School always came easy to me and for that reason, I won early acceptance into my dream college. I also got a decent set of scholarships. One of my best friends also won early acceptance to the same school and planned to move in with me in the fall. We had living arrangements set and ecstatically contemplated beginning our college experience together.
The prestigious college I would be attending was a Christian school. My faith has always been important to me, and I figured I couldn't possibly be making a bad choice. The school had my name written all over it. And as if scholarships, my best friend, and a solid Christian environment weren't enough, this package came wrapped with a big red bow--a spot on the school's ice hockey team. Dreams of lacing up my black Nike skates and hearing the crowd yell, "Go Driscoll Go," all while enjoying the sisterhood that came with practicing day and night, filled my mind from the very first time I stepped on ice.
It seemed perfect, but my dream turned on me very quickly. Who but God could have foreseen the unhappiness my own dreams held?
It wasn't a full month before I realized I'd made a decision based on what I wanted, not what God wanted for me. I wasn't happy. I had placed myself in a school of more than 15,000 undergraduates after graduating in a high school class of 50. Anxiety, depression, and homesickness started creeping in.
It was so strange that while attending a school with thousands of potential friends I felt completely alone, even with my best friend living in the same room. My classes contained three or four hundred students and the teacher-student bond I loved in high school now seemed incomprehensible. My guidance counselor never allowed me more than fifteen minutes in his office due to "scheduling conflicts." Putting in one to two hours of practice at the ice rink every night became exhausting. I was left with no energy and soon found that the big red bow I had imagined was tying me in knots. Teammates I had so desperately longed to bond with seemed too pre-occupied with classes, boyfriends, and winning to become friends with the incoming freshman.
So, I transferred. I only lasted a semester, living what I thought was "my dream."
During the Christmas break, I visited a small Christian college with 1,500 students. I fell in love with it. This school was only an hour from home and seemed full of teacher-student bonds. My tour guide told me she even ate lunch with her teachers. Although I loved everything I heard, I still felt somewhat uneasy. So what if I felt all happy inside about this school? I felt that way about the last school, and things had not tuned out so well. But after a few nights of prayer, I decided to make the switch. I would now be attending a school where I did not know a single person's name. It didn't even have a college ice hockey team.
Transferring did not instantly change my life. It did not create the "happily ever after" college life that I always thought existed. But with time, I found peace, happiness, bonds with my teachers, and amazing friends, all by the grace of God. Slowly but surely, he re-arranged my heart, priorities and life. He showed me His dreams and He helped heal the part of me that refused to let go of my dreams.
College has not been an easy transition for me, and it didn't make my life a million times better, as all those high school graduates I admired assured me it would. College is hard. It's a lot of work, and it's a large adjustment. But it truly is an investment in your future, not just your education. I struggled for the longest time with why God allowed me to experience such misery at my first school. Almost two years later, I understand.
Life isn't always about finding that perfect dream. Life isn't about us at all. Life, and the college experience, is about seeking God, finding the fulfilling dreams and plans that He created for us, and letting go of our self-fulfilling dreams.
"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps," Proverbs 16:9.
Jessica Driscoll is a junior studying communications and writing at Geneva College, in Beaver Falls, Pa.
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.