1. “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.” —Oscar Wilde
I know, I know, it’s a pretty Hallmark card thing to say. But if I had the chance to go back and tell myself one thing, this would be it. No one else is quite like you, which means that how you grow and succeed is a deeply personal thing. The way you study, socialize, and relax might look different from how other people do it. That’s ok! Figure out what works for you. Don’t contort yourself into what you think is most interesting or attractive. Don’t get swept up in what other people are doing. The most successful and magnetic people I’ve met got to the awesome place they are by being no one but themselves. Maybe you don’t know exactly who you will become or what you will do. Here’s an earth-shattering secret: no one does. Being yourself isn’t a static thing, it’s an ongoing process and exploration. If you think you’ve got it all figured out right now, guess what…
2. “The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” —Heraclitus
This isn’t a diss on going into freshman with a clear sense of what you want to do and pursuing it. Some of my friends came to college knowing very clearly that they wanted to pursue art, or medicine, or history, or law. They didn’t change their major halfway through or contemplate hundreds of life paths every time they had to pick a class schedule (like I did). But a lot of my classmates who stuck to a clear path in college are doing wildly different things now than they (or anyone else) expected them to do after graduation. I know art majors who are now in med school, and pre-med kids who are living off the grid and writing award-winning poetry. College (and life) gives us all kinds of experiences we simply can’t predict. You can fight that uncertainty, swim against the current, and exhaust yourself. Or accept that things will shift, not just once or twice, but all the time. That doesn’t mean that every time something is hard or every time you mess up you ditch and run. There are challenges inherent in every field of study, every way of life… but ask yourself: “are these the challenges I want to be engaging with? Does this feel right for me right now?” And accept when the answers to those questions change.
3. “Do not bring people in your life who weigh you down. And trust your instincts … good relationships feel good. They feel right. They don’t hurt. They’re not painful. That’s not just with somebody you want to marry, but it’s with the friends that you choose. It’s with the people you surround yourselves with.” —Michelle Obama
Fill your life with people and ideas that inspire you to be your best self. Life is hard, don’t make it harder by investing your time and energy in pursuits and people that leave you feeling insecure or empty. We all have doubts and fears, but it is important to not be ruled by them, and watch out when others are picking at your insecurities. Be strong in standing up for yourself, and seek out the people who help you do that -- and who you can return the favor for. Building mutually supportive and enriching relationships will help you succeed in and out of the classroom.
4. “Clear Eyes, Full Heart, Can’t Lose” —Friday Night Lights (my favorite Netflix binge in college)
College is a big deal! It’s your first shot at curating your own life. It’s an incredible privilege to have so many options before you, but it can also be terrifying, and sometimes paralyzing. What’s the right way of doing this? Who should I be? It’s ok to be nervous, but remember you can’t control everything, and there is no one way of getting through college—or life for that matter. Adjust your game strategy as needed. Keep your eyes open. Find things to love. Faced with an expanding world of uncertainty and possibility, be kind and patient with yourself and others.
And when all else fails, get a pep talk from this kid:
Thumbs up for rock and roll!