In about six months from now, I will be throwing my graduation cap in the air and calling myself an alumna of the University of Central Florida. Degree in hand, I will be all grown up and facing the real, adult world with very real, adult problems that my college experience may or may not have prepared me for.Terrifying, I know.
With the anticipation of the future that lies ahead, and the nervousness of what’s to come, I can’t help but remember these same feelings that arose as I walked across the stage at my high school graduation. I was 17, with not an idea in the world on what I wanted or who I was. Looking back, I have no regrets at all in my college experience. But here are a few things I wish I knew when I was a college freshman.College education is a privilege, and you should never take it for granted.
My first few years of college, I didn’t take anything seriously. I skipped classes and procrastinated on assignments, and the more I slacked off, the more my grades slipped. My GPA still reflects those first few semesters of carelessness, and it’s nearly impossible to change that. As a fifth-year senior, I wish I’d put more thought into my future, and more energy into my education when I first started college.
Time after time in romantic relationships, I saw myself going through the same motions – giving every guy a second and third chance, making excuses for them and telling myself that compromise was a part of every relationship. It wasn’t until I finally focused on my own happiness and self-fulfillment that I realized how much I was relying on others to be happy. I wish I’d known at 17 that you can’t really love anyone else until you fully love yourself.Don’t buy into the pop cultural view of beauty and womanhood.
Growing up, I was obsessed with these flawless and seemingly effortlessly beautiful women in glossy magazines. I spent a disgusting amount of money on clothes I would never wear and make-up I would never use, and racked up nothing but credit card debt to show for it. To be honest, I still struggle with my appearance on a daily basis. But now, that struggle is figuring out what suits me rather than what looks good on other girls, which is a struggle I’m much more satisfied in fighting. I’d tell my younger self not to compare my behind-the-scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.Always keep an open mind. Looking back, there are so many things that I’ve done that I said I’d never do – joining a sorority being one of them. I’ve probably missed so many opportunities and closed so many doors because of assumptions and biased conclusions. Joining a sorority has been one of the most beneficial aspects of my life, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat if given the chance. I’d tell my freshman self not to knock anything (within reason, of course) before trying it. Give yourself more credit!
The biggest downfall I’ve had in my life is being overly analytical and hypercritical of myself. More often than not, I told myself I wasn’t smart enough, or athletic enough, or ambitious enough, or whatever, to do something I wanted to do.
Yet in the past year, I’ve accomplished more personal goals than I ever thought possible, and I’m happier with my life than I’ve ever been. I’m beginning to believe that I have the potential to succeed at almost anything I do, if I try hard enough and put my mind to it.
So to my 17-year-old self: whatever you do, don’t give up. You are stronger, brighter, lovelier and more powerful than you know, or may ever know. When life makes you lemons, smile and make the sweetest lemonade you’ve ever tasted – or just eat the lemons with sugar on top. Regardless, those lemons – and your life – are really what you make of them.