

You Can’t Change People

Oddly enough this lesson is something I got from an actual class — while my economics professor’s boner for capitalism got really old really fast, the idea that people will do what they think is best for themselves is very, very true. Basically, people are only going to change if they want to, and 97/100 times you’re not going to have any impact on that. The only thing you can really do is accept and support someone and encourage them to get treatment if that’s what they need. Remind yourself that you’re not responsible for everyone around you, and just let them be.

You cannot:

  • make cute sad boys not sad anymore
  • be someone’s therapist
  • talk somebody out of their addiction
  • repurpose somebody who wants to date you into a friend
  • make somebody stop being self-involved

It sucks, but admitting this and letting go of the idea that you can get people to change or that changing “for” someone is romantic will help you take care of yourself.

Get Comfortable with Taking Your Own Path

This is just a friendly reminder that your life is yours to live, and that it doesn’t matter what other people are doing. Worrying about what other people are up to and comparing your life to theirs sucks hardcore, and is partly why I think facebook is trash. Just removing that information from your life makes it so much easier to focus on yourself and your own goals.

“Be yourself” type advice is incredibly common, but to be honest, it seems like people rarely take it. You have to sit down and think about what you want, both on small and large scales, and then commit to it, even if you think friends/parents/society-at-large disapproves. Which is terrifying and difficult, but ultimately, liberating.

 

but seriously, get a hobby,
Rori

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