January 5: A time you don’t want to forget
I seriously thought about writing about one of the pilgrimages from the last couple of years, but I feel like I’ll be beating that topic to death 5 days into the new year. So we’ll talk about college.
Just as with many others, my time working on my undergrad degree coincided with my formative years as an adult; I was finally learning how to live by myself and how to start functioning as a “grown up” even though I saw myself as far from it. Most of the people that I knew before or at the beginning of college will probably say that if you put me back then and me now next to each other – although while not completely polar opposite – there would be a start contrast between the two.
I look at my time in undergrad at UT in two phases: my UCC phase and my nursing school phase. While there was some overlap, I largely kept the two separate. Not necessarily intentionally, but mostly because by the time I was really established in nursing school, most of my closest UCC friends had graduated and moved on.
My UCC phase started more or less within the week of me arriving at UT. One of my closest friends from our youth group in Baytown had been insisting that I come and join every organization under the sun. In addition, my roommate situation was not working out for me which drove me to spend the majority of my time at the UCC. I grew into my faith, taking a more active role in it through many of the organizations there. St. Ignatius proved to be a worthy Confirmation saint as the patron saint of retreats since I was either going on or staffing multiple retreats every semester. I met and became close to people that I consider my family even long after we’ve all gone our own ways.
And it was these people that taught me many valuable lessons about my own self. They taught me that I was worth more than how useful I was to people; that it was okay to say no; that while service to others is commendable, it was just as important for me to fill my own glass so to speak. And even though I thought I knew enough life skills to get by, they showed me even more. And these were also the people that supported me when I decided to change majors and go into nursing, that comforted me when I was so anxious and stressed out about getting accepted into the program, and that celebrated with me when I did. And they’re the ones that prepared me for what came next: the nursing school phase.
Nursing school was largely me starting to take my academics more seriously because I finally found something that I was passionate about again. And I found a new support group that accepted me for who I was, which was especially important because this was the time when I came out of the closet. Because of the foundation laid in the first few years of college, I was able to accept a part of myself (with the help of one of my best friends), and finally tell others. Which became an anticlimactic process because most of them greeted me with some variation of, “Yeah we knew. Good job. You’re finally caught up with the rest of us.” With each person’s acceptance, I gained more and more strength and confidence in my own self.
Of course, not all of college was this inspirational, my life is finally coming together stuff. I had the typical college party phase too, but thankfully in the safety of people that took care of each other. But while my life was a mess at times, undergrad was the start of me learning how to organize my chaos into something that works for me, and I would not be where I am today without it.