Freshman column

This story is part of a Daily Nebraskan New Student Enrollment special edition. 

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in the Oct. 1, 2015, edition of The Daily Nebraskan.

Expectations are funny things.

We all come to college with different views on how things will be, how things should be. We have family and friends who have their views on how things will go for us. There’s a plan, a route, a way things are going to go.

And so, naturally, we students entered Lincoln with our visions set in stone and, in our minds, our stories were all but told.

I was sure I was going to have a 4.0 GPA and spend my weekdays diligently working in the stereotypical, dim basement lighting that all good students work under. On weekends I would enjoy some Husker football and hangout with friends, but never dare to neglect my studies along the way. I’d workout regularly, keeping my health in check.

In high school, I did none of these things. By no means was I failing classes, but I always felt like I underachieved and disappointed. Some studying would occur during the weekdays, but never would I touch my pre-calc book on a Saturday. Unless I was in season for cross country or track, I was lazy when it came to exercise. I started a new workout routine no less than four times my senior year, and I didn’t stick to a single one of them.

I guess the reason I was so adamant on my goals for college, the reason we’re all so adamant on them, is because I hated my high school self. I mean, he was a cool dude and all, but I never felt like I was fulfilling my potential or meeting my own expectations. We have this grandiose image of what we need to be in college, an image fueled by our teachers, friends and family, but so often it’s not representative of ourselves.

So wouldn’t it make sense that with our foray into the new and exciting world of higher education that we would change drastically? A switch would be flipped and life would be grand. Everything would be immediate and swift. Painless.

I rocked high school French and I was pretty darn confident I could more than handle accelerated college French. But, after getting back my first quiz, covered in more red ink than black, I realized, once again, I wasn’t in high school anymore. For those of you who recently took a chemistry or calculus exam, you likely know this feeling.

I carried the same habits I had in high school to college, albeit somewhat improved. I convinced myself the amount of work I was doing was OK, a habit that plagued me from my freshman year of high school until I graduated. As long as I got most of my homework done, I was good. My mindset was that I could always do more tomorrow.

French was a subject I was comfortable with. I had three years of it under my belt, and everyone knew I was the kid who loved French. So it was crushing to have the facade of complacency violently torn down in a sea of red marks.

I’ve come to see that freshman year is all about getting knocked down a few pegs, and we need to realize that that’s OK. It’s not the end of the world when we get a 50 percent on a calc midterm. It’s a helpful wake-up call if anything. This first year, we’re humbled at every turn, and our views are readjusted in just about every branch of life: social, educational or otherwise.

But, I’m starting to realize that’s what makes it all so exciting. My first week in Lincoln, I wanted desperately to become the vision I had of college Nick as soon as I could. But I couldn’t. I was still stuck in my old habits and pigeon holed by others’ beliefs of who I was going to be. It takes some big things to change four years of bad habits, but it’s finally starting to happen.

I have a chance to build myself from the ground up in my own image, and that’s both awesome and terrifying.

We have to realize it’s us who create our own expectations and inward perceptions. It’s time to stop worrying about what people back home or the people you’ve met here think you should achieve. It’s about what you want to get out of your four years here at Nebraska.

You’ve entered a time where you can finally be you. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth. Never in our lives have we had such a combination of autonomy and opportunity. It’s both incredibly freeing and frightening.

I don’t need to be Mr. 4.0 to be happy, nor do I have to be friends with everyone I meet to prove I’m sociable. If I don’t workout every single day, that’s OK because I think it’s OK. If I’m second guessing my major, it’s not a death sentence to start exploring other options, even if they’re careers that don’t pay as well as others.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to let myself come apart at the seams and have my life fall into shambles. It’s quite the opposite.

It means that it’s time to shed the chains of what others told us to be. It’s time to finally lock away the high school you, once and for all.

It’s time for our expectations to match our dreams and nobody else’s.