Advice I Would Give Myself Before Heading Off To College

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:

a) I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences, as painful as they may have been, and

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.







2 thoughts on “Advice I Would Give Myself Before Heading Off To College

  1. The British university system doesn’t allow for different classes the way the American one does and I had a very tame and sheltered life at university. I don’t think I made any carefree decisions, I was lonely and depressed most of the time.

    I would tell myself to try to forget the social anxiety and socialize more (I still do tell myself that, it still doesn’t work, I’m still too socially anxious and don’t go out) and go to the doctor about your mental health. Now. Right now. Not when you’ve alienated your best friends and are at the point of trying to overdose. Also, if you think someone’s nice and she’s frum, ASK HER OUT! For goodness’ sake, what are you waiting for?! Don’t beat yourself up about it, just do it. So what if she says no? Certainly don’t wait until she’s the main one of the friends you’ve alienated… (she’s now married to someone else with kids and living in Israel, so it wasn’t bashert, but I would’ve saved myself a lot of pain by just asking her and dealing with it in a natural way).

    1. I’m so curious about how British university works!

      It’s such good advice, to take the step to ask out the girl, can be applied to so many situations in life when the “worst” that can happen is to get a “no” for a response. For those of us who are sensitive, a “no” can be huge, but I think we will never learn to deal with the difficult feelings if we don’t try!

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