I have been at college for seven weeks.
I would like to tell you that so far, they have been the best seven weeks of my life, but that just wouldn’t be true. In fact, they have been stressful, terrifying, exhausting, overwhelming, confusing, and incredibly difficult.
When the first of my friends left for school in early August, I watched them flourish. Constant Instagram posts and Snapchat stories displayed countless fun activities, tons of great friends (which they were making so quickly), and a bubbly “I love life” attitude. Naturally, I expected the same thing when I left for college.
Well, it didn’t happen like that for me. Leaving my family broke my heart; I moved to a place six hours away where for a while I only had two friends; I threw myself into sorority recruitment in a desperate attempt to “meet people” and “get involved” only to feel completely out of place; a hall of 100 students, a bus-filled street, and a constantly humming mini fridge ensured that I did not sleep much. The list goes on, and after a short period of time, I found myself feeling completely lost and lonely in a place that’s supposed to be my “dream school”.
I wondered why my experience was so mediocre in comparison to the experiences of my thriving and exuberant friends. I just didn’t understand what I was doing wrong. Am I not good at being social? Why aren’t I making friends like my roommate is? Is there nowhere that I belong here? Why don’t I love college like everybody else? Do I even want to be at college?
You can imagine that I felt a bit panicky. Not only had I completely isolated myself from everyone and everything I’ve ever known, I’d committed to being here for four years. This was one of the biggest decisions of my life, and I felt like I’d made a mistake that I couldn’t take back.
And to make matters worse, I felt like God wasn’t even with me anymore.
It was like I’d left Him, along with everyone else I loved, back home – 400 miles away.
There were even days where the word “depression” creeped into my mind. That’s pretty much rock bottom. Yikes. So much for “the best years of my life,” I thought.
I kept moving along, going to my classes, doing my required reading, watching This is Us on my laptop every week. I called a member of my family nearly every day. I missed my dog, the security of my house and my street and my neighborhood, my church, my friends, my parents and sisters; I missed the glamorous picture I once had of my moving-to-college experience, which certainly was not an accurate representation of what I was encountering.
Nothing really excited me. I was constantly surrounded by people but lonely. This place just was not home. I felt hopeless and incredibly disappointed.
But God is not hopelessness and disappointment. God is not abandonment, either. God is surprises and small moments. And that’s exactly how He reached me here.
He began filling my life with joy from the smallest nooks and crannies.
He showed me that drinking tea with goofy next-door neighbors could quickly fix up a disaster of a night. He reminded me of my passions and the excitement that comes from things like applying to study abroad and walking around the city at night. He brought me peace while listening to old John Mayer and driving through the mountains, while sitting alone in the dining hall drinking a cup of tea on a cloudy day, and while diving into His word at my (new) favorite coffeeshop. He taught me that making new friends doesn’t have to mean replacing the old ones, that losing sleep is not always a bad thing, that growing myself does not mean changing myself, and that under no circumstances do I know better than He does. He reminded me of a friend once telling me that she knew God had chosen this place for me for a specific purpose. He surrounded me with a few individuals whose big hearts made me feel like had more friends than I could ever need.
He showed me how fun it is to take chances when He’s in control.
He proved to me that where there is even the tiniest bit of light, darkness can no longer consume. Because God speaks through the little things.
Now I’m on week seven. I don’t have three million new friends, but I do have a pretty good handful. I also have an amazing roommate, a pretty cool Bible study group, some fun floormates, and a whole lot of plans for my future. Most importantly, I have peace. Peace with being alone, peace with staying in for the night, peace with who I am and who God has made me to be, and peace with my willingness to trust in Him.
So if you have recently moved to college and are feeling anything like I was, I urge you to hang in there. I know its a cliche, but God has not forgotten about you. You already knew that, but we all need a friendly reminder once in a while. So don’t stress about your social calendar not being quite as packed as everyone else’s. Don’t be afraid to read the Bible or write in a prayer journal in public. Talk to God anytime and all the time. He hears you, He knows you, and He loves you. And he has something really great waiting for you on the other side of this desert. He always does.