I’m graduating from college in just one month. Thirty-three days, to be precise. I’m not sure where the time went exactly, or how I’m supposed to become a real-life, functioning adult, but it’s headed towards me at full speed and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Currently, I’m trying my very best to latch on to these last few weeks, and I can’t help but constantly reflect upon the greatest lesson I’ve learned thus far.
Let me explain: The greatest lesson wasn’t one I read from a book or learned from a professor. It wasn’t about how to prepare for my career or how to live on my own. It wasn’t rooted in building a network or making money. And no, it wasn’t how to win at beer pong or even how to dance in heels until the lights come on (though both arguably valuable skills).
Don’t get me wrong, college has been plenty educational and definitely a ton of fun, but the greatest lesson that I have learned throughout these past four years doesn’t have to do with any of that.
Though I group them all under the same umbrella, it was really an amalgam of different things melted into one.
It was realizing that sometimes the only person who could help me is me. That I could be there—that I need to be there—for myself in a way that no one else could ever even come close to. It was realizing that no one else can fix my problems for me, and that sometimes I can’t completely fix them either. It was realizing that sometimes things need to be resolved, but other times they just need to be left as they are. It was learning how to choose myself before others, and it was how to do so without guilt. It was knowing when to take time for myself and how to let go of the fear that I might be missing out. It was feeling secure in who I am and in everything that I believe to be true. It was allowing myself to disregard the opinions of those who hold little substance and to value the ideas of those whom I truly respect. It was recognizing the people I can honestly count on, and it was building up the courage to let go of the ones that I can’t. It was coming to respect myself fully, and it was demonstrating the way I deserve to be treated. It was always holding my head high, and it was forbidding anyone from ever bringing me down.
So at the risk of sounding a tad presumptuous, and possibly outright cliché, the ultimate greatest lesson that I learned in college was how to love myself.
It can sound ridiculous, I know, but guess what? When the lights turn off and the sun goes down, I’m the only one that remains. Every single day, the only one responsible for my thoughts and my actions is me. The only opinions and ideas that I’ll forever be stuck with are my own. The only mindset that I have the ability to shift is the one that resides in my very brain, and the only power I hold is the power I create with it. All things considered, why should I spend a second of my short life on this earth not working on myself? Not doing something that makes me happy? Not utterly and completely loving myself? Why should anyone?
Though my greatest lesson wasn’t along the lines of shotgunning a beer or flirting with guys (again, potentially very valuable skills), I truly feel so grateful to have learned what I believe is the most invaluable lesson of them all. Make no mistake, falling in love with myself wasn’t easy. It wasn’t always fun either. It didn’t feel like a fairytale, and it was everything but rainbows and unicorns. But now, dancing around my room, smiling every time I look in the mirror, feeling a love I thought was meant only for someone else—it was all worth it.