Looking back at the young, naïve girl I was as I made my way to the small midwestern university and remembering the incredibly tumultuous time I had, it’s tempting to tell my former self to do so, so many things differently. Practically everything.
But at the same time, I can recognize that:
b) I probably wouldn’t listen to my own advice anyways.
But let’s pretend that 17-year-old me would be receptive to advice from 37-year-old me, a married mother of four who wears earplugs at concerts and considers going to bed after midnight “very late.”
*Take all the classes that appeal to you. Life moves quickly and responsibilities pile up. There may not be time later to read the classics or study that language. Do it now.
*Go travel. Now, as a single girl, is an incredible time to see the world. Study abroad, experience other cultures, see how people are both the same and different around the world.
*Be open but be critical. Don’t accept everything you read or hear as truth. Learn how to thinking critically and see if you can find the big picture amid the details that are being presenting.
*Resist peer pressure. Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t mean you have to as well. Some experiences can be missed, some are worthwhile. Take a minute or five before going along with the crowd to decide if something is worth your time.
*Don’t hurry. Your whole childhood is spent wishing to be just a little bit older, to reach that next milestone. Stop. Look around. Appreciate what it is to be young, to have a body that functions so well on lack of sleep, ramen noodles and various substances. This will not last.
*Read all the books. Stay up all night finishing them.
*Sleep in. Take naps. You don’t even know how much you will miss this. Trust me.
*Think about your future. What do you want from life beyond graduation? Think about five years ahead, then ten years. Know that these plans will change, but plan anyways.
*Pay attention to yourself. What makes you angry? What makes you happy? How do you react under pressure. Learn your triggers, learn how to work on them. Become better.
*Go to therapy. Therapy is so great. There are counselors and therapists on campus. Go. Go often. Work out all your stuff before you actually become an adult.
*Don’t think you know everything. You’re learning a lot, so much, but you’re still young. Give respect to those who’ve come before you. Listen to the wisdom of your elders, they may know a thing or two that you only think you know.
*Have fun, with boundaries. This is a carefree time, but some carefree decisions have decidedly non-carefree consequences. Decide where your red line is and don’t cross it. Enjoy yourself but responsibly.
~ ~ ~
I can just see my 17-year-old self (politely, out of view) rolling her eyes. The hubris of youth, thinking that there’s no reason to worry. Ha! Thank G-d, everything turned out fine. I do wish I had taken more French classes, though, and maybe some more classics or poetry.
I’m grateful to Earnest for inspiring this post, and to Jamie for his endless reserves of patience in waiting for me to actually write it.