Written By: Katie McNulty
College was amazing. It was one of the best and most challenging seasons of life. Challenging in so many ways, some of which were not anticipated and, looking back, I believe young women do not have enough conversations about all of the daily battles faced in college. Battles of self-worth, the power of stress and social circles, or even fighting for your faith in the midst of figuring it all out. We are told to assert our newfound independence, embrace new things, “peak” of course, and also somehow have it all figured out? How? How do you find yourself without losing yourself in such a foreign and tempting environment?
I’ll be honest with you; I never did find the answer. I am a work in progress, a broken human pursuing a perfect God. I have and will continue to fall short every day. But, what I can tell you is, even when you feel lost, you are perfect in God’s eyes. Through everything you will encounter in college, every challenge, every mistake, every success, you will never stop being perfect in God’s eyes. Easier to say than to believe right?
I am the oldest of three sisters and the first to “fly the nest” so to speak. Initially, college felt like that part in Home Alone where the main character figures out his parents are gone. Then he runs around like crazy and ends up burning his face with aftershave. I quickly learned navigating college is easier said than done. I heard that pressure could swallow you whole, but I didn’t believe it until I was deep into the belly of the pressures I had initially tried to avoid. I recognized that failing well is often better than succeeding and I learned that those years are precious. But, most importantly, I learned that God is unfailing.
With that, some of the greatest advice I can give to embracing your college years while staying to true to your heart is this:
Cling to the truth and understand that “cling” is a verb.
When I was a freshman in college, I remember feeling so excited for the next years ahead. Coupled with great excitement, I also harbored this kind of underlying anxiety that I had to maximize every single moment. Literally, every single moment. Kind of a huge task to take on, right? In an instant, my world flooded with new people, new choices, new challenges and even new feelings. (This is the part in Home Alone where he throws himself a party and eats ice cream for dinner.) In a literal over-night fashion, my life had completely changed.
I know I did my very best to maximize those college years, but it always left me feeling pretty empty. This “maximizing” consisted of filling my heart and mind with things that only temporary fulfilled me, not to mention, the hype for this stuff seemed so real. I spent a lot of time trying to pack my days with the next party or experience I could jump on. It was like my heart consistently focused on what I thought would make the best memories, and honestly, my faith took a total backseat. I turned around one day in the midst of parties, tailgates, study sessions, boyfriends, and suddenly felt lost. I no longer knew who I was. I stepped back and saw a young woman who wanted the best college experience ever but just let college get the best of her. I can not express how much shame crept in after this realization.
It’s at this point where truth comes in.
True: Nothing you can ever do will make God love you any less.
True: God wants to give you a fruitful life full of joy, real love, right relationship, and purpose.
True: Freedom is in the Lord.
True: False idols put a giant wall between you and living in the fullness of God’s grace, freedom, and purpose.
I am going to give it to you straight. Parties are fun. College is fun. Super fun. Your college years are a unique and irreplaceable part of your story. I’m not saying not to embrace them, embrace them with all your heart! But, be aware of how much of your heart goes to fleeting pleasures versus the pursuit of truth and genuine growth as a woman of God. I can tell you wholeheartedly that the shallow experiences and temptations that college throws at you are where young women, including myself, lose themselves. When you let all your energy go towards the temporary things, your spirit suffers. Your spirit is like a car. Bare with me here. For your car to run, it needs fuel.
Filling your days with truth in the word will maximize your time in college. Trust me; you do not want to turn around one day and wonder how you ended up in such a dark spot. It is not worth the pain. Although in God’s eyes we are never to be put to shame, there is a difference between putting your worth a bigger purpose and letting the world, temporary things, dictate your life and define your value.
You were made to live in God’s grace and joy. So, protect your heart and practice TODAY being the woman you hope to be in the future. Take the time to build strong friendships that will speak truth into your life. Remind yourself that your life is worth more than just your social status, body type, and grades.
You are so loved. It is true, so embrace it.