When I was 18 years old I went away to college. 1100 miles… away. Even though it was the furthest I had ever traveled from the very small town I was from, I had almost no fear. My parents, amazingly, drove me all the way to Georgia, got me set up in my dorm and said good-bye-for-now.
For the first time in my life I could do whatever I wanted (as long as that included going to classes). I made friends, got my first real job (I am a horrible waitress, btw) and learned my way around the city (on foot, no car). College was a lot of hard work (understatement). I worked up to 8 jobs in one year, one grant and a few student loans paid tuition but supplies and housing were up to me. I’m not sure I would have made it another year as a starving art college student but for all the good and bad experiences I went through, I am proud that I finished and got my degree. Maya Angelou spoke at the graduation (unfortunately, I was too young at the time to appreciate that).
That was nearly 17 years ago and although I value the experience I’ve gained in my field with a job that I like, I can’t say I am where I want to be. Over time my armor has been chipped away. Maybe I am just a more practical person now or not unhappy enough to make a huge move? I have more responsibilities than I did as an 18 year old but really, I don’t live much differently. I work and pay bills, I live small, and independently. My mom still sends care packages (even though I am definitely no longer starving!) I never had a “cushion” when I was in college and I still don’t. So, what’s the diff?
You know those writing prompts where you are supposed to write to yourself, the you from five years ago, or ten or whatever? I hate those, I tear up almost immediately. I have a huge amount of empathy for that person. The me that struggled during college, endured an abusive relationship followed by a humiliating divorce… and so on. But, in the interest of fearlessness I will bullet point a few things that I would say to that brave young (brilliant) me that occupied the first 18 years of this life.
- Forgive yourself, often.
- Worry less.
- You can’t control everything.
- People will let you down, but don’t give up on people – let go of the crappy ones.
- Life is not fair, it doesn’t work that way.
- Your time is just as important as theirs (and vice versa).
- Not everyone is going to like you, that’s okay.
- Speak more slowly, make eye contact.
- Tell your parents “thank you” more often.
- For gawd sake EAT something.
I could expand on these but there is no need, I know what each are referring to and almost all of them could still apply. The important thing is I could type them all out without getting a lump in my throat. Okay, okay almost all of them – #4 is a bit of a tuffy.
Oh, and thank you Mom and Dad for general awesomeness, and all the ramen noodles.
Love you guys!