I finally made it. 

After graduating from Prairie Grove High School in Northwest Arkansas in 2015, I am graduating from UCA almost a decade later. 

Not only am I relieved and happy about my accomplishment, but I am also nervous and excited to see what this world holds for me.

I didn’t know whether to make this column a diatribe on the perils you will face as you go through your college career or a piece reflecting on the joys I experienced at UCA, so I thought, why not a bit of both?

Let’s get the bad out of the way first. College is hard, like make-you-go-insane hard. 

In my time at UCA, I have struggled with waking up to go to classes for a major I was losing interest in and subsequently had to drop said classes and change majors entirely just to keep my sanity. 

I have had to eat the same food using my dining dollars week after week to the point that it started losing all taste. 

I’ve had nightmare roommates who refused to clean up after themselves and made me never want to leave my side of the room. 

I’ve lost scholarships due to my GPA plummeting from dropping classes. 

Through it all, the positives have outweighed the negatives. I have become a much better man than when I first came to UCA. 

I’ve learned that letting people know you are not OK is OK.

People who care about you will do what they can to make you a little more OK. 

My mom encouraged me to try antidepressants when I was at my lowest, and I wouldn’t be writing this today had it not been for her. 

I have met friends I will keep for the rest of my life. 

People who fill my heart with happiness and joy when I spend time with them. 

Friends wash away my worries, even if just for a moment. 

I have expanded my tastes.

I have discovered music artists I would never have listened to, seen movies I would never have watched and gone from loving performing music to loving writing.

I am happy to have learned and experienced so much, but I know the hardships you will face all too well. 

I also know you have repeatedly heard, “It all just gets better,” and “Just do your work and go to class, and you’ll be fine.” 

But it is not always that simple. 

I wish I could tell you the same thing, and while I can attest that going to class and doing work will improve your situation, it is not a total solution. 

My advice to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed, lost or dejected is to ask for help. 

Be it your friends, family or the staff here who is paid to see you succeed, do not be too prideful or ashamed to ask for help. Be upfront and honest and explain your situation. You will be surprised by just how understanding your professors can be. 

No matter how long it takes, I have absolute faith that whoever you are, you will be able to finish college as I have. Some of us take a little longer than others, and that is more than OK. 

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