As college classes get off and rolling, I remember moving into Clark P
eleven (now 13!) years ago, excited, and fully expecting college to be as awesome as everyone promised. But if I could go back to my 18 year old self and tell her a few things about starting off at college, I’d say this.
Right now, it looks like everyone is making their life-long forever friends. It looks like permanent groups are forming and if you don’t hurry up you’ll be left out and lonely forever.
You know what is really happening? Everyone is lonely and frantic and desperate to feel settled and connected. So they are clinging to anyone who could maybe be a friend. The baseline test? If you do not instantly annoy me to death.
You are not witnessing the formation of future bridal parties (except very, very rarely). You are watching a bunch of people who feel as unanchored as you do, trying to hold onto something solid.
So for now, just keep meeting people. Get to know them with sincerity. And eventually, you’ll find your place. Even if it is with the first people you meet, it’ll still take you a few weeks to know that for sure.
There is perhaps no better time in your life to start practicing being all there. Where ever you are, be all there. Being all there will not only keep you from failing your classes, it’ll help you make real friends, find the right activities to commit to and know which ones to drop, and realize when you’ve pushed yourself too much and it’s time to rest.
Your favorite people are the ones who have disciplined themselves to be all there. When they are with you, they are really with you. Learn from them and begin to be that way with this new community.
At some point, maybe soon, maybe not, you will deal with having been told these are the best years of your life. That is not true. You will have some of the most amazing moments of your life. And college years are certainly very unique years in your life. But these years, no matter how good, are not the best.
And in a way, isn’t that phrase depressing? Because it means it’s all downhill from here. But really, as someone a decade down the road, let me tell you, 18-year-old-me, life is better now than it was then. And I have faith that will continue to be true, because people who are another decade or more down than road than I am show me that’s true. They are having way more fun and living out far richer stories as 40, 50, and 60 years olds than I did at 20. Seriously.
Finally, remember who you are and whose you are. College is not the time to reinvent yourself. It is the time to sink into being the most yourself you’ve ever been.
What advice would you give your freshman self?