I did it. I made it to graduation.
In just one short week, I will walk across the stage at Auburn Arena and become an official college graduate.
It’s been a long road that got me here. It certainly wasn’t the path I had planned. However, it has been the most amazing, wonderful journey and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
If I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. College has been the craziest ride, but it’s been some of the best years of my life.
The person that I am today is not who I was when I came to Auburn back in 2012, and I couldn’t be happier about that. I hardly recognize that person anymore.
If I could talk to him and give him any advice, this is what it would be:
Dear Freshman Caleb,
I know that you’re scared. You’re leaving home for the first time and moving to a brand new city where you know practically no one. You don’t really know if you’ve chosen the right major. You’re afraid that you won’t make any friends. You’re terrified that everyone back home will move on with their lives without you and everything will change.
The truth is, change is inevitable. You’re going to fight really hard to avoid it. Don’t. Embrace it. You’ll learn later in life that change is a good thing. The world is about to change for you. Everything is about to change for you. Do not be afraid.
Leaving home is going to be hard.
You’re going to cry yourself to sleep many nights about it. That’s okay. I want you to know that it gets easier. Being away from home will only make you cherish time with your family even more. In fact, you’ll come to love being away. Not that you’ll hate being home, but you’ll learn to love being anywhere that isn’t home.
You’re going to travel so much over the next five years, and you’re going to fall in love with so many places in this beautiful world. You’re going to crave adventure. Go wherever the wind leads you. You’ll experience so many wonderful things and meet so many beautiful people when you do.
Those plans to graduate with a 4.0 and a PharmD? Forget them.
You’re going to learn that college is nothing like high school, especially your high school. You’re going to really struggle for a few semesters, and while your GPA may suffer because of it, it’s all going to happen for a reason. You’re going to realize that the plans you had were never really your true passion.
You’re going to bounce around Auburn’s campus sampling different majors, trying to find out what you like and where you’re supposed to be. This is going to be a difficult time for you. You’re going to question a lot of things, including yourself. It’s going to take some time, but you’ll eventually find public relations, and while you may not even know what that means now, you’re going to fall head over heels in love with it later.
You’re going to meet a lot of different people while you’re in Auburn.
You’re going to make a lot of casual acquaintances. As it turns out, once you declare a major, you’ll find that you have a lot of classes with the same people. You’ll find comfort in familiar faces.
You said you would never join a fraternity, but surprise! You did. Not surprise…you dropped it a year in. Your time with them may be brief, but that time is crucial in learning who you are.
Unfortunately, you’re going to meet some people who don’t value you in the way you deserve. You’re going to befriend these people and allow them to manipulate you, for the sake of calling them your “friends.” No friend is better than a toxic friend.
You’re going to bounce around in a lot of friend groups, but they’re not your “people.” You’ll be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely. That is, until your senior year. It may seem unfair that it’ll take this long to find your niche, but these people are worth the wait. You’re going to find a group of people who love you endlessly and will always stand in your corner. When you find them, cherish every moment with them. They’re going to help you so much more than you’ll realize.
The biggest lesson to take from this is that you’re going to go through a lot that you aren’t expecting. Things are going to be really hard at times. You’re going to go through a lot of mental and emotional damage, most of which you’ve inflicted on yourself.
Be kind to yourself. Know your worth.
They say that college is where you truly find yourself, and I can absolutely confirm that. You’re going to go through so much that at times, you won’t even recognize yourself. But sometimes, you have to lose yourself before you can find yourself.
The Caleb that is writing this in 2017 is not the Caleb that I was when I first came to Auburn. That scared little boy who was so afraid of the world is long gone. I love who I’ve become, and I like to think that I have my time at Auburn to thank for that.
I’ll leave you with this: E. E. Cummings once said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
So have courage, and do not be afraid of who you will become. The world will love you. But most importantly, someday you will love you too.
Shine bright, and War Eagle forever.