You know you feel at the end of The Breakfast Club or Legally Blonde or Crossroads or even High School Musical? Those struggling teens have finally accepted who they are on the inside and the audience is ready to send them confidently out into the world to continue to thrive as humans and pursue their dreams! Well, that’s the polar opposite of how I feel right about now. See, I’m about to graduate college, which has sent me into a spiral of anxiety, nostalgia, confusion (I’m graduating college?! I just started, like, two days ago! WHAT IS TIME?!), and sometimes, straight-up sadness.
I’m struggling to accept that something I love so deeply is just going away and there’s nothing I can do about it. The loss of my comfortable identity as a college student is one that’s unlike any other because although I’ve always known I’d have to let it go (cue Idina Menzel), I don’t think I ever really accepted that it would all just end at once. Part of that is because, as corny as it sounds, you don’t really know what you’ve got ‘til it’s (almost) gone. Part of it is because I got so comfortable in this place that I, as one does in any relationship, refused to acknowledge that it could ever go away. And part of it, honestly MOST of it, is because I’d never expected I could love something so outrageously, unabashedly, incomprehensibly much. As I sit here and try to process what it means to have to break up with, so far, the love of my life, I can’t help but wonder what exactly about it made me fall so deeply. And so, in this moment of introspection, I feel the need to share with those lucky folks who are just starting college, what I’ve learned after four incredible years.
1. I hope you stay in touch with your high school friends, but you’re not afraid to make new ones the moment you arrive on campus. Everyone’s in the same boat as you; be the most outgoing one in the boat.
2. I hope you stay up way too late talking to people you just met as if you’ve known them since kindergarten.
3. I hope you appreciate how amazing it is to live RIGHT NEXT TO every single one of your new friends.
4. I hope you choose classes that make you feel like you’re not wasting your time and that challenge you to think, speak, and act like you’ve never imagined you could.
5. I hope, by sophomore year, you start to understand the in-jokes about your college and you finally feel confident enough to actually crack some of your own.
6. I hope you meet professors and advisors who will help you realize why you are in college, take that purpose, and foster it until you are the best whatever-it-is-you’re-trying-to-become you can be.
7. I hope you kiss boys and girls you don’t know because you really wanted to and, in those moments, I hope it was so much fun, it made your head hurt.
8. I hope you kiss boys and girls you do know because you really needed to and, in those moments, I hope it was so much fun, it made your heart burst.
9. I hope you miss your parents enough to honestly appreciate everything they’ve done to get you this far, but not enough that you go home every weekend. (You’ll miss out on stuff. I promise.)
10. I hope your beliefs are challenged so that you can come to understand who you are and, sometimes more importantly, who you are not.
11. I hope you have to stay up til 4AM to finish a midterm you forgot about and have the courage to wear pajamas to class the next day because, dammit, you were up all night!
12. I hope, some nights, you feel so creative that you might explode and the only way to combat that is to call your best friends over and talk about the movie/song/dance/painting/novel you can’t wait to start. I hope they listen and encourage you, even if they know you’re all talk.
13. I hope you watch 8 hours of Netflix in your bed, alone, at least once a semester and I hope you learn to love that you can be alone for 8 hours without it meaning you’re weird.
14. I hope you catch yourself referring to school as “home,” and I hope that you don’t correct yourself.
15. I hope you bring a friend home at least once, so that your pre-college life and your during-college life combine, and you see that that’s totally okay; you’re no less “you.”
16. I hope you have at least one good story you can tell your kids, one you can tell your parents, and one you can tell at a dinner party.
17. I hope some days you wake up having no idea what you did last night and some nights you go to sleep having no idea what you’ll do the next day, and I hope you’ll have the peace of mind and self-confidence to accept both.
18. I hope, when you’re a senior, you still remember inside jokes from freshman year and, even if you’re not as close as you used to be, you appreciate those first friends you bonded with when you moved in.
19. I hope you never, ever, ever forget how lucky you are to be in a place specifically designed to teach you how to become a more fully-formed social, intellectual, and emotional person.
20. I hope when you do graduate, it’s as hard for you as it is for me, because that means you did it right. You lived, loved, hurt, laughed, cried, karaoked, failed, aced, wined, dined, danced, napped, wrote, Instagrammed, and made it through the best four years of your life (so far).