With only a few weeks left until I return home for the summer, I have found myself reflecting on my first year of semi-adulthood. I have no idea where the time has gone and I honestly couldn’t tell you how it is already May and I’m a quarter of the way through my bachelor’s degree, but I can tell you that I have learned so much this year and made so many memories. But as important as classes are, the most important things I’m taking from this year are the ones I had to learn on my own, that no professor could have taught me.

The first lesson I’ve learned is that taking care of myself must be a priority. I’m the kind of person who puts others before myself and stresses myself out taking care of those that I love. Being there for the people I care about is the most important thing to me, but I have to remind myself that one of those people I care about is me. And for me to be there for others, I have to set aside time for myself and check in with my mental and physical health. I’ve learned this year that you can’t pour from an empty glass. Self-care must come first if you are to care for others.

The second lesson I’ve learned is that every experience is valuable. All of the good memories I have are moments that I will look back on and smile. I’ll remember the late-night conversations and think about how lucky I am to be friends with such amazing people. I doubt that I’ll ever think “man, I really should have gone to bed early that night,” because while your nightly 8 hours is important, laughing until you cry and making connections with people you love is more important. And when it comes to the bad memories, I know that I’ll look back on those, too, and smile because I am lucky to have gone through hard times because they have given me the opportunity to grow into the person I am today. You learn who you are through struggle and you grow when you’re out of your comfort zone. No experience is worthless and I want to appreciate them all while I have them.

The third lesson I learned is that every person you meet has a complex, intricate life and has probably gone through things you never would have imagined. Being in college, especially living in a dorm, I have gotten the opportunity to get to know many people more deeply than I ever did before coming here. And the thing is, we have got to stop treating each other so carelessly. We, as humans, are flawed. One of those flaws is the tendency to focus on ourselves and sometimes forget that other people are real, raw, and vulnerable. We throw words around forgetting what ears they may fall on and judge others forgetting that that’s a real person who has struggled and fought to be where they are right now. Getting to know the new people I have met has opened my eyes to understanding that far too many of us have been through far too much. Now I try to always remember that everyone is on a different path. Different experiences led them to this point and where they go from here will be different than where you go. And that’s okay. We are all just trying to have a good time with the people we care about while building the future we want. Judgment and comparison are useless and they won’t bring you fulfillment. Instead, we should appreciate those we have in our lives and the ways they are both similar and different from us. And if they open up to us, we should value how much they trust us.

It’s scary to think that I’m almost a sophomore in college. High school passed slowly for me, but now that I’m in college I swear that just last week I was feeling lost and tiny in my brand-new school, wondering how I would find my classes or make friends. It goes by fast, so I will try my best to value every moment, seek out new experiences with excitement, and make as many genuine connections as I can with people that make me happy and teach me about myself and the world around me.

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