Dear College Freshman,
Three years ago, this day seemed like an eternity away.
The 18-year-old girl curled up on her twin bed and faced the white drywall, sobbing into a pillow and praying her roommate was fast asleep.
She was 300 miles away from anyone who ever cared about her and sure she’d lost her friendship-building skills somewhere on the kindergarten playground.
College was just a bigger version of high school with a couple thousand feet of classrooms and a couple thousand faces she didn’t know.
It took 4 years for her to navigate the rough waters of high school and, she was sure, it’d take another 4 for her to do the same with college.
That, dear freshman, was her biggest mistake.
It’s easy to feel intimidated by a school with 18,000 strangers, but it’s hard to be too worried in a school with 18,000 friends.
It’s easy to believe those 4 years will beat you up and leave you lonely and bleeding in an alleyway somewhere.
Loneliness is beat out by one, and only one, thing—constantly surrounding yourself with people.
I know, I know.
You’re an introvert, right?
You want to stay in your dorm room and keep the door locked because that small talk conversation you might have with a hall mate about the kid in your science lab who keeps clearing his throat loudly is just painfully awkward.
I so know.
How badly do I know.
But there are people like me, seniors who haven’t had to restructure their whole lives to fit in, who are cheering on the sidelines of your life.
We’re waiting for you to do big things and share your thoughts and contribute because we know a secret you don’t: your thoughts are going to change the future.
You’re going to make the world a better place by being in it and living in it.
Not just hiding in your dorm room with ear buds in so no one can tell you’re in there.
Not in the study corral that’s tucked away in the back corner of the library where nobody thinks to hide out.
Not where the world can’t see you shine or hear your music or feel your soul.
No, my darling. You’ve got to step into the sunlight and risk getting a bit of a burn. You’ll be a tremendous asset to the rest of humanity if you do.
Progress comes from screwing up all the time. For three years, I’ve screwed up. And I’ll continue to do so. Not just for one more year, but for the rest of my life.
I’ll screw up and I’ll tell someone the wrong deadline for something I need. It’ll fall back on me. I’ll misunderstand an assignment and do it all wrong. I’ll pretend I know what I’m doing when, in reality, I haven’t the slightest idea.
We all fall down sometimes.
Oh freshman, would you believe me if I said I just want to be your friend?
So badly, I want to take you out for a cup of tea and let you know it’s going to be OK.
But mostly, I want to hear your side of the story.
I want to see the light shine in your eyes when you talk about why you chose this university and what you want to do in four years. I want to hear your plans.
You might not feel like anyone’s listening. Your parents pushed you to apply for scholarships and honors programs and take SAT prep courses and finally you’re starting to breathe and you’d rather be top dog in a small town again.
That’s over for a long time.
But I’m right here. Waiting for you to shuffle up to me with your map and a confused look on your face. I’ll point you in the right direction and take a snapshot of you in my head as you are now.
Because in 4 years, you’ll be someone else.
Squeeze time out of every day. Let busy become your best friend. Hold onto the ones you love—back home and here—and remember them always.
Learn how to talk and walk and communicate in transit. For four solid years, you’ll be in transit.
But I have a bus schedule and I’m waiting for you to show up with a helpless look so we can begin to understand each other.
Mostly, though, don’t underestimate yourself.