Darlene Chavez graduated from Northern Arizona University in May 2014 with a BA degree in English and a minor in Visual Communications with certificates in Creative Writing and Literature. She is currently employed at Joy Cone and has just recently published her first novel. On her free time she loves reading, writing, watching Netflix, listening to music which sometimes involves dancing and usually always singing. She’s hoping to eventually go back to school for a master’s degree in graphic design but is keeping herself busy until then.
As a freshman about to start college out of state and away from all my friends and family, I was as excited as I was scared. Being on my own, though a bit daunting, was one of the best decisions I could have made because it taught me to rely on myself and gave me a chance to discover who I was away from the people who have known me since I was young or, in some cases, from birth. College was going to be a whole new experience for me and it was one I will never forget.
Going in, I was one of those people who had never had a boyfriend or experienced what a serious relationship entailed. That being said, I was only too eager to go out with almost any guy who took an interest in me. The fourth time around, or the fourth guy I ended up hanging out with and then dating, was more intimate than any relationship I’d ever experienced prior. And though it’s over now—a decision I made—I wouldn’t trade the time spent with him for anything because it taught me a lot about myself.
Being in relationship, though wonderful at times, is also a lot of work. Yes, your parents, family, friends, and anyone else who has been saying that for years and years and years are actually right! At eighteen or nineteen, or in some cases even older or younger, college is a fresh start at a new experience and new kind of lifestyle. Having a boyfriend or girlfriend can be exciting, but making friends and keeping those friends is also just as important if not more so.
When it came to meeting new people I was often shy or quiet and though I made some friends in college, none of them are friends I still have or am in contact with. No, I don’t count Facebook though that can come in handy from time to time. Freshman year, I made a lot of friends in my dorm and those friends made friends and we hung out a lot on weekends. When the group split up, I wasn’t sure where I fit in. I joined various clubs to get more involved, but once again those relationships didn’t stick either, though some of them could have.
Sophomore year I met my-now-ex-fiancée and everything was new and exciting and moved entirely way too fast. Of course, I couldn’t see that at the time. My world started to revolve around him and my interests took a back seat in my life. He was the type of person who would say he wanted me to have friends and go out but would sometimes throw a fit or say comments that contradicted what he said.
Thankfully, I had my best friend back home in California to talk to, work, and coworkers. When the relationship began falling apart, I felt alone. In the end, I was single again and on my own, but I knew it was the best thing for me.
For nearly three years I was with my ex almost all the time. We lived together, knew each other’s personalities and habits, and since he wasn’t very social or had friends he often hung out with, we were always together. At first, that was okay with me, and then it wasn’t, because aside from work I had no one else to talk to in person or spend time with. Socializing—meeting new people and putting yourself out there—is an important part of the college experience and when I look back I wish I had made more of an effort to not be so shy and make more friends. For some people, that isn’t so hard to do. For me, it’s something I still struggle with.
My advice to any college student is to make friends and not to be afraid of trying new things or putting yourself out there because everyone is trying to figure out what they want to do and where they fit in when they get to college. And if you are in a relationship, not to make your significant other the only person of importance or with which all your time is spent. Friends are important, as is socializing and networking, along with building other relationships and discovering who you are and who you want to be. Healthy relationships don’t revolve around one specific person; equal time needs to be spent with people that matter in your life. Take some time for yourself too, because that can make a huge difference for you when you need to unwind and relax apart from the rest of the world. Figure out who you are and what you want apart from your significant other because you are an individual and you are amazing.
Life and certain aspects of it have a way of working themselves out. I don’t know how or the science behind it, but I have found it to be true. You don’t have to stress about half the things you’re probably worried about, though it might be inevitable. In my case, things worked out and I’m in a good place in my life now. For me to get here I had to make my own choices and learn from them. Life is full of experiences that you just have to live and learn from. Surrounding yourself with positive people and putting yourself out there, no matter how shy or awkward you feel, does pay off. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the past few years—as anyone in college probably will—but I know more of who I am now and can stand on my own two feet. To anyone reading this, college is an overall wonderful experience with many opportunities. But it is also a journey of self-discovery. Some people will come and go, and others might be an important part of your life for years to come.