First off, welcome to the world of college – nothing makes sense, you’re on your own, papers pile on, and food has no regulations. I truly hope that the first few weeks of your collegiate career are off to a positive start. I know during mine, they were not – I cried quite often. If I can be honest with this open letter, I believe that would be of the most useful to you and everyone else because there are some things we need to talk about that most often go unsaid.
First off, your education is the most vital asset to your success as a college student – both academically, personally, and spiritually (whatever that might mean for you). So many times we focus on the academia of college and completely miss the part where we get to learn about ourselves – this weird enigma that committed treason on our spirit at puberty. You might think you know yourself now, but you haven’t even seen the beginning of what you’re capable of
Today’s high schoolers are trailing off to college expecting so much from themselves. They’re expected to play varsity sports, be in the school musicals, play an instrument in the marching band, maintain a 4.0GPA, attend the bizarre book club your mom says is good for you. What does all of this multi-tasking get you? A brain filled with anxiety and the constant thought of never being enough.You won’t be enough when you’re spread this thin. Stop expecting so much of yourself – you’re human.
Too often we forget that fact – we are human.What does that even mean? I can’t define that for you because my definition is, and should be, different from yours. What happens when we forget about this concept is dangerous and unhealthy. We spiral into a nasty world of mental illness that no one has prepared us for.
Think about it – nearly every day we see an ad or something on social media saying, ‘Stick up to Cancer!’ or something of that variant. No one ever says this about mental illness, yet they are both under the same umbrella of disease/illness. I desperately wish that colleges took more time to cover this topic by offering a mental health class. Yes, most colleges have great counseling and therapy services, but not every student has the means to attend these services, nor do institutions have enough resources for a number of students involved at the university.
I need you to know that it is okay not to be okay. There have been a handful of times where my life was quite dismal. I want you to learn how to ask for help and know when you need it, as well.
A few pieces of advice to help alleviate some of the freshmen blues:
Learn to be okay with being alone.
Solitude is the greatest gift you can give yourself. At these moments you learn more about yourself than at any other time. I believe this to be a great component of building confidence, as well. Once you have a life partner and children, you will be craving that solitude every day.
Be patient with yourself.
You are not going to get the answer every single time – I hope you don’t. Make mistakes, learn from them. "Living" is messy – learn to be okay with some messes and know which ones you can be better at keeping tidy.
The grass is pitch black on the other side.
You may think everyone else is doing so good and accelerating at the speed of light, but they’re not.Behind every profile picture is another story not being told.Do not use this concept to build a pedestal of confidence for yourself, but rather use it to learn about compassion, empathy, and privilege.
It’s not a race.
So you failed a class. So you couldn’t get into that one section only offered at the one time with 16 spots and 45 people trying to fill them.Who cares? College is not a race and regardless of where you are at you are always learning.
Yes isn’t always the best answer when someone is asking you a favor or needs help.It’s not always your problem, either. Your guilt is not a justification for your anxiety later on.
Say f*ck it.
Be careful with this one – not everything applies and it’s only for special occasions, but sometimes you need to just say fuck it and move on. Don’t spend the entire day trying to save the world – it doesn’t need saving.
Lastly, spend more time enjoying yourself. Embrace everything. Make yourself uncomfortable. Learn something new. Travel abroad. Do not sit idly by waiting for success and happiness to come to you – it won’t.
Above all, take care of your body – physically, mentally, and spiritually.
With all the best,