No matter how hard they try, my friends, family and advisers have yet to successfully give me peace of mind. Still a first semester senior without a job lined up for May, I’m in no position to tell freshman year Helen what to do to prepare for postgraduate success. However, the past few weeks have given me time to reflect on what experiences during my freshman year were important to getting me to this point and what freshman Helen should have learned to appreciate.
Dear naive, baby-faced Helen,
First thing’s first, take that lanyard off of your neck. Your jeans have pockets for a reason. Actually, just get rid of the lanyard completely. You look ridiculous.
When your floormates ask you to go to dinner, say yes. Even if you have homework, go. Walking in a group of 10 people will identify you as a freshman, but you’re already asking for it with that “Visitation Academy Senior” sweatshirt. These experiences will be ones that you value. You will not only build friendships, but you will learn the importance of balancing relationships and academics.
Get off of your phone, look people in the eye. The phone habit is hard to break so you may as well start trying now. Even senior year, you struggle to resist the urge to text during the middle of a conversation. Give it up.
Stop complaining about wandering up and down Kilbourn trying to find a party. This is a right of passage. You might find one, you might not. If you do, you will probably pay $5 for an empty keg. But you’ll also be paying $5 for a night of laughable memories. Make those nights about the people you spend them with, not the basements you spend them in.
Don’t eat Real Chili if you have anything important to do in the next 24 hours.
Keep dancing; don’t stop doing what you love. Don’t follow the unwritten rule that what makes you happy in high school can’t make you happy in college. Acknowledge what brings you a sense of fulfillment and do that, fearlessly.
Let go of the judgments forced on you by other people. Listen to your dance teacher Sean when he tells you to stop caring about what other people think. If you offer yourself to the world, it will take you for who you are. Those who do not accept you are not worth fussing over.
The most valuable things you’ll ever learn will be outside of the classroom. That crazy girl four doors down from you in McCormick? The one who keeps doing handstands against the wall and was ordained online to marry people? She will become one of your best friends. She will teach you that friendship is selfless. And her friend with the long hair whose last name you can’t pronounce? She will show you optimism unlike you have ever known.
Don’t believe people when they tell you to be the bigger or better person. This implies you are better than someone else and as you will learn, that is false. Instead be the best person you can be. Better yourself, don’t convince yourself that you are better than others.
Stop walking so fast. Stop avoiding eye contact with the girl you talked to for 30 minutes at Dogg Haus last Saturday. Smile and wave.
Don’t fall into a routine. I know it’s all you’re hoping for because you think it will mean you’re settled, but once you’re in a routine your life becomes ordinary. Make life extraordinary.
And most importantly, ignore all of my advice. Because had you known then what you know now, you wouldn’t have learned it all along the way.
P.S. When Ben offers to teach you the rules of football and subsequently makes you a Packers fan, embrace it. They’re winning the Super Bowl in a few months.