Ashleigh Albert served as the editor-in-chief of The Whit for the 2017-2018 school year. -Photo editor/Amanda Palma

I stepped on to Rowan’s campus my freshman year disgusted. I abhorred the idea of leaving my hometown and the people I knew and loved so much. This list included and was not limited to my mom, dad, brother, grandparents, then-boyfriend and my friends. I asked myself existential questions like, “Why does life require everyone to just leave everything they know in the name of education?”

Tears were shed that hot, muggy day in August and I wasn’t sure I had made the right choice to come to college. It took me several days to feel like I had truly made friends and my 18-year-old self couldn’t stop thinking about how much I missed my then-boyfriend.

I said and did some weird things that year. I told my one friend my uterus was aching for a child on about the third day I knew them. Desperate for friends much?

I joined this very newspaper, The Whit. Except, well, every time I went to Wednesday night meetings I went there shaking and cried pretty much the second anything went wrong. No, I’m not being dramatic. I still remember a former staff member helping me dry my tears in the bathroom.

On a daily basis, I would hit “walls” at about 9 p.m., at which time I’d start remarking about the most random aspects of my day—for better or for worse. It became a joke in my friend group that I’d probably be incoherent by 9 p.m. (sober, too!).

On a more serious note, during February of my freshman year, my brother got into a wicked snowboarding accident. What was perceived at first as a couple broken bones turned into months of complications and roughly a half dozen surgeries for him. Although I was not the one hurt, this injury put a great deal of stress on my family and I hated that I wasn’t home with them.

It was back to my mentality: Why does college have to take me away from the familiar things I know and love?

Today, I’ve started to reflect on all that has changed. My high school boyfriend and I broke up, and I’ve since started dating someone else. I made the decision to graduate in three years after I learned it would work for me. After two successful internships in journalism, I made the tough decision to pursue another field during graduate study. I studied abroad. My brother has recovered. I still have close bonds with my family and friends from high school – a wonderful thing, if you think about it.

The person who received my odd comment about my uterus? I’m still friends with them, too. In fact, we’re roommates. And I ended up becoming editor of this very paper.

But what about the bad stuff? What about my existential questions about not being with those whom I love? They’re still there. I’ve had negative moments. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression and made a tough decision to seek out medication and counseling for both things. I just talked to my therapist about these very questions the other day, actually.

I’ve had not so great days with friends and times where I didn’t think I had a place at this university or in college at all. I’m still terrified of being alone and am often unsure where the future will take me. But none of those feelings will ever overpower my sense of self. I’m different now. Life is never going to be a cake walk. I’ll have moments of being depressed, and I just might be anxious for the rest of my life. But one thing is for sure: life only takes us away from the things we love if we let it. I’ve learned to do it all my way.

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