February 28, 2024

INTEGRATE & THRIVE, ISOLATE & DIE

The Power of Integrating into Campus Life & the Importance of Avoiding the Spiritual Toxicity of Isolation 

The day I stood outside my son’s packed room, just days before his college drop-off, is etched into my mind forever. We shared a moment of understanding, the weight of the impending transition hanging in the air between us. I knew it was one of the last chances I had to impart some profound motherly wisdom before the big departure. What would I say? How would I frame it? Here’s the gist of the “Integrate & Thrive, Isolate & Die” speech I gave:

“First, let me tell you that I am endlessly proud of you. You stand on the precipice of a vast and wondrous adventure. But with any adventure, there’s a choice. Will you step into it, embrace it, become a part of it? Or will you stand at its fringes, watching the world go by? That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

You’re about to enter a phase where you have an unparalleled chance to integrate and thrive. College offers more than just academics; it’s a smorgasbord of experiences waiting for you to dive in. Join clubs, attend events, make friends, challenge yourself in coursework, and be mindful, healthy and present in every sense. Work hard, play hard, rest well and often; taking some healthy downtime to relax and recharge on the regular is vital.

Each of these choices carries its lesson, its story, its growth opportunity. But if you isolate, if you hold yourself apart, it’s not only a disservice to yourself but to the world that eagerly awaits your unique gifts, brilliance and impact.

Marie Forleo often says, ‘The world needs that special gift that only you have.’ Think about that. There’s a unique light inside of you, a combination of talent, perspective, and passion that no one else possesses. By integrating, by truly participating in this next chapter of your life, you’re sharing that light with the world. To do otherwise, to dim that brilliance by isolating yourself, robs the world of what you have to offer.

Growing up means showing up. It means being proactive, responsible, and reliable. It means expanding your horizons, trying things you’ve never considered, even if they make you nervous. I’ve watched you grow over the years, and now, more than ever, I see the potential for greatness in you. Greatness not just in achievements, but in kindness, understanding, and personal growth.

Remember, your college journey isn’t just about the grades or the degree at the end. It’s about the friends you make, the organizations you uplift with your voice, and the change you effect by just being the best you possible. The beauty of this phase is that it provides a holistic chance to become well-rounded, healthy, balanced, and so much more. But the first step? Integration.

I’ve witnessed stories of students who thrived because they stepped out of their comfort zones. Like Julia, who joined a dance group despite never dancing before, only to discover a lifelong passion. Or Marcus, who attended a random club meeting on a whim, and ended up co-founding a community outreach program. These are not just stories, they’re testaments to what can happen when you proactively decide to integrate and thrive.

Now, if you ever need guidance or inspiration, here is a handful of the countless books out there on the shelves waiting to offer you their wisdom:

  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  • Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo
  • The Freshman Survival Guide by Nora Bradbury-Haell and Bill McGarvey
  • The Healthy College Cookbook by J.W. Warren
  • 40 Essential Life Skills by Rachel London
  • Make Your Bed by Admiral William H McRaven (U.Ss Navy Retired)
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Successby Carol S. Dweck
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Daring Greatlyby Brené Brown
  • Choose Your Perspective by John Martin
  • The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
  • How I Built This by Guy Raz
  • Don’t Wear Shoes You Can’t Walk In by Michelle Douglas
  • The Art of Happiness by The Dalai Lama
  • The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
  • You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  • The More Method by Jen Groover
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey
  • The Defining Decade by Meg Jay

The most exciting part of your journey lies ahead. Embrace it with an open heart, knowing that every moment, every experience will shape you. College is a time for exploration, growth, and discovery. Make it count.

Integrate and watch yourself soar. The sky isn’t even the limit. You’ve got galaxies to conquer.”

End of the speech.

To the reader/ parent/ college student: Consider this a heartfelt plea from two moms who’ve been there. Ensure that your college student, or if you are that student, gets involved. Engage with the world around you, academically, socially, and beyond.

The odds of thriving exponentiate with every effort made. After all, as the saying goes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Don’t let the college experience be just about passing exams; make it about living, learning, and integrating.

The expansive realm of college extends far beyond the lecture halls and libraries. Its heartbeat resonates in the multitude of clubs, organizations, and societies that promise both personal growth and the invaluable camaraderie of like-minded souls. Engaging in these activities isn’t just about ticking a box; it’s about creating a richer, more fulfilling college experience.

Imagine the thrill of setting off on a trail with the Outdoor Adventure Club. Feel the crisp air as you hike through untouched paths, the exhilaration of scaling a rock face, or the tranquil peace of sailing on a serene lake. These activities not only help you connect with nature but also instill a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. Whether you’re kayaking down a challenging river, participating in a ski trip, or simply camping under the stars, the memories you create will be etched in your heart forever.

However, college life is not just about thrill and adventure. It’s also about finding purpose beyond scholastics and freestyle social endeavors. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity give you an opportunity to leave a tangible mark on the world. The satisfaction of building homes for those in need, of turning your labor and dedication into a symbol of hope, is immeasurable.

Similarly, community outreach programs help bridge the gap between college and community. They remind us of our shared humanity, of the power we wield when we come together for a cause. From teaching local kids to participating in clean-up drives, the potential to bring about change is massive.

But if you’re someone who’s passionate about music, consider joining the Pep-Band or the Percussion Ensemble. There’s an unparalleled joy in creating music, in feeling rhythms resonate through you, and in sharing that euphoria with others, celebrating and elevating school spirit.

For the ones with a flair for leadership and vision for change, the Student Government provides an avenue to bring about institutional shifts, advocate for student rights, and shape the college culture. On the other hand, the Theater/Stage Crew caters to those who thrive behind the scenes, who love orchestrating the magic that audiences witness.

Now, beyond these activities, there’s the essential matter of physical health. The college rec center is not just a gym; it’s a hub for health-conscious students. Engage in regular exercise, go for a swim session, run on the treadmill, pump some iron on the machines or in a group fitness program, join a Hip-Hop or cycling class, or take up yoga and meditation. The friendships you forge here are often rooted in mutual respect and admiration for health, fitness and healthy discipline.

Speaking of health, it cannot be stressed enough how crucial good sleep and nutrition are. College can often turn into late nights and unhealthy snacking, but it’s vital to remember the importance of rest and a balanced diet. Your body is your temple; cherish it.

Navigating these waters also means sometimes being met with choices that might not align with who you are. There will be temptations – parties, drinking, and the lure of “fitting in.” While it’s okay to let your hair down occasionally, never lose sight of your boundaries. Be a steadfast friend, but never at the cost of your values. College friendships are profound, but it’s essential to remember that real friends uplift and respect you. They won’t coax you into becoming someone you’re not.

One that note, if for some reason you’re not feeling properly supported, stimulated or inspired, academically, socially or other, be mindful to check in thoroughly with yourself and assess the situation; Is there a potential course correction necessary regarding major, university and/ or friend group?

It’s certainly worth taking the time and making the effort to process deeply for further insight so that you can make any necessary shifts that will enhance your alignment with your true self. This catalyzes your ability to most authentically and organically become your best self and lays the proper groundwork for you to thrive.

Remember, every individual you meet is also navigating this new chapter. Extend understanding, offer support, and ensure that you’re forging connections rooted in mutual respect and trust. Be your own anchor, your own best friend. As you evolve into the best version of yourself, you’ll naturally gravitate towards those who resonate with your core values.

In the end, college is as much about discovering the world as it is about discovering yourself. Every club you join, every friendship you forge, and every choice you make is a step towards that self-discovery. So, step out, embrace the opportunities, and let your college years be a tapestry of vibrant experiences, lessons, and memories.

This article is a sneak peek from a chapter in our upcoming book, UNIVERSITEARS, joint effort between two moms. We delve deep into the roller-coaster ride of navigating the early college years, offering insights, heartaches, and laughter.