Fair warning, this blog post may be a bit on the dreary side, but it's honest. After I left my home in Rio, Wisconsin and my family, friends, and everything I knew at 19, I experienced a LOT of things very quickly that I never once considered being possible. Granted, I went to UW-Madison which was only forty-five minutes away from home for a year before I came out to LA, but most everything I list below is relevant to both Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. That being said, I recently had a deep conversation with someone I love so much, and realized all of these things had ultimately impacted our relationship and my worldview today. With looking back at my college experience, I wish I would have been even the slightest bit mentally prepared for the life that had hit me so hard. With that, I wanted to share my thoughts with those going to college next fall, and also to let everyone who has experienced or is experiencing these things now, know that it's all going to be okay.
You're incredible. Keep pushing through, even though it feels like you can't. The world needs your gifts.
You Lose A lot Of High SChool Friends
Though it may be, this wasn't obvious to me when I graduated high school. I grew up in a town of 938 people and was in class with the same kids since I was five years old. I thought the friends I made there and the depths of our relationship would withstand the sands of time, but even a few months away from one another proved me wrong. As you grow in different places and have different things happen to you, you slowly realize that the friends you had in high school were merely your friends because you were within the same environment at that time. Once you go out and are exposed to people from all around the world in a bigger city with more opportunity, it's only a matter of time before the people you surround yourself with in college become the ones that fill up your time in this chapter of your life. On top of that, the friends you had in high school are discovering different interests that no longer align with yours, and you are doing the same thing on your own path.
Though the memories you all had together were so incredibly special and unforgettable, the time comes where you need to flip the page in your story to make more memories happen with different people. Like they say, don't be sad it's over, be happy it happened. Also, of course, there might be one or two that stay - and nothing will ever be able to change that!
Loneliness is Your Shadow
If you're in a new space, especially if it's a big one and you have trouble fitting in or connecting to people, there's a chance that loneliness will creep up by your side and be a hard one to shake off. This comes with the inability to truly feel yourself with those around you, and if you try to be something else to appease them or fit in, it becomes exhausting, and ultimately leads to feeling even lonelier.
The trick to this is learning to understand yourself in the silence and fall in love with what you take in. In fact, being alone is necessary. The most consistent part of your life will be you looking in that mirror to the reflection of yourself every day, so might as well work on liking who you see first. With that, it will make everything so much easier. Then, when the time comes along for the right people to come into your life, it won't matter, because you'll already be your own best friend.
needing to make money gets all too real
I was blessed with parents that have always helped me out, but that doesn't change the fact that they raised me to earn everything I wanted. What I wanted was not to have to depend on them for everything, and also, when you're living out in Los Angeles, everything is SO expensive. Really though, being able to afford the essentials like rent, utilities, groceries, and the like anywhere packs a punch when you didn't have to pay for any of those things (possibly) in high school.
The dollar (or whatever currency you may use) sign truly adds up and up and up as you go on, and so do the hours you need to associate to making money outside of school. After a while, and trying to balance everything, this factor of life can stress you out beyond belief and can honestly shift your personality and shape you into an entirely different and ugly person. Don't let that happen. Learn to breathe, understand that it will all be okay, and find a way to make money by doing something you enjoy - that way it will make everything that much more worth it.
You miss out on a lot back home
Being 2,000 miles away from home, I missed out on a lot. I missed out on my cousin's wedding. I missed my brother graduating from college. I missed conversations and the celebrations of people I loved passing away. I missed watching The Voice with my mom on Monday nights. I missed going on midnight drives with my brother, and jamming out to our favorite songs. I missed having hour-long conversations with my Dad and watching Grease for the 50th time. I missed my best friends' birthdays, and didn't get to be there for their 21st's. Of everything that has impacted me while being away from home, missing out on the day to day life I used to have is the most painful to cope with. Though it only may be for a few years, it doesn't make it any easier to look back on and see you weren't a part of those moments.
Call and talk to everyone you love as frequently as you can. Let them know you love them. Facetime them. Send goofy notes or cards in the mail. Stay close and ask questions.
time management is everything!
Good lord, I couldn't stress this enough. This lesson hit me hard every step of the way. With every opportunity you want to take while going to school, hopefully making some money along the way, getting enough sleep, finding time to eat and eat healthily, finishing all of your homework, preparing for presentations or performances, squeezing in exercise and extracurricular activities, and last, but not least, any sort of social life. To be honest, I still find it hard.
Managing your time means choosing your priorities day by day, balancing some time here and some time there, and sometimes sacrifice - though you should never sacrifice your health or mind.
Finding a place to belong is difficult
There are obviously so many opportunities to try new things when you get to college that call to some sort of facet of your being. The thing is, there are so many people in each of these groups that what you maybe just "enjoy," that they absolutely live for! That being said, you'll like being around these people to an extent, but it will take finding the thing you really like (maybe) to feel one with the world around you.
There is a lot of trial & error (learning)
This is the constant with everything you do, but especially in college when you're trying to find the right major, AKA the "the thing you want to do for the rest of your life." You're not going to know something is what you want to do unless you try it! Sometimes, you're not even aware that what you love to do is a career, and you don't discover it until someone else you run into is doing it. That's what happened with me! When I was at Madison, I met a guy who was studying film. Little did I know then that it was a real thing to be able to make movies for a job. After I found out, I shifted gears as working with storytelling was something I always had a passion for, and pursued a degree in film instead. When I moved out to Los Angeles, went through film school and worked in the industry for a little while, I realized I love making movies, but what was most important to me was telling the story. This is why I'm now focusing on writing the books first and then adapting them into screenplays after. I'm sure I'll change my mind a few times down the road after I've tried writing books - but until I do it, I won't know if it's for me or not. When I do find that thing that I'm meant to do though (I think it's what I'm doing now), it wouldn't have been found out without going through everything I've done up until this very moment for me to realize it.
Some people are Great, a lot aren't so great
The one person who will always have your best interest, is yourself. Not everyone is trying to put their best foot forward for you, and you'll realize that by how often they show up for you in good times and in bad. Not everyone will be your friend, but when you can fully trust and be yourself with another person regardless of the situation, that you can be honest with and they tell you when you're being stupid, that's when you've found a good friend. Never put everything you have into someone unless they earn it. It takes time as well as many people to screw you over, but when you find those people who don't, you'll be able to count them on one hand. Having quality friends is always more coveted than the quantity. Choose wisely. It's okay not to like and spend time with everyone.
MEntal illness and health issues come into play
With balancing classes, trying to date and being screwed over, not having anyone to talk to about how you're feeling, or not having anyone to talk to in general, to trying to figure out who you are and who you were meant to be, not having time to eat because you have a half hour to get from your class to your part time job, having the worst time trying to make friends, or piling your plate with directing two plays, acting in one, joining the intramural soccer team, and making your short film on top of your 20 credit class schedule, it's a surprise you haven't already had a nervous breakdown. Not to mention, you probably haven't slept because you have a paper due at 8AM and you just got home at 11PM from rehearsal. As a matter of fact, this paragraph is your life on a daily basis and it just keeps running on repeat.
This is when that time management thing comes into effect as well as yourself being your first priority. If you don't practice self-love and care, which include sleeping and eating proper meals throughout the day, as well as getting some sort of exercise and sunlight, everything you do on top of that is going to drive you into the ground. With having no time to breathe and the inability to form meaningful relationships, this is when depression, panic attacks, anxiety, malnourishment and the like happens with no end in sight. This is very real.
Take care of yourself, or there will be none of you left that you recognize.
you realize just how important your family is
When you don't see the people you were surrounded by every waking day anymore, and you start to miss out on all of the daily goodness and memories that come with the life you've lived together, you truly and deeply understand just how important your family is. When you think about how much you miss in four years while being away at college, start to think about those special moments you haven't been there for, the conversations you've needed to have but couldn't, and the limited days given for everyone you love - including yourself. You start to understand the need to make money, the location you're in, and the lifestyle you lead, could never trump being able to see your family on a regular basis.
You understand how cold the world can be
Coming from little ol' Rio, Wisconsin, I would have never guessed I'd walk the streets of nearly 50,000 homeless people on a daily basis. I didn't think I'd see someone walk past a human being lying nearly unconscious in the street without stopping to make sure they're okay or that they had water or something eat. I never thought I'd see places set on fire because of an irrational and emotional difference. I would never assume there'd be public shootings and massacres every other day, and being able to hear gunshots every other night while I lay in bed. Thinking of someone having withdrawals from drug use or someone stumbling home obliterated because they drank too much, was something I couldn't imagine. Also - to witness someone so deeply in pain, who couldn't find help, take their own life right before my eyes. To see death firsthand in multiple situations due to being mortal or someone unwilling to stop after a hit and run.
The world isn't all sunshine and rainbows. We know this. What we need to do instead is exude as much love and positivity as we possibly can, and not allow that coldness and darkness to take us over. Sharing light in a world so dark, is exactly what we need to get us through.
You become more cynical
I mean, if you've read the entirety of this blog so far, you've seen that even I have become a bit cynical. I absolutely hate it, and am trying to be better. In fact, I find things that happen every day that help restore my faith in the world and in humanity, but given the circumstances of what I've experienced out here in Los Angeles over the last few years, it was hard not to view the world in a bit of a darker setting. Especially in the entertainment industry, having your worth judged on how you look or your gender, compared to how you think, only being merely a blur of a face when you're working for someone regardless of how much you put on the line for them, or the need to hurt people in order to seem more powerful just really puts your heart in a place of constant question to human kindness. Of course - human kindness is everywhere - it's just the matter of what mindset you choose to put yourself in, the atmosphere you decide to live in, and the person towards strangers that you're going to be.
Don't add to the darkness, fight against it. Crappy things will happen, but you'll have to decide that you're not going to let it affect you in a negative way and allow it to be a lesson on your journey.
You have to go through a lot of crap to eventually find out who you are