I believe in the voice in the back of my head. She’s confident, witty, creative. I wish I could be more like her. She has a quiet voice and I only hear her when I’m not quite paying attention. But I’ve learned that she’s usually right – especially when I try to ignore her. Learning to trust her wasn’t easy because you can’t trust yourself if you don’t know yourself. Just like you can’t make good decisions if you don’t know what’s important to you. You lack context.
My lack of context made me miserable my freshman year of college. I think it started with my roommate. She radiated this… energy. It drew me to her. It drew everyone to her. Her lifestyle was exciting. Dangerous. My inner voice tried to tell me I didn’t belong in that lifestyle. But I was having fun. So I ignored her.
But then it stopped being fun. I tried to introduce my new friends to my favorite things. I wanted to play Scrabble. I wanted to cuddle under a huge pile of blankets on our ridiculous dorm beds and watch Freddy Kruger movies all night. I wanted to play in the rain. I didn’t want to go “out” anymore. But I did, because they did.
Soon, I stopped getting invited to hang out with them. I stopped wanting to go. I stopped wanting to do anything. I had spent so much time trying to do what everyone else wanted to do. I couldn’t remember what I liked to do. I didn’t know if I could still be that person. I had lost myself.
Luckily, I had a small voice in the back of my head. A quiet friend when I was certain I had none. College is not supposed to be a miserable experience. College is about getting to know new people, yes, but it’s also about getting to know yourself. I neglected that second part. I made myself miserable because I tried to be my roommate. I thought she had life figured out. It turns out she was just as lost as I was.
College is about learning from your mistakes. Believe me, I learned. I learned I needed friends who could be stimulating without a 12-pack. I needed morality. I needed family, love, God. The only thing that made sense was to transfer. And a small voice gave me the courage and context to make the right decision. I gave up that mess to find the life I needed. I have never felt a sweeter release.
My quiet friend helped me find real joy, the kind that comes from knowing myself. From knowing my limits, my goals, my strengths. She helped me find the woman I am supposed to be. And I am that woman, all because I’ve learned to listen.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.