Dear Freshmen: Silver Screens and Saying Goodbye

Hannah Zeller, Writer - The Reporter

Dear Freshman,

 Growing up, I assumed that my life would be exactly like the books I read and the television shows I watched. I would bloom into a beautiful, stylish, acne-free teenager who had her entire life planned out. I would get the grades, fall for the innocently handsome boy next door, and go on wild, wacky adventures. In the end, I would walk away from high school with stories that resembled something out of the Suite Life of Zack and Cody or Hannah Montana, and head off to college to continue my perfectly scripted life.

 Sadly, reality resembles something far from my favorite Disney Channel Original Movie (It’s High School Musical, in case you were wondering). Though I had – and still have – some of the most amazing friends a girl could ask for, and I did in fact have some wild adventures, high school, and more importantly, college, is nothing like it is depicted on the page or on the screen.

 A thorough picture of real college life couldn’t possibly be contained into a 100-minute major motion picture. It is infinitely more complex that the romanticized portrayals I’d seen throughout my teenage years, and as a result, my image for what the “ideal” freshman year should look like was completely skewed.

 At first, this bothered me, even though I recognized that my preconceived notions of college were entirely based on fictitious tales. Even if it was just in the back of my mind, some nagging part of me believed that my first year in college would be just like the stories I’d grown up idolizing: simple, unapologetically cheesy, with cliché lines and a catchy soundtrack that you end up illegally downloading as you leave the theater.

 And then, as the year progressed, I got angry. Angry with myself because I wasn’t living out the “college fairytale.” Angry with my friends because I thought they were. Most of all, I was angry with Hollywood for completely distorting my perceptions of reality. I spend the better part of each semester trying to get comfortable in a new environment and a new routine, and as soon as I did, finals were a week and a half away. I ended up feeling aggravated and guilty, like I had wasted all of my time worrying about having that perfect college experience instead of taking a step back and just enjoying the ride.

 For a while, these fears and worries made me feel incredibly isolated, which didn’t help the situation. Eventually though, I got sick of holding all of it in, and I finally started talking about it to the people around me. Finally opening up and sharing changed everything. I realized that the things I was feeling were some pretty common fears, and talking about them almost instantly soothed our collective worries. We realized that though our feelings were valid, they were also a little irrational. Together, we were able to help each other take a step back and realize that amidst our worries and anxiety, we had accomplished some truly amazing things.

There was no way our lives were going to be like the ones we see in the movies. We’re all real people living real lives and going through real struggles; trying to hold ourselves to standards set by Hollywood script writers will drive us all even crazier than finals week already is. And though it took me a while to realize it, I’m grateful my freshman year wasn’t picture perfect. Freshman year is raw and real and it throws more at you than you ever thought you could handle. It forces you out of your comfort zone in the most beautifully terrifying ways. You’ll make friends and lose friends and you’ll find out who really cares about you. You’ll change in minute ways every day, until one morning you wake up and you realize you’re nothing like the person who moved in all those months ago. More than that, in more ways than one, you’ll realize you’re a better person than you were before.

 So what can I say about my first year in college? Though it may not be as sweet or as serendipitous as the ones my favorite fictional characters lived through, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. This year has made me stronger than I ever thought I could be. It’s made me face some deep-seeded fears and forced me to tackle them head-on. It has introduced me to some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and has afforded me opportunities that I wouldn’t have been given anywhere else. I’ve grown up in some ways and remained decisively childish in other. Most importantly, I’ve learned that though I’m incredibly strong on my own, I’m always stronger when I stop trying to deal with everything on my own and accept support from those around me.

Though freshman year (and college in general) is nothing like the movies, it doesn’t make the experience less than it can be. Though it’s easy to doubt when we’re in the thick of it, I truly believe that we all get exactly what we need out of our college experiences. And who knows? Maybe one day they’ll make a movie about realistic college experiences. Until then, though, I’ll keep watching and daydreaming about the fantastical representations of college in the movies. Though my life is, sadly, nothing like Becca’s from Pitch Perfect, someone has to win the National Collegiate Acapella Championship, so why couldn’t it be me?

                                                                                           Your Fellow Freshman,