Fall is quickly approaching, the time of year where students from all over are entering into a new chapter of life: college. It tends to spark conversation amongst my friends and I as we reminisce about navigating young adulthood. Remembering the balancing act of pursuing a major while playing with the new found freedom of independence.
College proved to be a positive experience for many of my peers.
I didn’t share in that positivity, instead I spent those four years afraid.
I was afraid of my parents.
They were very controlling and they threatened instead of supported. Throughout the four years, they cut off financial help and refused to let me visit during school breaks. By the time senior year came, I had little to no contact with them, an excruciatingly painful experience. I was robbed of a supportive relationship with my parents and was left questioning my every action in hopes they would not be disappointed or upset.
I was afraid of my friends.
Attending a conservative university, I was surrounded by teachings that were narrow and specific. Since I had more progressive views than many of my classmates, I constantly felt conflict between my own beliefs and what I was surrounded with. Maintaining close relationships proved to be a struggle as the fear of judgement from peers remained prevalent.
I was afraid of my college.
My alma mater preached purity culture. This teaching induced shame and fear surrounding sex and sexuality. I was surrounded in an environment that preached strongly against same sex relationships. Out of fear, I suppressed the feelings I had and walked around in secrecy.
Those four years were hard.
We will all experience rough periods in life. In the depths, it can be isolating and painful. But those experiences will fade and we will left with two choices: regret or growth. Regret keeps us stuck, binding us to the past, reminding us to look at our experiences with anger and disappointment. Growth takes those hard times and forms them into periods of learning and self development, helping us to walk into the future without the weight of past pain.
I’ve chosen to look back at those years from a perspective of growth. Growth from family, knowing that they may not always be there but support is there if you go looking for it. I have grown to embrace a worldview that is accepting and open, welcoming everyone’s unique walk in life. I have been able to let go of people’s judgments and stand my ground, accepting my sexuality, apart from shame and guilt.
We can’t always choose what happens to us, but we do have the choice to decide what to do with it.
Regret or growth.
Which will you choose?