I remember the car ride down to North Carolina. I was bursting with excitement to be starting as a college freshman. After a tumultuous high school experience, I firmly believed college would be a breeze.
I remember the anxious anticipation of meeting my roommate for the first time. Would she like me? Would we become friends, or would we hate each other? I was so excited to make new friends– friends that would last a life time.
I remember countless adults firmly telling me that college would be the “best four years” of my life. I was ready to embrace the happiness and freedom that college was supposed to bring.
But I did not find rainbows and butterflies. College was, in many ways, harder than high school. College was a battlefield, and at times, I did not think I would make it out alive. I wanted to give up. I wanted to fly home and run into my parents’ arms so I wouldn’t have to fight my battles alone– going to school 8 hours from home proved to be more challenging than I anticipated.
Despite the amazing support of my friends at Elon, in Chapel Hill, and in Charlotte, I did feel alone in my darkest moments. I wanted to let people in and share my pain with them, but I feared I’d be letting everyone down. After all, college was supposed to be the best four years of my life. Was I failing college, or was college failing me?
In the face of every obstacle, I fought with everything I had. Mental illness knows no boundaries– I found this out the hard way. However, my strength and resilience far outreach the bounds of anorexia, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Living with chronic mental illness in college was tough, but I am tougher.
So, maybe college wasn’t the happiest four years of my life. I still believe it was the best four years thus far. I’ve discovered superhuman strength deep within myself. I have learned more about my character and my fierce determination over these past four years than I ever thought possible.
I have found the most amazing friends, and I am so excited to enjoy a lifetime of friendship together. I wouldn’t be graduating (so soon!) if I didn’t have the incredible support system I have found during my time at Elon University. But even more so, I have found strength and love in my family even from afar. They have proven to me that no matter where I go, I always have a place to call home, and their love for me is infinite.
It is with this love from my family, support from my community at Elon, and my own relentless determination that I will grace the stage at graduation.
I will walk away from Elon as a confident, competent, fearless graduate, ready to tackle whatever challenge life throws at me. I will toss my cap up in the air, look up at it and smile, as I close the book on the “best four years of my life”–knowing that the best is truly yet to come.