I left home with uncertainty and as many belongings that I could shove into my mom’s car. I arrived knowing no one, anxious to put high school behind me. I arrived thirsting for knowledge and belonging. I had no expectations for college— except one: freedom. Somehow among stacks of books and unfamiliar faces, college would provide fewer limitations. I was a content foreigner, ready to find my place.
But then came sophomore year. The limitlessness I arrived with revealed itself, turning to its true form— illusion. The illusion fell that year, and took me with it. Darkness arrived uninvited and gave me the manipulative friend I never asked for: depression.
I can’t say I wish my sophomore year was different, or that I’m glad what happened, happened. What I can say is that it took an encompassing amount of darkness to realize running would never lead me to freedom. And that’s what I’ve learned these four years: freedom does not mean fewer limitations.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If in your bold creative way you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe.”
Freedom is not ignoring limitations, or even fighting against them, but rather learning how to work with them. So, I had a decision to make: ignore my limitations or face them. Facing them seemed painful and useless.
My stubbornness, pride and fear were hosts to my denial. I had a steady community, but even among the smiling, warm faces and gentle, encouraging voices, I felt alone. And just when I thought the darkness had muffled God’s voice for good, I saw it. I saw a stream of light trickle in carrying the words, “You are not alone.” Those words broke through five years of denial and silence.
That year I walked into my first of many counseling sessions. The process was just as painful as I imagined, but useless? No, not useless. I had to face what I had been escaping for so many years. I chose a university out of state, because I wanted adventure, but mostly I wanted escape. I wanted to escape from the state where the most hurt in my life happened, because then maybe I would remember less, maybe it would all feel like it never happened. The thing is, although new memories are made in new places, the old ones follow— good or bad, they don’t disappear.
My four years here have taught me that the path to becoming freer is not easy or glamorous or probably anything you’d expect. My four years here have taught me that life is not about discovering how you belong, but knowing you already do and always have belonged.
I arrived here with uncertainty and I am leaving here with uncertainty, but this time with a lot less baggage.
I have too many people to thank at my university to list in this article. But thank you to every person who didn’t give up on me in my darkest year. Thank you to every person who spoke truth into my life. Thank you to every person who made this campus home for four years. I love each and every one of you.