June 30th, 2016 was a humid day in Washington, D.C. I remember my cab ride into the city with fondness and vivid detail. Full of fear and anticipation, I sat alongside someone that would become one of my best friends. As my first view of the Washington Monument came closer, surrounded by bright grass and kites flying in the air, I felt like I was the star of my own movie. Somehow, even at 16, I knew instantly that I was meant to live in the city at some point in my life. I just didn’t know it would be a mere two years later, starting college far away from home. This hot summer day marked the beginning of my young adult life.

Living in a hectic, stimulating city like D.C.- especially as a college student- is far different than visiting one. While the beauty and sheer amount of exciting things to do drew me in, the cramped lifestyle, late-night safety concerns, and high cost of living are drawbacks. I had an idealized version of D.C. that consisted of constant museum visits, fun nights out, and delicious restaurants. I somewhat ignored or brushed off the aforementioned downsides, knowing that city living was worth it. The amount of opportunities available to me were worth it.

Despite its flaws, I am still as enamored by the city as I was two years ago. The fast-paced, competitive lifestyle cannot be compared to that of Southern suburbia. Sometimes I long for the peace and quiet of life with my family, cuddles on the couch with my dog, late-night drives, and full-body laughter with the people I love. College terrified me for so long. I worried that I would never make friends, struggle in school, and/or burn out. Yet, as my first semester comes to a close, I am feeling far more confident than I did a few months ago. I have met some beautiful, driven people, found my voice, and discovered passions. I know now that as terrifying as moving to a city across the country was, it was the best decision I could have made for myself.

The most important lesson I learned in my first semester was to go with the flow. Some days will be much harder than others. You will long for the comfort of your own bed and those who love you unconditionally. Maybe you will wonder why you decided to move at all. The good days, though, make the risk worthwhile. City living is full of the unexpected. As someone who likes to plan out every aspect of my day, I am constantly challenged, pushed far out of my comfort zone, and faced with surprises.

D.C. (and college) has pushed me to be a more passionate, flexible version of myself. One that I think 16-year-old me would be proud of. I am entering the new year with excitement for what’s to come. I hope for many more late-night slushies, monument walks, museum trips, and Starbucks visits. Yet, there also will likely be some more study-induced mental breakdowns, fears and insecurities, and cram sessions in the library. College in the city is as fun as it is exhausting; as stressful as it is worthwhile. It suits me.

Keep shining, loving, and spreading joy.