To my little sister on her first week of college
Dear little sister, we are sentimental people. I keep every single card I’ve ever received. I struggle to get rid of clothing (Hey—I wore those pajamas on Christmas day in 1998!! We can’t get rid of those!) You take photos with every person you meet and write long, sappy Instagram captions for them. We both have cried passionately in public when the moment was right. We associate these items and photos with places in time and connections we’ve made. So as you know, it’s a borderline disaster when we have to leave people and places that we love. Which is exactly what you are about to do when you leave for college. I was eager for the next, new adventure, but I know you are reluctant to leave home.
I know that this transition is unlike any other, since I have faced the same thing. I can’t really describe the way I felt at 18 years old. Truth be told, I wasn’t scared, but I was uncertain. I had no idea what was going to happen when I moved away from home. That’s the beautiful thing about being 18. Your future is uncertain; undecided. That’s exciting! You’re capable of so many things, but still a little too young and inexperienced to really know where you want to be or how you want to use your talents. You take each class, semester, and year as it comes—unsure of how those are going to directly impact the career that you’re not sure you want. You switch majors. Sometimes you switch colleges.
What I have learned in my post-graduate life is that I always end up missing those uncertain points in time. While I was in college, I longed for my beloved years in the marching band and high school theater productions, when my hardest choice was, Which instrument am I going to play today? I missed my friends from home and the carefree nature of high school. But do you know what? I still miss those things, in addition to my heartache for my college years. I was homesick for my actual home, but somewhere along the way, my school morphed into home too. Two years out of college, I frequently say I am homesick for Ohio State.
I miss my dorm room with stereotypical freshman decoration from Target. Pink rug. Pink bedspread. Pink flamingo lights draped around my desk. Take advantage of that time, baby sis. In “adulthood,” when you put pink flamingo lights around your desk, you become the “questionable” one in the office. (Which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion). At the time, I wasn’t crazy about dorm life, but I really miss the comfort of being surrounded by all the great students from my program. I miss running down the hallway to watch Grey’s Anatomy with a new friend while working on that calculus homework we both procrastinated for weeks.
Although I wasn’t a die-hard football fan that went to every game, I still miss the lazy game days at home as much as the games I attended. Lying around my apartment with my bestie, eating nachos, half-paying attention to the game, laughing at each other until our ribs hurt. There was one beautiful fall day that I rode my bike to the store to cart beer home in my bike basket (Don’t tell Mamaw!). My friends thought it was hilarious, and looking back, that was such a “college” thing to do. I find myself wishing that I could revisit that day and once again have my friends within the same two-mile radius that we were in for four wonderful years.
I miss sprinting across campus in that forsaken 12-minute break period given between classes. I miss sleepy art history lectures with my coffee drink of choice and hilarious English discussions. I miss studying Charles Dickens at 3:30am after coming home from a long night of studio work. Studio work that also consisted of a lot of dumb YouTube videos with the funniest people I know.
In college, I was too busy worried about getting home in time to get ready for the next costume party. I was too busy running around Ohio State’s gigantic campus. I didn’t take time to stop in the middle of the campus green, The Oval, and look around, soak it in, and realize that I would miss those days more that I could ever fathom. When you start college, those four years seem stretched long ahead of you. It feels like it will last forever, but from semester to semester, time is fleeting.
Even though I pine for different points in time, I’ve learned to accept each new time and place as it comes. In college, I longed for my purple and blue bedroom and my dog at home. After college, I often miss my campus apartment and my architecture studio with the guaranteed shenanigans that came along with it. I miss trudging through the multiple feet of snow just to make it to class. And I know that in a few years, I will miss this one-bedroom apartment and my entry-level job. In a few years, I will miss my status as a freelance writer once staff writing positions present themselves and I accept more responsibilities. I know that when I’m a mother, I will miss being a single and free 24-year old. So I take my time when I eat pancakes at midnight. I laugh a little bit harder with my friends. I pack in as many weekend trips as I can because I relish this freedom as a new graduate.
Little sister, do not dare rush your college years along. You have heard many adults say high school was the best time of their lives, but college has every single potential to be even better than high school. I know you will be homesick when you get to college, but give it a chance. It’s so easy to lie awake at night and long for the familiar cuddle of the family pet or your other siblings, but if you never left you would never know the beauty of those other moments or places. Always know that you can call me, any time, anywhere, and I will do the best I can, from one sentimental soul to another.
Your big sister
[Image via iStock]