“You’re like an inspirational speaker. A prophet!” Some college freshman said these words to me a couple of days ago. It’s safe to say that stupid grin I get on my face when I feel smart has not gone away since. I was explaining the slow and painful train wreck that is your freshman year of college to him, knowing full and well that he believed he was the only person on God’s green earth that was somehow missing the totally unfathomably amazeballs college experience.
Time is a funny thing. This thursday, I will sit around a table with my family. I will be the youngest person in attendance, and I bet you that someone will feel the need to remind me of just how very young I am. Someone (probably my Nana in her beautiful British accent) will inform me of how much time I have to make life decisions, how little I have lived already, how much I will eventually live. I’m not quite two decades old, and yes, I understand that I am just a kid. But time changes so much! It goes by so fast and it drags so slowly at the same time. Twenty is considered to be a young age, but let me argue this point! If I told you I had a present for you, but that I was going to save it and give it to you in twenty years, what would your first thought be? If someone said that to me, my first thought would be that that’s nice but twenty years IS A LONG TIME. It’s a long damn time. What if you’ve been married for twenty years? Congratulations, if that’s the case. But think about it! You’ve been listening to that man snore for twenty years! THAT’S A LONG DAMN TIME. I bring up these examples not to say that I’m some old, wise monk who knows everything, but rather to suggest that I’m some young, curious girl who knows something. What about one year? What about two? It doesn’t seem like a long time, but imagine if you had to go two years without seeing the love of your life. You’d be pretty upset cause that’s still kind of a long time. It’s not been a super long time since I was eighteen, but it’s been long enough for me to really look back at the beginning of my college experience and sorely wish that I knew a few of the things that I’ve recently discovered. Here’s what those things are.
1. There is not a single thing wrong with spending a Friday night all by yourself. It’s not always ideal, but there are two types of college freshmen. Actually, there are three, but the third type is in the one percentile range, and I’m not sure that I’ve ever met any of them. You either drown yourself in booze, weed, or social activities so that you either can’t remember you’re kind of miserable or you’re too busy to acknowledge it, OR you kind of succumb to that misery and you probably feel the loneliest and most unfulfilled that you’ve ever felt in your young life. That is natural. I’m not saying it’s fun, but it’s natural.
2. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This covers a multitude of things you will probably regret. Newfound independence can be exciting, especially if you come from a sheltered home. Maybe in twenty more years I’ll elaborate, when the sting of overwhelming regret and embarrassment fades.
3. You don’t have to know where you’re going, but you need to keep moving. It’s really okay if you’re undecided regarding a major, but general education courses suck so bad. I feel like it would have been nearly impossible to go to math class every day if I didn’t know that something I was passionate about what waiting for me on the other side of those dreadful seventy five minutes. Don’t stop trying to figure out what you’re interested in. College without interest pretty much ensures a life of disappointment.
4. Stop having meaningless conversations. It’s the twenty first century, I know. But please stop having those “Hey. What’s up. NM. WBU? NM LOL. Cool.” conversations. This is why people are stupid. Meaningless conversation equals meaningless relationship.
5. You might not really make friends in your classes. I don’t know why, but I had this really grand idea that I would meet incredible, smart, interesting people in my college classes. I probably thought this because when I studied acting at UCLA, I made some of the best friends of my life. Interestingly enough, in my acting class at GSU, I’ve made a couple of good friends, BUT PEOPLE IN YOUR GENERAL ED CLASSES AREN’T NICE. SORRY. They’re either upperclassmen who don’t want to be in this dumb class with all of these freshmen, but they kept putting this class off, or they’re freshmen JUST LIKE YOU who are also socially awkward and don’t realize that everyone wants to make friends regardless of whether or not they have Resting Bitch Face. Which brings me to…
6. Everyone wants to make friends just as badly as you do. It doesn’t matter if they have RBF or if they appear to already have friends, everyone is hoping to make new friends when they go to college. Period. So don’t worry about seeming lame.
7. If you want to make friends, you have to be a friend. No matter how much it pains you, you must initiate. You must invite. You must accept invitations. You must, or you will die alone. However…
8. Making a couple of good friends is better than making a bunch of crappy friends. People say this a lot, but seriously. Sometimes we’re so desperate to make friends at college that we just fall into a habit of hanging out with the first people that we meet. That’s fine, but you shouldn’t get into this “okay, I made friends, I’m okay now” mindset. You have an opportunity to meet people whose priorities and hopes and dreams and values are in the same place as yours. That’s special. Look for it. Wait for it. Then jump on it.
9. Get involved in something. At a big school, it’s seriously the only way to meet people.
10. Use the test to take the test. This should not help much in legitimate upper level courses, but in your general ed classes, you’re bound to have at least one teacher who accidentally puts the answer to one question in the question of another.
11. It’s okay if you make a B. The pressure to maintain scholarships can be intense, but you’d be surprised at how little a single, solitary B affects your GPA if you’re making As in all of your other classes.
12. That random person whose name you’re unsure of is quite attractive, but STDs can last forever. I don’t have much to say that about, except that it’s a real concern AND one half of sexually active women will get cervical cancer. THESE ARE REAL STATISTICS, Y’ALL. I think it’s safe to say that I already knew this before college, but I feel like it can never be stressed enough.
13. Some days you will feel like you’re thirty and some days you will feel like you’re seven. But don’t worry. Everyone will treat you like you’re thirteen anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.
14. Your relationship with your parents will change, and it needs to. Depending on the relationship that you already have with your parents, you will either dust them off and take them off of the pedestal on which they’ve resided your entire life thus far or you will finally acknowledge that their opinions and support might matter to you. Both of these things are good.
15. Mental health days are totally acceptable. Unless of course you’re taking them every week, in which case you should probably seek help.
16. You might not meet your future spouse within your first semester. You might not meet him/her in college at all. And damn you people who ingrain these ideas into our brains. As all-american and exciting as that idea is, that is not, in fact, the point of college.
17. You will begin to look at life differently, and it will scare you just a bit. It might not be anything drastic, or you might become a completely different person. But if you leave exactly as you came, you did something wrong.
18. College is not a right of passage; it’s a privilege. Treat it as such. Someone is paying for you to be here. Maybe it’s your rich parents, maybe it’s your poor parents who are working multiple jobs to make it possible, maybe it’s yourself, or maybe if you go to GSU it’s a sugar daddy, cause I hear we’re the number one school in the world for that right now! How exciting! Where can I find one? Anyway, this isn’t free. Not in a financial sense, not in an emotional sense, and certainly not in a sense of time. This is an investment. You get out what you put in, and then some. Class is a big part of that, but there’s so much more to it. Take advantage.
I can’t wait to see what I learn when I’m done with college. I think I’m off to a pretty good start.