Everyone always said to me how "life goes by so fast," and I'm sure my sassy 14-year-old self probably rolled her eyes. Well, I'm here to tell my sassy younger self and many others that the people who tell you that are right. Looking back, I never realized how quickly I'd go from learning how to drive to studying for the ACT. Or even picking out my first homecoming dress to walking across the stage at graduation. It all happened in the blink of an eye. Maybe not a blink, but much faster than I ever anticipated.
Fast forward even further past high school graduation to where I am now. A junior in college who just scheduled her classes for her final year of college. Although I still feel like my nervous 18-year-old self, I'm actually 21 with many big girl decisions ahead of me. I wouldn't change many things about my college experience at all, except for learning a few things a little sooner.
First, I wish that someone would've told me that it's OK to change who you are or were.
I spent a lot of my early college life feeling like I was "fake" for not being the same person I was in high school. I never loved the person I was back then, but I felt like I had to continue to be her or everyone would say "college changed her." But they're totally right. College did change me, and I'm incredibly proud of the way it changed me. So, I wish I knew that it was OK to really start fresh. As corny as it sounds, I wish I would've thought it was OK to "find myself" as all the teen movies say.
Secondly, I wish I would've actually listened when people told me to focus on my friends and not boys (or girls).
I spent so much time forcing an unhealthy relationship that sometimes I forgot how much fun I should be having while at college. I'm not saying that you shouldn't be with someone if you've found someone you truly are happy with, but early on I found myself forcing relationships that weren't necessary. Relationships that were not as important as the ones I should've been fostering with my girl friends. Thankfully, I've been able to maintain those friendships, but I know lots of college students who lose sight of their friends because they put all their effort into boys. The truth of the matter is, not everyone is as mature as you'd think they should be in college. Spend less time finding Mr. Right and more time just having fun with friends.
Third of all, I wish I would've learned to stay active and never stop searching for my passions.
I say this because it's OK to switch your major. It's OK to not know what you really like or want to do. What's not OK is being complacent. Sometimes I felt like I needed to join the clubs that would look the best on my resume instead of joining ones that I truly enjoyed. I spent a year holding a boring VP position for a club that I didn't even like. Newsflash to myself and others, it's not worth it. It sucked energy from me that I should've and could've been putting elsewhere. I wish I would've joined a bunch of clubs freshman year so I could test out the waters a bit more. I think I would've found things I loved much sooner than my junior year.
I also wish that I hadn't been afraid of staying busy. Sometimes staying busy is what helped me stay afloat. Going to a quick workout class or scheduling a lunch date with friends during finals week actually made a huge difference for my mental health this past year. Many students struggle with stress, but healthy activity is a break for not only the mind but also your body.
Lastly, I wish I would've learned to live in the moment a bit more.
College is stressful. You're always being asked what your next move is. What classes are you taking next semester? What are you going to do this summer? It's OK to not always know. I always felt like I needed a plan. I took an internship a year sooner than most just because I felt like I needed to have this solid plan when I really could've just stopped and used that last summer to have fun. The internship wasn't a bad idea, but it also wasn't something I needed or had to do.
I know everyone hates hearing it, but life goes by quickly. College goes quickly. It's important to make those short four years matter. They don't need to be life-altering, but maybe just a little life-changing. Not everyone needs to find themselves like I did, but maybe there's a piece of you that deserves a bit more attention. I urge you to take a bit more control over what you make of those years and be who you want to. Maybe that person loves to sing but was embarrassed to in high school. Join the acapella group and make yourself happy.