Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Letter of Advice to my College Freshman

Kahley -

Today's the day.

We are in Madison, WI with the contents of your entire life packed into the back of the Denali, dropping you off at college. We planned for, prepared for, and saved for this moment since the day you were born. And now it's here.

Leading up to this, I experienced little emotional distress. Maybe it's because you're SO ready to move onto the next phase of your life. Maybe it's because Dad and I know first-hand the fun and excitement that await you. Maybe it's because you attended overnight camp ten years in a row, and we adapted to not seeing you for weeks on end every summer so we know what to expect.

I suspect it's a combination of all of the above, in addition to a great deal of confidence that we've raised a responsible, well adjusted, mature adult.

As you know, I get emotional when you're hurting, or when you're struggling, and currently you're thrilled. So I am too. But you know what I've thought of constantly over the past few nights? Your hair.

I know. It's weird.

I keep wanting to just hold onto your hair, brush it, braid it. That's why last night I suggested we watch Bachelor in Paradise. Not for the guilty pleasure of watching desperate single people drink too much and hook up while we rip them unmercifully, but so I could hold your hair in my hands one last time. And you unknowingly melted my heart when you asked me to braid it this morning.

Naturally, I can't send you off without a few pearls of wisdom. Some of these I wish I had known when I was a college freshman, some are common sense, and some are just good ol' reminders about living life. These aren't necessarily hilarious - for the funny, go to your Tip Jar advice.

Believe in yourself, Kahley Ann. You'll do great things.

1. Go to church, early on in the semester. The sooner you go, the more likely you'll return.

2. Smile. Everyday, to everyone. It makes you feel better, and the people around you happier.

3. Plan ahead, but realize this: all good plans are flexible. Be OK with changing the plan, or bagging it all together. Sometimes the greatest joys in life happen spontaneously, when you stop trying to control every step in your plan. Read Proverbs 16:9.

4. Be confident. Yes - for the first time in your life you're surrounded by smart individuals. Remember that you're smart, too, and you belong here. You worked hard for it, and you earned it.

5. When things seem impossible, ask yourself: "Is anybody going to die as a result of this situation?" Then reassure yourself it's not as bad as you think.

6. Try something new, at least once per week. Try a new food. Visit an art gallery. See a play. Meet someone new. This will be easy at first, but you might have to practice it as time marches on.

7. Be humble in all you do.

8. Jealousy is a weed that will grow uncontrollably and cloud out kindness. Pluck it out.

9. When in doubt, overdress. You'll look far sillier wearing yoga pants in a room filled with suits than you would in a dress.

10. Practice a positive attitude, even in situations that suck. Humor helps.

11. Listen to and process criticism and negative feedback. Realize that the person dishing it out is not attacking your character; rather, they're addressing your behavior. Learn from it. Get better as a result.

12. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals, but conscientiously seek out and befriend those who oppose your belief system. You'll either see things in a different light, or you'll deepen your own convictions. Maybe both.

13. Take calculated risks.

14. Everyday, take 15 minutes (minimum!) to do something you love.

15. Always ask for help when you don't have the answer after trying to figure something out. Don't waste time for the sake of your pride.

16. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

17. You don't have to be best friends with everyone. Find a few good ones who will:
  • Make you laugh
  • Listen
  • Thoughtfully advise
  • Challenge you intellectually
  • Dance with you
  • Look up to you
  • Like to party
  • Prefer to stay in and watch movies
  • Shop with you
  • Be brutally honest
18. Exercise a minimum of three times per week for 30 minutes, even when huge tests loom. 

19. Be kind to everyone. You never know who will be in your next group project. 

20. Guys make great friends. Find a few good ones. You'll always appreciate the honest male perspective.

21. Resist the urge to achieve perfection. You won't. When something is 90% complete, it's done. 

22. Over the next four years, you will fail multiple times. It's not the end - it's a bump. Learn from it.

23. Drink water. Eat vegetables. Brush twice a day. Floss. Never go to bed with makeup on. Moisturize. Your 30 year old self will thank you.

24. Think: Would my Mother approve? If not, neither would your future employer. So don't do it.

25. Have fun. Seek it out even when you're in the midst of something crappy. Fun is always around the corner. 

And finally, call your mother at least once per week. No text or snapchat can substitute the sound of your sweet voice.

Despite being bored out of your skull with all of your friends already settled in at their prospective schools, I'm selfishly happy we had you all to you ourselves this past week. I enjoyed spending time with you every day. My favorite moment happened yesterday when we walked out of Panera and I said, "Watch out!" as a car came barreling through the parking lot. You grabbed my hand, like a kindergartner, as we crossed in front of the impatient driver. You immediately recognized the irony. "Mom, I leave for college tomorrow. Why did I just hold your hand to cross the street?"

We both giggled. But sweetheart, you can hold my hand for the rest of your life. I will always be here with mine outstretched, ready to take yours into it, to cross whatever road lies ahead. 

Come home anytime. I love you.


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