Before You Go

A young female college student between classes.
A young female college student between classes.

Standing on the steps of Ashmont Street in Boston, I was absolutely hysterical. Feelings of anxiety, fear, and regret flooded my body as I realized that I was back in Massachusetts and about to begin my sophomore year at a college that wasn't right for me. Why am I here? Why didn't I fill out that transfer application when I had the chance? Is it too late to book a flight back home to Florida? So how did I end up on the side of the road, having a full-blown meltdown, you might ask?

I had always dreamed of attending Brandeis. I can vividly recall being eight years old and pasting photos of Brandeis in my journal. I applied early decision and was awarded an extremely generous scholarship. I felt so grateful, so excited, and so ready to begin this next chapter in my life. What a blessing! But once I actually started school, I was hit with some of the not-so-fun realities of college. I hadn't taken into account the tremendous pain that goes along with missing home and family, or the stress involved in developing solid, meaningful friendships, or the simple uneasiness that accompanies showering in a shower that a lot of people pee in. Looking back, I realize that my initial expectations were set way too high -- but even after a year of being at Brandeis (and lowering my expectations), I couldn't shake the feeling that this school just wasn't for me. Please keep in mind that I'm a very positive, optimistic, and grateful person, so these emotions felt super weird to me.

I spent the beginning of the summer very confused about my plans for the coming school year. I hadn't applied to transfer to another school, and yet I didn't really want to go back to Brandeis. My friends all seemed super pumped about heading back, but I didn't even want to think about returning in August. In early June, my mom and I came up with a plan: the 90/10 approach. I would focus 90% of my time on giving my absolute best to Brandeis and spend the remaining 10% on researching other schools. This temporary solution brought me some peace. I stayed very busy that summer, interning with a social justice organization, cooking a lot, and spending tons of time with my family. And before I knew it, I was back at school. So there I was, standing on Ashmont Street with my dad, who hadn't seen me that shaken since I was a five-year-old kid who had just fallen off her bike. I'm sharing this story with you so that you have a sense of the dread that I experienced coming into my sophomore year. It's important that you listen carefully to what I'm about to tell you . . .

Before you go, before you transfer and say goodbye, give it another shot. Let me explain: The first week of my sophomore year was rough (homesickness, social pressures, you know the drill . . .). It wasn't until I spoke with my dad on a late Friday afternoon, two weeks into school, that everything changed. I can't tell you exactly what he said to me, but the gist of it was simple: change your mindset. I've known and practiced this for a long time, recommended it to friends for years, and seen the incredible results of this simple, life-changing practice. But somewhere along the line, I'd gotten lost in my "is this the right place?" drama. My dad suggested that I listen to "Something's Coming," a song from the movie West Side Story. I rolled my eyes. Really, dad? West Side Story? But as lame as it seemed, I listened to it. And then I listened to it again. And again. I listened until it stuck. "Something's coming, something good." I started feeling better. "Around the corner." And then I started feeling a lot better. "Something's coming. I don't know what it is. But it's gonna' be great." Finally, I started believing -- truly believing -- that something wonderful was headed my way. I felt it in my body, and I couldn't wait to start approaching life and college in a completely different, much more fulfilling way. For me, it took hearing that song . . . feeling the rhythm . . . and simply snapping out my old mindset to finally get it: I couldn't possibly have met everyone, or tried everything, or seen all there is to see. It was as though I had been going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, filled with tons of different foods, and trying only one dish. I suddenly realized that there were a whole lot of dishes that I hadn't tried yet!

I'm not saying that you should stay at a school where you're miserable. What I am saying is that things can change, and they can change fast. I know this to be true because I've seen it first-hand. The sooner you change your mindset-- the sooner you put on those optimistic goggles -- the sooner your situation will change. It's all in how you look at it. It's all about the meaning you give it. It's all about actually going out and trying new things! You're so much more likely to find your place, meet your people, and learn new things if you're out and about experiencing the wonders of life! Don't overwhelm yourself, but don't sell yourself short. You got this, and you're destined to create a wonderful life for yourself -- we all are! So before you go, before you transfer and say adios, just look at the world with different eyes. Look at that shower, the one that all those people have peed in, and be thankful for having running water. And those textbooks, the ones that are super heavy and make your back hurt? Bless them for allowing you to become a more intelligent, educated person. And most important, treat that person -- the one you're becoming -- with love, patience, and appreciation. You're a lot stronger than you think.

To seeing life with new eyes,