An excerpt from my personal university journal. Entry from August 19, 2012, four years ago, my first weekend as a University of Iowa student.

When people say that college was the best four years of their lives, it really puts on a lot of pressure. Pressure to be perfect, pressure to conform, pressure to pretend.

I moved away from the one place I’ve known one week ago almost to the day. I was forced to say goodbyes I had dreaded for years. I was set free, let loose into this wild and untamed atmosphere I wasn’t sure I was ready for. That I’m still not sure I’m ready for. With that additional pressure looming, it’s even harder to avoid the pounding anxiety that permeates each new moment.

Convocation was today. I sat there on the thick lawn, looking up at the imposing Capitol and feeling the doubts creep up. As the speakers droned on, the sky darkened with rainclouds. One speaker caught my attention.

“If you are having any doubts,” the balding man said, “please listen carefully.”

It was as if he was speaking directly to me. I sat up a bit straighter, focused my attention on that podium.

“You belong here.”

Just like that, with those three words, I felt something akin to pride stir within me. The line of professors looked down at us in their robes from the stage, the thunder boomed and the trumpets played a stately tune, and at once I knew that a journey unlike any other was beginning.

The rain fell, and for once I started giggling, giddy in my reminder of home and proud of everything: where I’d come from and where I now was.

The night passed with frivolity; a sunny, lighthearted block party, then a quieter, more intimate fellowship in the hall below mine. There were introductions, conversations, possibilities.

And suddenly I knew that I would be able to get through this.

So began my college life.

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