The first years: Smile like you mean it

Jackie Mantey

I’ve always gotten in trouble for smiling.

At the age of 12, I was docked five points in a ballet routine for smiling too much in the Marion Miss Teeny Pop pageant — an excuse for me to dress up in a horribly fluffy dress and wear too much makeup.

My basketball career in high school was ended after I got fed up with always getting yelled at by my coach for laughing on the court.

During my freshman year at Kent State, something happened to me that should have erased that smile for a few years.

Instead of telling you the traumatizing details and filling you on motherly advice about staying safe at parties and keeping your drink to yourself, mine is a story of strength and friendship.

In the course of your freshman year, every relationship you have in your life right now will change. Some will end. Some will grow stronger. Some will initiate. The title of “best friend” will be replaced with “best friend from home,” and you’ll realize your mother knows more about you than you ever realized.

As a bit of a wild child in high school, college meant good drugs, good alcohol, and classes that finally interested me and would make me want to stop taking those good drugs and drinking that good alcohol.

But as always, what you think will save you never does.

After the night that changed my life, I was shook up about everything I believed in. I questioned who I had become and how I had let myself go so far down that path. I put all the blame on myself.

And then they found me.

Three girls packed tightly on the bottom floor of Metcalf Hall. Every single one of them was so different, and each made me get out of bed in the morning. They knew when I was upset — and would never let me stay that way.

Each one taught me a different idea of strength, of love, of faith. They made me see that not smiling only made the pain worse.

College is a struggle. But it’s the friends and memories you make in the midst of all that hurt and confusion that you learn the most. Don’t stay confined to your high school circle. This is the time to find yourself and to find those who want to help you answer your soul-searching questions.

Without those four pillars of understanding my freshman year, I would have lost the part of myself that has defined me since day one.

Build relationships, build yourself.

Jackie Mantey is a junior magazine journalism major and editor of the Summer Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].