Never have I missed my mother more than while trying to wrap a shrunken fitted sheet around my Twin XL mattress.

As a first-year student, the last two months have consisted of figuring out how to be the adult that I am now apparently required to be. Only after running out of clean socks do I remember to do my laundry, and only when I realize that it's been a week without a vegetable do I pick up a piece of broccoli in the dining hall. Without the somewhat irritating supervision of my parents who ensure that I eat, exercise, clean my room and get out of bed before noon, I am exponentially more overwhelmed than ever before.

This quarter, I have often felt as though I am a child in an adult’s world. Living on my own has felt like a stint at summer camp. I clung to this idea, perhaps due to the crippling fear of independence. But each trek between Target and North Campus has made me realize that I come home to my shoebox of a dorm room a lot more than to my home in Connecticut. This is definitely not summer camp.

It feels lonely sometimes, sure. I think the loneliness of first-year fall quarter is something that every Northwestern student needs to help destigmatize. The most pertinent challenge I have faced as a first-year, though, has been the feeling of not ‘adulting’ right.

To be perfectly honest, I have not made it to SPAC a single time since I’ve been at Northwestern. I haven’t started meal-prepping or eating as healthy as my mom probably wishes I did, and I certainly haven’t made a schedule for myself that I can stick to. When I walk into the dining hall, I go straight for the comfort food, maybe because it terrifies me to think that I can no longer eat like the 10-year-old that I feel like most of the time. It seems as though I’ve spent my first quarter here absolutely failing as an adult.  

As first-years, we are constantly surrounded with students who are capable of bringing their finely tuned routines from home directly to campus. Preventing yourself from comparing your college adjustment to that of your peers is nearly impossible. Realizing that my priorities simply differ from those around me and that I’m not doing anything inherently wrong has allowed me to come to terms with my amateur way of being responsible.

I knew when I came to Northwestern that I would be massively overwhelmed with academic pressures: finding ways to address that stress has been the most pressing thing on my plate. Making lists and organizing my assignments visually has given me the opportunity to take a breath and plan out my time. After three color-coded spreadsheets outlining my major requirements and course schedules, a couple dozen to-do lists and far too many panicked texts to my mother reading “I can’t do this,” I realized that, funnily enough, I am going to be absolutely fine. There's something about spreadsheets that makes me feel like an adult who has it together – maybe I’m just incredibly Type-A.

Step by step, I have added more things to my plate. After adjusting to my workload, I started going for walks and runs. After adjusting to school plus exercise, I added some “me-time” into my schedule, be it a nap or a walk downtown. I’m obviously still trying to become a master of managing my own time, but I’m getting there.

Photo by Eva Lariño/North by Northwestern

Slowly but surely, the Top-10 academics and new-found independence have become slightly less daunting, and I have found time in my schedule for more self care. The truth is I probably will never – nor will I ever claim to – have my shit together. I am still far from a YouTube lifestyle vlogger or those girls you see on your Instagram feed wearing meticulously color-coordinated outfits to class every day. However, my adjustment to college has it worked for me after lots of trial and error. The first year of college is a terrifying thing, and anyone who says it doesn’t scare them is lying.