Freshman Year: what I thought I knew, what I know now, and all I have to learn

I want nothing more than to pour my heart and experiences out on to this page, so I can ignite the fire in yours; to share all of my knowledge and stories of freshman year, packaged seamlessly into sweet sentences, and leave you feeling as though you can conquer the college world.

….but I can’t.


You see, I don’t have mass amounts of wisdom. The things I do know? I hardly obtained that knowledge seamlessly. Learning who you are in this life is a messy process….countless mistakes and missteps that somehow, some way, allow something broken to become something beautiful.

I’d like to tell you that my words are a bulletproof vest- a bulletproof vest that you can use as a shield against all the wrongs that will come your way as you navigate freshman year. I’d like to tell you that I have all of the answers, and that this blog will shine a light on the path you should take. I would…I really, really would. And in a perfect world,I could. However, it’s quite the opposite.

Because if there’s anything I’ve come to find in a year on my own, it’s that this world we live in is entirely imperfect and flawed, and that’s what makes it so very incredible.

I arrived on this campus a year ago with a plan for my life. It was a plan I ignorantly believed would be unchanging, in all aspects. As I struggled to pack a ridiculous number of shoes into a tiny dorm room, I held on tightly to the belief that I was in total control of my destiny. With clenched fists, I gripped the childish concept with all my might. Like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, I was determined to have my way, no matter what the stakes. I foolishly convinced myself that everything that happened would go according to my calculations.

It didn’t. For many reasons, and in many ways. Like any good tantrum, eventually the fight came to an end- pretty quickly, at that. So I got up, slowly, and went back to the drawing board to remap and reevaluate what I wanted in this life. Because for the first time in 19 years, I didn’t know.

In front of the drawing board….it’s a daunting position to find yourself in. A blank page, completely at your will, is ever so frightening. Throughout freshman year, I would stand in that place on more than one occasion, and every so often, I would go back to square one, and start from scratch. If you give freshman year everything you have, without holding back… then you, too, will find yourself in the same place. Maybe once, maybe twice. Maybe a lot, if you give college all you’ve got.

It’s not a matter of knowing what you want. It has nothing to do with “confusion,” “distraction,” “immaturity,” or any vocabulary with negative implications that may fall underneath that umbrella. It’s quite the opposite. It’s a matter of enlightening experiences, interesting people, and new places that shed light on the dark corners and minor details that all too often, we miss. Caught up in our own thoughts and pre-conceived desires, the delicate details that we miss.

So as I reflect upon freshman year, I see that what I thought I knew is minimal in comparison to what I know now. And what I know now? It’s nothing compared to all I have to learn.

As a high schooler, a negative ora surrounded the concept of change. My decisions and choices were less about paving new paths, and geared towards security, structure, and comfort. All are admirable desires that I still yearn for. But, in a different way. To attempt to designate my entire future at just 19 years old was naive. Transitioning into college, I threw all notions and ideals away in favor of a more “Carpe Diem” lifestyle.

I’m not suggesting you drift through this life with no direction. That’s taking it a little too far. It’s important to have some kind of structure freshman year, however minimal it may be, in order to make progress.

That being said, it wasn’t until I released the tight hold I thought I’d had on my future and took a good look around, that I saw it: the people, the places, the scents, the sights….the many elements I’d let pass me by, as I stood with blinders on, focused only the goals I’d set prior to my arrival at the University of Arkansas.


I thought I knew….

My major and career path. I was convinced I’d go to school for non-profit management, join the Peace Corps after graduation, and eventually work for a non-profit corporation.

I know now…..

That you don’t have to have a degree in non-profit management, to work for a non-profit. Several major changes later, I’ve found that I can impact the world from various career outlets beyond the obvious. Peace Corps is still in the picture, as I work with recruiters and prepare to apply at some point. But where I go from there? Who knows. The not-knowing is the best part of it all.


I thought I knew….

My style. Incoming Freshman Shelby would dress to the tee for class everyday, no matter what the costs.

I know now….

Nike shorts,various t-shirts with Greek letters, and a solid makeup foundation are a blessing in disguise. All natural and comfortable is key when you live on a campus with hills that are practically mountains. Cute clothes and full makeup are a better fit for formals and functions…..and Chicken Finger Fridays, if you happen to have a hot date.


I thought I knew….

What I wanted in a relationship.

I know now…

That I don’t want to be someone’s world. I want to be their sun. You see, the Earth revolves on its axis independently; it holds its own, regardless. Alone, the Earth is outstanding…. the Sun simply illuminates that beauty, with it’s warmth and light. As I grow, I have come to find that there is nothing more attractive than a man with a strong sense of self, and independent ambitions. As someone once said, “A great relationship doesn’t consist of two parts that fit together to make a whole. A great relationship consists of two wholes that, together, make something even bigger and better.”


I thought I knew…

How to actually keep a room clean.

I know now….

I don’t. At all. It takes me a full hour to clean a tiny dorm room, and less than an hour to destroy it again. It’s a vicious cycle.


I thought I knew…

Where I’d be in a year…and in five years…and in ten years

I know now…

To attempt to predict the future is a futile effort. Uncertainty is scary. It’ll leave you shaking in your boots, with knots in your stomach so tight, you’ll feel like you’ve had one too many margaritas. And while uncertainty may be frightening, it’s also invigorating.


I thought I knew…

The right way to study for a big test. An all-nighter beforehand, of course.

I know now….

Flashcards, time management, and studying weeks in advance are far from overrated. Smart is the new sexy (although a little mascara still never hurts ladies). That cute study buddy? He’s more or less a distraction. A sweet one, but a distraction nonetheless. Shut your phone off, put your ipod in, and step away from the outside world for a few hours. You’ll thank me later.


I thought I knew….

What I wanted in a friend.

I know now…

Label’s mean nothing. If anything, they’re what hold us back. It’s not just about finding pretty girls to go out with (although having fun is a HUGE part of any friendship dynamic.) It’s about surrounding yourself with friends who have depth. People who you can call at any hour, without thinking twice. People who understand what you’re feeling, before you even said it. People who you can laugh with, party with, cry with….people who you can be your full, uncensored self around.


Every morning, I read a daily passage in a book called “Jesus Calling.” Not because I’m a perfect Christian, but because I am not.

Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Atheist….wherever your thoughts or beliefs lie, I truly believe the words found in this book can speak to anyone, on a universal scale. If not from the perspective of the religious, then from the perspective of the worldly mind. This morning, as I sat down to finish this blog, I opened “Jesus Calling” to the April 15th passage, where I found a verse that spoke directly to the message that I was attempting communicate with this blog post.

“Trust Me, and don’t be afraid….you tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable…When you are shaken out of your comfort routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort, accept the challenge of something new…” -Isaiah 12:2;Psalm 61:2-4;2 Corinthians 3:18


Live boldly, and the places you go in life will change you. They’ll shift your insides and move you so deeply that you could cry and laugh, all at once. Your opinions, your wants, your needs….all will be affected by each and every day as you navigate freshman year. Some will remain the same, some will change slightly, and some will be thrown away completely.


Every wrong step is leading you in the direction towards something right. Embrace it.