Change has been all I’ve really known throughout my less than ideal, not so traditional college experience. As a senior in high school, it feels like the world is your oyster as you gleefully post what university you will attend on your senior class facebook page and proudly flaunt your new sweatshirt to school on decision day. What comes next for most—if not all—college students is the cold, hard reality of becoming an adult and discovering yourself amid constantly shifting circumstances.

Embracing change is key, if not essential, to success both during and after college. What type of change you must be prepared for, I can’t tell you. Whether that be first semester homesickness with a challenging roommate, nostalgia for the simpler days of high school and home cooked meals, or a global pandemic that uproots the life you’ve built in your college town and home away from home, change is inevitable and will alter and shape you as a young individual. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you’ve accomplished thus far in life. Change is change, and learning how to embrace it and run with it is an essential skill to have. So let’s get started—for starters, how do we even define change?

Change is what you make of it. From a new bedspread to a new university, change can be big or small, long or short, you get it. By definition, change is the act or instance of making or becoming different. Embracing anything new can be uncomfortable. There’s a reason nostalgia exists, and there’s a reason people say certain “eras” of your life are iconic. Ever heard the phrase “college is the best four years of your life,” or someone who reminisces fondly on their 20’s when they’re really only a few years past it themselves? It’s strange, and it makes you feel pressured for moments to live up to certain—and often unattainable—standards before time runs out.

Start here. But don’t just skim the dictionary definition of change and click out of the browser (I know, we all already know what change is.) It’s about reflecting and expanding on that concept. Take the generic definition and make it pertain to your life and your experiences. Define change through your own lens. Start small and create a timeline. By acknowledging change you have encountered within your own life, you’ll be able to embrace it.

So by now, hopefully you have at least one instance where you encountered change identified. How do you alter the way you view change, especially since it’s often met with a negative stance? Before we delve into that, read this quote.

“Change is the only constant in life.” —Heraclitus

It’s easy to get attached to certain phases of life. It’s what makes memories so great, after all. For me, my senior year of high school is a time I’ll always reflect fondly on. Times filled with “firsts” and “lasts” are iconic, and it’s important to remember them as just that—without getting overly attached to them.

If you learn to embrace changes in life instead of comparing them to what you’re comfortable with or accustomed to, you can thrive in a collegiate setting, especially as a student-athlete. Even once you’re a graduate, applying these tips in every facet of your life will become invaluable. So, let’s get started.

This is a particularly useful article with not one, but four ways to learn how to embrace and grow from change.

Think current times: quarantine, global pandemic, social unrest, and inequality are a few words that come to mind. How do you even begin to think positively about the recent changes that have come about in the world? Visualization is a great place to start.

For people like me, the concept of meditation scares me. The idea of sitting still for more than two minutes is scary, and centering my thoughts is like asking a dog to leave a piece of steak sitting on the floor alone.

Instead, visualize or “manifest,” as the self-care side of TikTok calls it. When I think of change, I think of my crazy, not-so-typical or ideal college journey thus far. I went from two quarters at UC Davis to an online community college to Seattle University—a wild turn of events during a period where I did NOT embrace change. All I knew, especially as a student-athlete, is that I was unhappy and missed the familiarity of high school and my home. I did anything and everything to revert to that version of myself rather than embrace the current me. Looking back, what did this teach me?

It taught me that nobody is “normal” and there are not necessarily requirements, maps, or directions in the craziness of life once you’re an “adult,” however you choose to define that. I realized that once I graduated high school, sleeping in my childhood bedroom at my parent’s house would never really feel the same as it did just a few months prior. Change is inevitable, and it’s up to you to perceive, visualize, and make the best (or worst) of it.

The biggest piece of advice I could give, though I am changing everyday myself (as are my circumstances), would be to not take everything so seriously, not criticize yourself so harshly, and last but not least, not compare yourself to others so critically. Nobody lives a picture perfect, cookie-cutter life, and change is inevitable (how many times can I say that throughout this article?). So instead of fearing who you’ll be in one, two, or ten years, embrace it. Especially as a student-athlete, change can make or break you. Who you are now is not who you were yesterday or when you got recruited, so stop fearing the past, present, and future.

Make change your new best friend, because it’s going to happen with or without your approval. If there’s anything the past four months have taught us as a society, it’s that without change, there cannot be improvements made. As with all things in life, there’s risks with change, but it’s up to you and you alone to make the benefits outweigh those risks.

For more resources on change, embracing it, and how to become the best version of yourself, check out the links below!