Three years ago I wrote a letter to myself. It was an assignment given by the school to all the incoming first-years. I’m sure that the majority of the people my year totally ignored this assignment; nobody checked up on us so who could blame them. And it was sort of a lame assignment. I guess it was more of an exercise than an assignment.
I remember getting the same assignment as a high school first-year, which I did because we were forced to write them in class, but it was not a helpful experience because all I wrote about was how the authority was making us do this dumb assignment. Probably.
But when it came time to write a letter to myself as an incoming college first-year, I was totally on board. I wrote a motivational letter to myself, full of first-year energy, quoted some of my favourite bloggers, and shared the letter on my blog as well. Some parts of that letter I wrote three years ago were a little cringe-y, but maybe one day I’ll find those parts endearing.
It’s interesting to see how my attitude has changed over the years. Most obviously, my excitement and motivation has declined drastically. During my junior year, I was selective and stingy about where I put my effort, I was constantly complaining about how the liberal arts education wasn’t preparing me with practical skills for the real world, I didn’t see the point of doing what I was doing, and I was tired of the small college bubble that only felt like it was shrinking, tired of seeing all the same people in all the same places. I wanted to be done with academia but at the same time I wasn’t confident I’d be able to find a job.
And I know I’m not alone in this. In fact, I have a surprising number of friends graduating a semester early, each for their own reasons. I’m not gonna lie, it makes me a little nervous about my spring semester of senior year. But anyways, yeah… excitement and motivation has been low.
But recently I met up with a friend for coffee. She’s two years above me, so she’s been working in the real world for a full year now and is starting her second. There was a lot of catching up to do, and our conversation touched upon several topics, but especially our college experiences and our futures. After our conversation, where I was so full of doubt, I was now full of hope. So I wanted to tidy up my thoughts from that conversation in a letter to myself. It’s probably time for me to reflect on that letter I wrote three years ago anyway.
It’s your last year. You’re tired, you’re frustrated, you’re uncertain, you’re scared. And if you’re not feeling all of these things, maybe there’s something you aren’t doing right. Because you have every reason to feel. It means that you’ve put in effort, it means you’ve tried, it means you might have failed at times, it means you’ve cared enough to give a damn. It can be cathartic to complain and it can be fun to complain, but don’t let that become who you are.
There may be days when you wonder what the point of all this is and what the point of everything leading up to this was. In the face of challenges, remember why you started–you wrote a whole letter about it as a frosh. Remember where you started. See where you are now. It may not be everything you imagined, but you’ve grown and changed in ways you never could have predicted. Those experiences will always be worthwhile. Remember this and be hopeful.
Can you believe you used to think you knew what you were doing? You came in thinking you wanted to be an econ major, then dabbled in international studies, and now here you are doing a computer science and linguistics double major. These moments you think you know what you’re doing are fewer and fewer. So on the rare occasions you think you know what you’re doing, it’s hard not to dive deep. But especially in those moments, be open and continue to actively seek different experiences.
You didn’t come into college planning to make an impromptu trip during the fall break of your freshman year with new friends from college. You didn’t come into college planning to have semesterly sleepovers with your a cappella group, all laying on the ground together in one tiny dorm room with pizza in one hand and drinks in the other. You didn’t come into college planning to buy fourteen cups of bubble tea and surprise your friends with them. You didn’t come into college planning to participate in a hackathon you were supposed to be productive at but then end up doing something much more awesome than being productive.
What are the moments you’ve remembered from these last three years? Which things have mattered most?
Do more things to remember. Do more things that matter. Care about what you do and do it all the way. Listen. Be less selfish. (People say that college is the time to be selfish. But you have no problem being selfish LOL.) Don’t be petty. Let go of grudges.
Cherish friendships and relationships of all different levels. Don’t push them away just because “there’s only one year left and there’s no point.” Just because someone isn’t your best friend doesn’t mean that there’s not a worthwhile relationship there. Love everyone and be the reason people believe in the goodness of others.
Make memories in your apartment and allow your apartment to hold them. Decorate your room. Put up photos. String up lights. Arrange that hat display you’ve always wanted. Have things in your room that aren’t utilitarian. Don’t be afraid to settle in because you’re thinking about when you have to move out.
You don’t have forever. But you have now.