Dear Breakfast Brito: As I’m wrapping up my freshman year, I’ve begun to reflect on where to grow and where to change. What do you wish you knew freshman year?
Upwards and onwards
My first instinct is to say: “What don’t I wish I knew as a freshman?” I’m so confident if I could re-do college with all the knowledge I have now, I would absolutely kill it. But that’s obviously impossible. And even if I were to tell you everything I did wrong, you wouldn’t listen. If you’re thinking, “Wow, how convenient you chose your last advice column to say no one really listens to anyone’s advice,” you aren’t entirely wrong. I would love nothing more than to discredit any possible successor.
But also, the truth is you can’t avoid mistakes. Even the most responsible of your friends will puke in the Hub. That’s just life. More importantly you shouldn’t want to avoid mistakes. In my time at CMC I have made mistakes. Often. Occasionally in a dramatic fashion (okay, often in a dramatic fashion). And honestly I can see why it would be tempting to go back and change things. Part of me wishes I could tell freshman Anna not to hop that fence (she will NOT stick the landing) or maybe advise her to not attempt to take calculus in her first semester when she had never even taken pre-calculus (oops). If I could go back and change those things my time at CMC would definitely have been easier. But it wouldn’t have been “better,” and not even truly happier.
Hear me out: If I hadn’t made those mistakes, I never would have grown. And I’ve grown a lot. When I got to CMC I didn’t have great self-esteem. I don’t think this is uncommon at CMC, in spite of the front people may put on. The typical CMC student is generally the kind of person who has received lots of validation in his or her life. That’s not a bad thing! It’s great to do good things and be recognized for them! Too often, though, it can act as a substitute for knowing who you are, separate from the idea of who you should be, and becoming comfortable with that person.
Even though my freshman year dorm room is just on the other side of North Quad from my senior year dorm room, I could not feel further away from that girl. Though my core personality traits have stayed more or less the same, I have a sense of being cool with who I am that would have been completely foreign to me as a freshman. It is by far the best gift CMC could have given me. But it didn’t come from the times I felt like I was at the “Happiest College in America.” Sure, I enjoyed the day parties, the Sunday night movies, the dining hall dinners that last two hours because you don’t want to go do your homework. I liked the feelings of accomplishment that came when I did well academically, or got praise from professors. But, if my CMC experience was only that, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
True self-worth doesn’t come from feeling accomplished or popular. I didn’t gain self-confidence when I was excelling in class or crushing it socially. It can’t be tied to academic achievements, internship offers, or Facebook invites. You aren’t going to grow when things are #SoCMC. It comes from the times when things are really hard. You have to feel completely unlovable, so you can realize that the people who matter love you anyway. You have to feel like you don’t belong, like the admissions office made a mistake, so you can search inside yourself and figure out what makes you worthy, even if you can’t put it on a résumé. When you fall short of being the idealized person you think you should be, you discover that the real you, fallible as you are, is pretty good too.
So I guess what I really wish I knew freshman year is that the screw-ups are inevitable. You have to embrace them. There will be a time when you feel like the worst person in the world, whether it’s because of a flunked test or a breakup or a broken bone or a fight with friends. I promise you’ll get through it, and you’ll be better for it. So mess up. Mess up small. Mess up big. Mess up constantly until it triggers what is essentially a 6-month existential panic, and then come out on the other side knowing (and liking) yourself a little more. Then when you think you’re done messing up, mess up again, just to keep yourself humble. It worked for me, and I wouldn’t (and couldn’t) have done it any other way.
FKA Breakfast Brito