I've written quite a few pieces about how I'll always long to return to the good old days of my freshman year, but I don't think I've ever stopped to "give" my younger self a helpful word or two. I think this may have to do with the fact that I believe that life goes on, but now that I've actually stopped to look back at the past year, there's one advice I had known sooner.

"Don't convince yourself not to be active outside of school because it's freshman year. It's important to start building your status early," people would say.

I'll admit that I'd always thrown those words in the back of my head with the rest of generic advice found on motivational calendars or in fortune cookies, so it really only hit me during the end of ninth grade how little I had progressed outside of school compared to some of my friends. Academically, I felt proud of where I stood, but my extracurricular category seemed to be, well... lacking. I listed out in my head how many clubs and activities I was involved in, and it seemed to be a comfortable number for me. But going back to how much my friends were doing, I suddenly felt that I wasn't up to their level.

Another side piece of advice: don't compare yourself to others. This method of comparing myself to people with completely different lives proved ineffective in motivating myself to do better because I was shutting myself down more than I was being encouraging in my pursuit of joining more extracurricular activities. There's a fine art to figuring out what's best for your future, and in this case, the number of clubs I was in meant nothing compared to how far I'd come in what I was currently doing.

I remember joining Odyssey for this very reason. A close friend had mentioned applying to the team, and the fact that she is an inspiration to me convinced me that maybe Odyssey was a good idea on my journey to finding more outside hobbies. My love for writing, which I had kept to myself for a few years, finally branched out once again and has made me feel happier in general.

So now that I have the chance to reflect on the one year I've been with Odyssey, I realize that yes, it's obviously important to start joining clubs early, but that's because continuity is key, not quantity of activities. Colleges like seeing you take on leadership positions in specialized areas of interest, not just joining a bunch of clubs across the board just to stand out in the extracurricular area.

I wish my younger self knew that knowing what you take an interest in is important, but I want to remember now that the key to success is working hard for what you love. My achievements are a direct representation of who I am, and it's nice to see how far you can come when you do what you love.