“Are you loving it?” my Evolution facilitator enthusiastically asked as my fellow first-years and I reflected on our first weeks at Lehigh.
The question seemed rhetorical. We were at a great place, and I was supposed to love it. The answer was simple: yes.
I replayed the day that I opened my acceptance letter, my screams still managing to echo all the way to this point. I would have never expected my answer to this question to be anything but yes.
No, honestly, I”m not loving it, I shamefully thought as I brushed the question off with a convincing smile and nod.
The transition from my life at home to college life was not easy for me, and it took almost an entire year for me to admit that to myself, let alone to my friends here.
On the surface, I should have been happy. I was meeting new people left and right, living independently for the first time and taking classes that were of interest to me. But at the end of the day, something just didn’t feel right.
I spent countless nights staring at the ceiling of my room wondering why I couldn’t just suck it up and be happy. To me, my feelings were invalid. The only way to get rid of them was to suppress them, so I did.
Flash forward a few months into my first year, and I was filling out transfer applications. And while there is nothing wrong with considering other options, I resented myself for not loving it here.
But now that a year and a half has passed since I first set foot on campus, I am able to reflect on the importance of sharing as well as the power in vulnerability — two things that have led me to a supportive group of friends and unforgettable experiences.
While I can confidently say that I am satisfied with my time at Lehigh, this peace of mind did not come easily for me. I have found my place here as a member of Student Senate and The Brown and White, two things that I had no idea were waiting for me.
Less than a year ago, my days were quite the opposite. Most days ended with confusion and lack of direction. It seemed as though no matter what I tried, my niche wasn’t here. I could not fully embrace all that there was to explore until I finally acknowledged and shared my discontent.
And once I did decide to share, I realized that I was a part of the problem that left my peers and me feeling so alone.
To an outsider looking in, I was the happiest I had ever been. My life on social media was filled with new friends, funny moments and proud accomplishments. Portraying myself as such was a form of protection and self-preservation. Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how many others did the same.
When I decided to write a column this semester, my struggles last year were the driving force. Once I opened up to those around me, it has become more and more apparent that Lehigh has its divisions: Greeks, athletes and everyone else.
This can leave many of the newest members of the Lehigh community feeling lost, but I’ve learned that our commonalities connect us more than campus culture divides us. Most people are relieved to share that they’ve had similar struggles.
If I did not open up about my doubts and anxiety, I would have continued to guard myself with apathy toward this place, these people and my own future.
Once I shared my not-so-pretty experience with the people surrounding me, I was finally able to immerse myself in my work, activities and friends here without the weight of doubt on my shoulders.
Invalidating my feelings was a disservice to my experience and relationships at Lehigh.
Be honest, even if that means being vulnerable.
Not only is there power in vulnerability, but there is strength in sharing it with others. Contrived happiness and indifference toward your experience is not worth it. Instead, your time here, your future and most importantly, you, are worth it. So act like it.