Don’t you wish you had known a few things during your first year of college? Things like “Everything will still be A-O.K. if you choose the wrong major,” and “Studying abroad is worth every penny.” Consider writing your own reflective letter about your college years after reading what our staff writer Rachel has to say to her younger self.
Dear College Freshman Me,
This is your 26 year-old self sending a letter to guide you through those formative college years. Wait, what? You want proof that this is a letter from the future? Of course we do. Umm, the first boy you ever had a crush on was Ryan O’Conner in first grade and he had white hair. You were bullied a lot in middle school but never told your parents for fear of burdening them. You have big New York dreams, but you’ve never told anyone and you still love watching Full House when you are home alone. Is that enough proof to suspend your disbelief?
Breathe. You are in a new city with new people. You don’t know what you are doing or where you are going. I promise you will figure it out. You’re going to take a lot of wrong turns and jump on the opposite trolley sometimes, but I am proud to report that your excellent sense of direction grows back after you get your San Diego legs. You make friends and the adventures you have are ones for the record books. They include riding topless over Coronado Bridge and a road trip to Canada, complete with a ride in the back of a police car.
The friends you eventually make seem like the leftovers who are scrounging for friends–but you’ll quickly learn they are the actually the pick of the litter. You will get an amazing education from the English Department, but the university you are attending is by definition a party school, and it never ends up being your scene. Yes, I said English Department. You switch majors and never look back. Consider double majoring in both English and Journalism. Don’t burn bridges. Have open conversations instead of walking away. If you don’t, you will end up losing some of the most important people in your life.
Study abroad in Paris! Skipping out on that is your biggest regret to this day. You will get to Paris at least two times in your life and it will be glorious, but there will always be some unsettled part of you that feels like you missed out on something incredible.
The boy you are dating right now, yeah, that gangly, goofy, geeky, guy? He ends up being “the one.” And when I say that, I mean the one you pick to spend the rest of your life adventuring with. Dogs, baby, school debt, international travel, white-water rafting, bed side vigil-ing, Disneylanding. No joke. There are going to be rough patches. Long distance sucks. The conversations stretching over hundreds of miles of static filled telephone lines aren’t going to make it any easier, but eventually you end up in the same place at the same time.
The stupid job you have working at the on campus will afford you some of your lifelong friends. Be prepared for many of them to move far away, like foreign countries far. Damien, the curly-haired goofball that works at the sandwich place will end up being one of the most important people you ever meet. He’ll be your roommate and the first person you text message when everything goes absolutely and irrevocably wrong. Your kid will end up calling him Uncle D, so make sure you tip your proverbial hat to him when you cross paths. He will be one of the first important meetings you have as a minimum-wage earner. One more hint: keep an eye out for a Michael, a Marvin, and a Lis. They will all be pertinent to your emotional survival.
Go easy on your parents. We are a know-it-all (that doesn’t change), but you will get to a point, not very long from now, where you start to see them as people instead of the idolized ideal all parents are held to. Things with your mom will get easier. Soon, it will become evident that you lucked out getting woven into your specific family. Love them! Appreciate them! Call them!
At 26, you haven’t made it to New York…yet. You haven’t given up on it. You graduate from college with honors and go on to get your Master’s degree in Library Science. Your family has grown considerably: three dogs, one daughter, oh yeah, and one husband. You still don’t have your driver’s license…yes, really. We are currently working on it. You have become, shockingly, even closer to your brother than you are at your current point in the space-time continuum. You do enjoy drinking beer, but growing your chops literally took years. You have learned to cook! You have two tattoos, neither of which suck. You still haven’t learned to bite your tongue. Your life is more amazing now than you can imagine. You have so much to look forward to.
All your best,