For many college students, this semester will be the beginning of figuring out what classes to take, what clubs to join, how to live with new roommates, and where to buy cheap textbooks. For some, the next few weeks will be a time of heartfelt reunions with friends. For others, their first days on campus will be filled with a little anxiety as they meet new people.
During my first year in college, I met so many people-in the café, in the dorm, in class, in the bookstore, and in the athletic facility. It felt like I had met everyone on campus by the end of the first week. By the third week, I was overwhelmed, my mouth tired of saying, "Hi, nice to meet you." During one embarrassing introduction, my voice and mouth couldn't even form the words.
I was in the cafeteria with my friend April. It had been a hard day of class, homework and track practice. We were having a good meal when a friend of April's came over to the table. April politely introduced us, "Gabby meet Talia, Talia this is Gabby." Gabby stuck out her hand and said, "Hi, nice to meet you." I stuck out my hand to shake it, planning to repeat my typical rejoinder: "Hi, nice to meet you." But what came out was "grlafjgldjgadf"-- a strange gurgling noise. Everyone froze.
I just walked away to the soda machine. When April asked later what had happened to me, I tried to explain: "I have said 'Hi nice to meet you' so many times that my mouth stopped working."
We just laughed and laughed and laughed.
Your years in college will be filled with funny moments and even a few awkward and scary ones. But that's all a part of growing up and discovering who you are. It is about discovering what you enjoy, finding your limits, and learning to like yourself.
Your first year especially will be filled with those questions: Who am I?; Do I fit in?; Should I do this to fit in? And you may even find yourself succumbing to new peer pressures to fit in. But realize that you already fit in-you are loved and accepted for who you are. The amplified Bible says, "Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints in the Light." Do you get that!? God has qualified you and made you fit! You fit in and already belong.
You will, no doubt, face challenges, but the Lord is there guiding you and encouraging every step of the way. He is there to comfort you and to remind you that He is with you. We never stop growing. We never stop learning about ourselves or others. And we never stop discovering the love of an infinite God through our success and our mistakes.
You not only belong in the kingdom where you are loved and accepted despite the up's and down's you may face, but you will discover people on campus who like you just as you are.
So don't stop saying, "Hi, nice to meet you," even if you feel like you've said it for the millionth time.
Talia Wise is a prayer counselor at the Christian Broadcasting Network. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia.
Editor's note: This column is part of a series of essays on a back to school theme. Click here for a list of other essays in this series.