As if I haven’t talked about it nearly enough, a lot of my girls are heading off to college. Girls that I met as little freshman, who were just learning how to navigate high school, who were 14 years old like three seconds ago, are now college students. I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out.
I’ve been asked for all kinds of college advice: tips on what to pack, questions about giant lecture halls, how in the world to go about making friends. Then a blog was officially requested: “23 things you wish you knew before going to college, Krysti. 23, that’s a good number. That will make a good list.” Oh, will it?
Lists aren’t my forte, but I’ll do pretty much anything for my girls. So, what do I wish I knew when I was heading off to college….?
Let’s start with the small fact that I hated UCSD for a good 4 months. I got to San Diego and everything was new, I didn’t know a single soul, and it was quite overwhelming. I don’t like overwhelming. I didn’t not get along with my roommate, but I didn’t get along with my roommate… for the whole year. It took me a while to find real friends, it took me a while to find my place. When I did, I was so thankful. But it was a process. Thanks to the quarter system, I started school a good month after most of my high school friends – so while they were a month-deep and had already found their groove, I was just starting out. We would Skype or text and I felt so confused why they were having the time of their lives while I was just…. there.
Do I say this to terrify you? NO. But to be honest: not everyone loves college from day one. Not everyone enjoys mixers and ice breakers and awkward freshman events full of strangers. I just wish I knew that, instead of thinking something was wrong with me. I wish I knew other people felt out of place and awkward and lonely and had no idea what was going on – I thought everyone was loving life and I was the only odd ball. So go and sit in the awkwardness and painfully attempt small talk and make new friends because that’s part of life. But also give yourself time and grace to adjust.
That’s what I’ve found myself telling most of my girls: transitions are rough. Learn to sit in them, learn to lean into them. Don’t sit in your room with Netflix every night, don’t sit in the caf by yourself on your phone everyday, don’t sit in your car driving home every weekend. Sit in the transition, sit in the change, sit in the unknown. Everyone else is going through it, too. Embrace it for what it is. Life is full of transitions, and hiding from them never make them go away. Trust me, they never last forever.
Allow yourself to change. This is the season of life where you think you have allllllll the answers… and in reality you have so few. It’s also a season where you feel like you need to have all the answers – in reality, this is the time you’re allowed to have no idea what’s going on. Ask more questions than anything else. Realize you might not know best – but be open to learning new ways, new ideas, new lessons. Be open to letting your way of life, your view of the world, your identity to completely transform. Be okay with waking up one day and realizing the world isn’t what you thought it was. You aren’t who you thought you were. God isn’t who you thought He was. Allow yourself to question and to learn and to grow in freedom. Allow yourself to be wrong. Don’t have your heart set on one dream, on one answer, on one way of life. Dream big. Think big. Have 10 different dreams for your life – and allow them to change daily. Expectations can break your heart quicker than any boy can, so be sure to set realistic ones, but don’t let your heart stop dreaming and your soul stop shooting for the moon. You just might find the moon moved a little to the left one day. Or changed faces. Or became a moon in a different solar system by the time you graduate. That’s okay – shoot for your moon.
Allow yourself to like new things, to hate things you previously loved, to rethink things you were so sure of. Ask questions and don’t be afraid of finding real, true answers. Allow yourself to change and to grow, allow yourself to become a whole different person if necessary. Maybe 4 years from now, you’ll be completely different than you are today. Maybe a week from now, you’ll be a slightly different person than you are today. Love yourself then, and be sure to love yourself, little freshman that you are, now. Sometimes it’s too easy to look back on different versions of yourself and think higher or lower of certain ones. Stop. Learning to love yourself in all seasons, to be able to look back without regret, is a life changing skill.
Similarly, allow your friends to change. You’re both going to end up as different people, which is fine. But when that happens, you don’t want to be the person holding on to the past, unable to see the present. Don’t keep them in a box, don’t cling to who they were in high school because those people are gone. The memories are still there, and the love is still there, but by focussing too much on who they used to be, of the friendship you used to have, you might be missing out on the amazing gift of who they are now. Don’t be scared by it. Welcome it. The friends who don’t allow you to change – who want you to remain exactly who you were in high school – aren’t worth keeping around.
Find your people. This will take time. This will be a process. You may already have a tribe, a team, from high school, and that’s great. But find your college friends, the ones you’ll still talk to in 20 years, the ones who might not have spent weekends with your family or lived through your awkward middle high stage or were there for you in your high school relationship, but they know you. They will walk alongside you as you navigate this crazy special college mixture of youth and adultness. They will stay up with you till 2am, they will sleep till noon with you, they will consume copious amounts of pizza with you. They will also cry with you, text you on your hard days, call you when you need a friendly voice or call you out when you need that, too. They will not always agree with you, they will not be 100% similar to you, and that’s what makes it so special. They will push you, grow you, stretch you, question you, and make you you. They will be your people. You will need them; they will need you. And when you find them – you will! Don’t worry – it will be the most wonderful gift.
Fall in love. Not just with a boy – although that’s okay, too – but with so many things. Fall in love with new ideas and new ways of life, with passions you discover and hobbies you happen across, with food and drinks and scents. Fall in love with as many things as possible. Allow yourself to enjoy things just to enjoy them, figure out what makes you smile and never apologize for it. Follow your loves to wherever they take you. Figure out what makes your heartbeat and pursue it relentlessly, un-apologetically. The best people do.
Slow down juuust a bit. Everyone has been telling me to tell you to enjoy it! Soak it up! Live it up while you’re in it! And I think that’s true, but I also hated when people told me that. “Oh enjoy college, it goes by so fast.” And it does. Oh man, it does. But when you’re in the middle of it, you don’t see that. At least I didn’t. I saw midterms piling up and books to read and papers to write, a million activities to be at, jobs to work, internships to get. I was what you would call a bit over committed. I wish I made fun more of a priority. I wish I had taken more time to myself. I wish I had been more intentional about people, and less about responsibilities. College is about learning, but it’s also about growing. Don’t forget that. Don’t get too lost in books and grades and studying that you forget to take time to grow. Write it into your schedule if you need to – solitude, exploring, questions asking, stepping out of my comfort zone. Whatever pushes you most and expands your boundaries, whatever allows you take a step back and think differently about that world. Don’t do yourself a disservice and and rush through 4 years and end up with a diploma but little else.
Dream big. 2016 might be the year we get a female president, but 2016 is definitely the year the world gets you. Don’t be jaded by the realities of the world we live in – it’s hard not to, sometimes. It’s hard to not see the poverty and the hurt, the hate and the anger, and think we can’t solve anything. I am confident that you can solve something. See the realities of the world for what they are, and then look to see what you can change. Look to see what hurts you can heal, what questions you can answer. God has uniquely equipped you, figure out how and use it for Him.
Speaking of – spend time figuring out who God is. I would argue the answer to this will have the biggest impact on the rest of your life. And don’t be misled – this answer can change over time, you may question and requisition it, you never fully arrive. But figure out who He is and what that means. Is He real? Is He loving? Is He good? With every fiber of my being I want to scream for you YES! YES, OF COURSE. I want to take the pencil out of your hand and fill in this question on your test. But this is something you have to learn on your own, you have to decide on your own. For if He is real, if He is who He says – are you going to follow Him? If He’s made up, if the church has been lying to you – where will you turn? What will you build your life on? What is truth? This isn’t an cram-in-a-weekend, procrastinate-and-write-4-pages-at-2-am type of thing. This is a long – sometimes life long – process. But start it. Really, truly start exploring that, for too many spend their lives running from the answer. If you don’t decide what – or Who – you’re going to base your life on, someone else will decide for you. And there is nothing more terrifying or frustrating than living a life based on someone else’s beliefs.
I guess the best advice I can give you (after I just wrote 2,000 words of other advice, naturally) is to get to know yourself & simultaneously allow yourself to become someone you never thought you’d be – within reason, don’t go and become a serial killer. It’s crazy how much easier life becomes when you know yourself. It’s crazy how much easier life becomes when you allow yourself freedom to be whoever – no strings attached, no boxes to fit in, no checklists to fill out.
Ohhh, there are a million other things I want to add (am I at 23 yet?!). Advice about roommate drama and going to professor’s office hours and not eating ice cream for dinner every night of freshman year. But also about sad realities I wish I could hide you from: how the world is a hard place to be these days, especially for a girl. Statistically as a college female you’re at a higher risk to be sexually assaulted. Statistically, 2 of the 10 of you will be a victim of rape. (It took me a while to type that sentence, because it terrifies me.) And regardless of your gender, there are college shootings and drunk driving accidents and life can be so, so scary. But those things are out of my control, and they are out of yours, too. So know that I love you. And I’m here for you. And life can be so rough but it won’t ever be too much. Because you can rise above, you can make it to the light at the end of the tunnel, and you can survive whatever comes your way. Even when it feels like you can’t, you can. You can. I can promise you that.
Welcome to college, girl. I’m so proud of you.