When I started high school, I had two major goals. The first was to get into a good college. The second was to fill up all the white space under my senior picture in the year book with activities. Nothing was sadder to my young self than a senior who only did one or two things the entire time he was in high school. I didn’t like looking at a bunch of white space under a picture. To me, it represented a sad, lonely high school existence. To make sure my picture did not come off as pathetic, I basically spent all 4 years signing up for everything that my high school had to offer. It did not matter to me if I liked the activity or not. The only criteria for me was that it would fill in some of that white space. I even included things I was nominated for but didn’t win, because who wouldn’t want to remember that they lost 3 years in a row as homecoming princess? I also included that I was a runner-up for an internship…look how close I came to something great but failed! Didn’t matter. The goal was to fill up the white space. I’m happy to be able to tell you I accomplished both of my goals.
It’s now been 20 years since I graduated from high school. That is such a big number and it means that high school happened half a life time ago. I look at the girl in my high school picture and I see her promise, her potential, and her fear. I also see a girl that is full of hope but one that has no idea what the future holds for her. I sometimes wish I could sit my 18 year old self down and have a chat. There are a few things I’d like to tell her. This is what I’d say:
You might want to take some time to think about your college major. Seriously. Like more than a 3 minute conversation with your mom during freshmen orientation where you arbitrarily choose business as your major because it sounds promising and is filled with good looking guys. Explore your options. Read through the choices. Think about your favorite activities in high school, your favorite classes and your favorite jobs. Think about what you love to do in your spare time. Follow a passion, not a paycheck.
Start a new life for yourself in college. You will be tempted to room with a friend from high school your freshmen year. You will be tempted to keep your high school boyfriend. These feel safe and comfortable. This isn’t bad but don’t stay tethered to the past because it will keep you from discovering yourself and from moving forward.
Grades are important but for heaven’s sake, have some fun. Seriously.
You do not need a boyfriend to be happy. In fact, you will probably be more happy if you focus more on friendships with girls. Your girlfriends will one day be your pillar of support. Don’t cut them out of your life to make a boyfriend happy. Ever.
Along those same lines, you do not need to get engaged before you graduate. Please don’t. Even though it seems like everyone else around you is planning weddings. Even though the thought of graduating and having to live and find a job on your own seems scary. You are braver than you think and stronger than you know. Give yourself a chance to try your wings. You won’t know you can fly until you jump.
Use the opportunities in college to explore and find out more about yourself. Take classes that seem fascinating. Ask lots of questions. Get to know people that think differently than you do. Don’t be in such a hurry to move on to the “grown-up phase” of your life. Enjoy where you are, right now.
It is okay to cut people out of your life that do not value or appreciate you.
Be yourself. You are good enough just as you are. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone. Do what makes you happy. Above all, follow your heart.
With much love,
Your 38 year old self