“Although some people blame relationships on destiny, and others on fate, and on some just coincidence, I wanted to let you know I don’t believe in just because. There is a reason for everything, and everyone.”—Alyssa Nunez
“I understand feeling as small and as insignificant as humanly possible. And how it can actually ache in places that you didn’t know you had inside you. And it doesn’t matter how many new haircuts you get, or gyms you join, or how many glasses of chardonnay you drink with your girlfriends, you still go to bed every night going over every detail and wonder what you did wrong or how you could have misunderstood.”—The Holiday (via lovenolongerexists)
As you begin your college experience, I thought I’d leave you with the things that, in retrospect, I think are important as you navigate the next four years. I hope that some of them are helpful.
Your friends will change a lot over the next four years. Let them.
Call someone you love back home a few times a week, even if just for a few minutes.
In college more than ever before, songs will attach themselves to memories. Every month or two, make a mix cd, mp3 folder, whatever - just make sure you keep copies of these songs. Ten years out, they’ll be as effective as a journal in taking you back to your favorite moments.
Take naps in the middle of the afternoon with reckless abandon.
Adjust your schedule around when you are most productive and creative. If you’re nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. It may be the only time in your life when you can.
If you write your best papers the night before they are due, don’t let people tell you that you “should be more organized” or that you “should plan better.” Different things work for different people. Personally, I worked best under pressure - so I always procrastinated… and always kicked ass (which annoyed my friends to no end). ;-) Use the freedom that comes with not having grades first semester to experiment and see what works best for you.
At least a few times in your college career, do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. The night before my freshman year psych final, my roommate somehow scored front row seats to the Indigo Girls at a venue 2 hours away. I didn’t do so well on the final, but I haven’t thought about psych since 1993. I’ve thought about the experience of going to that show (with the guy who is now my son’s godfather) at least once a month ever since.
Become friends with your favorite professors. Recognize that they can learn from you too - in fact, that’s part of the reason they chose to be professors.
Carve out an hour every single day to be alone. (Sleeping doesn’t count.)
Go on dates. Don’t feel like every date has to turn into a relationship.
Don’t date someone your roommate has been in a relationship with.
When your friends’ parents visit, include them. You’ll get free food, etc., and you’ll help them to feel like they’re cool, hangin’ with the hip college kids.
In the first month of college, send a hand-written letter to someone who made college possible for you and describe your adventures thus far. It will mean a lot to him/her now, and it will mean a lot to you in ten years when he/she shows it to you.
Embrace the differences between you and your classmates. Always be asking yourself, “what can I learn from this person?” More of your education will come from this than from any classroom.
All-nighters are entirely overrated.
For those of you who have come to college in a long-distance relationship with someone from high school: despite what many will tell you, it can work. The key is to not let your relationship interfere with your college experience. If you don’t want to date anyone else, that’s totally fine! What’s not fine, however, is missing out on a lot of defining experiences because you’re on the phone with your boyfriend/girlfriend for three hours every day.
Working things out between friends is best done in person, not over email. (IM does not count as “in person.”) Often someone’s facial expressions will tell you more than his/her words.
Don’t be afraid of (or excited by) the co-ed bathrooms. The thrill is over in about 2 seconds.
Wednesday is the middle of the week; therefore on wednesday night the week is more than half over. You should celebrate accordingly. (It makes thursday and friday a lot more fun.)
Welcome failure into your lives. It’s how we grow. What matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered.
Take some classes that have nothing to do with your major(s), purely for the fun of it.
It’s important to think about the future, but it’s more important to be present in the now. You won’t get the most out of college if you think of it as a stepping stone.
When you’re living on a college campus with 400 things going on every second of every day, watching TV is pretty much a waste of your time and a waste of your parents’ money. If you’re going to watch, watch with friends so at least you can call it a “valuable social experience.”
Don’t be afraid to fall in love. When it happens, don’t take it for granted. Celebrate it, but don’t let it define your college experience.
Much of the time you once had for pleasure reading is going to disappear. Keep a list of the books you would have read had you had the time, so that you can start reading them when you graduate.
Things that seem like the end of the world really do become funny with a little time and distance. Knowing this, forget the embarassment and skip to the good part.
Every once in awhile, there will come an especially powerful moment when you can actually feel that an experience has changed who you are. Embrace these, even if they are painful.
No matter what your political or religious beliefs, be open-minded. You’re going to be challenged over the next four years in ways you can’t imagine, across all fronts. You can’t learn if you’re closed off.
If you need to get a job, find something that you actually enjoy. Just because it’s work doesn’t mean it has to suck.
Don’t always lead. It’s good to follow sometimes.
Take a lot of pictures. One of my major regrets in life is that I didn’t take more pictures in college. My excuse was the cost of film and processing. Digital cameras are cheap and you have plenty of hard drive space, so you have no excuse.
Your health and safety are more important than anything.
Ask for help. Often.
Half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at any given moment. Way more than half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at some point in the next four years. Get used to it.
In ten years very few of you will look as good as you do right now, so secretly revel in how hot you are before it’s too late.
In the long run, where you go to college doesn’t matter as much as what you do with the opportunities you’re given there. The MIT name on your resume won’t mean much if that’s the only thing on your resume. As a student here, you will have access to a variety of unique opportunities that no one else will ever have - don’t waste them.
On the flip side, don’t try to do everything. Balance = well-being.
Make perspective a priority. If you’re too close to something to have good perspective, rely on your friends to help you.
Eat badly sometimes. It’s the last time in your life when you can do this without feeling guilty about it.
Make a complete ass of yourself at least once, preferably more. It builds character.
Wash your sheets more than once a year. Trust me on this one.
If you are in a relationship and none of your friends want to hang out with you and your significant other, pay attention. They usually know better than you do.
Don’t be afraid of the weird pizza topping combinations that your new friend from across the country loves. Some of the truly awful ones actually taste pretty good. Expand your horizons.
Explore the campus thoroughly. Don’t get caught.
Life is too short to stick with a course of study that you’re no longer excited about. Switch, even if it complicates things.
Tattoos are permanent. Be very certain.
Don’t make fun of prefrosh. That was you like 2 hours ago.
Enjoy every second of the next four years. It is impossible to describe how quickly they pass.
This is the only time in your lives when your only real responsibility is to learn. Try to remember how lucky you are every day.
Be yourself. Create. Inspire, and be inspired. Grow. Laugh. Learn. Love. Welcome to some of the best years of your lives.
would you continue to date someone if you knew they did drugs and drank alcohol?
We’re all going to college soon. There are going to be parties and we’re going to drink. It’s college, it’s almost inevitable. Of course, it’s your choice whether you want to or not, but I don’t think drinking is a big deal, just as long as you know your limits.
Drugs on the other hand… that I’m kind of iffy about.
They were like the foundation for an amazing day. To know that someone is thinking about you right when they get up. Or just thinking about you in general. I miss the giddy smile I would get when reading them. I felt like such a little girl smiling ridiculously over something so miniscule. But those simple good morning texts did mean a lot to me. I loved going to sleep at night and having something nice to look forward to in the morning.
Although I’m not really searching for anything right now and just seeing what happens, I guess I just miss the feeling of someone thinking of me, you know?
You don't have to answer this if you don't want to but I'm curious, did you see your breakup coming?
I did. But I would shrug it off and try my best to ignore it. It hurt too much to think about and because I was naive and so in denial and in love, I just didn’t want to believe it. I guess that made it a hundred times harder when it really did end.
You’ve become a story I can tell people but I would rather not share, at least not right now when my scars have yet to be healed completely and my sorrow yet gone. I wrote some of my best pieces about you, about us but I never considered it a skill- I sought it to be the passion stripped from my skin to bones because that’s what we were. And it feels so new and frightening to be writing in past-tense. I can no longer be raw and poetic because there’s still a little bit of anger in the way you left me to fend for myself. But then again, that’s what we were, too. Selfish and completely absorbed in the poison we sipped on; I’m surprised we are alive.
I could have sworn that the way we met would have been the perfect beginning of a fairy tale to tell the kids we planned to have. And better yet, to tell them that their names had been set in stone when their mother was still nineteen and their father twenty-one. They would have had your hair and my eyes, we would tell them. It would have been perfect that way, wouldn’t it? If we were able to tell them that we had over came all of our flaws and mistakes, all of our arguments and fights- quiet and loud. We fought in such a routine that it was almost as if we fought to make up, the harrowing in our voices, the pitch that made our lungs dry and our hearts stale. But it was the after-math that we turned to for sanctuary; the tight-clenched wrists when we made love; the quiet apologies muttered in clandestine; the “I’m so sorry baby”s that we over-used and over-looked; it’s everything we took for granted after an over-due reality check.
And I guess somewhere along the way, we allowed all of the madness and craze fill the spaces between the walls that engulfed us at night. And sometimes when it thundered, we’d both be wide awake thinking the other was asleep. Maybe that’s where we went wrong. It wasn’t a quick process though I wish it had been. Instead, it was a slow drawn out prolonging of “should have”s and “why didn’t you”s that led to the assumption that the fire had simply died out. But it never really died, no. It couldn’t have, for us. We were about the “fire”, the passion, the magic- the overwhelming love that drove us to be destructive, manipulative and cruel. I don’t really know what happened to be honest.. but one thing is for sure: we still loved the living hell out of each other even after we were done. We are done, though.
I remember our first date that failed because the line was too long and neither of us were really hungry. So in improvisation, we sat in the space of your car, parked on the curbside of a park, talking until the windows fogged. We got along right away. There was no awkward tension or inhibition. There were a lot of “me too”s and “I always felt that way”s. We got each other so well that I had the wrong impression that maybe we’d become the best of friends after that night. But instead, we became lovers, too.
If magic had existed, it was with him. Our first kiss was a Disney princess kiss, the kind of kiss that “makes blue cartoon birds chip and swirl in the sky, their beaks holding garlands”. Even car rides felt exhilarating. I had never known what feeling “infinity” meant but I could swear I did with him.
We shared too much together. Our need for each other, our sorry scars. Somehow we made sense no matter how unconfirmed or crazy our connection seemed. And our story should have ended there, with the ending credits rolling as the audience assumes we lived happily ever after. This is the part where people would applaud and go on to believe that first love can last and the place where we see ourselves where we planned; me in my white dress and you walking up the way while Shania Twain sings, “You Are Still the One”.
And maybe that’s why I hung on so dearly. Maybe that’s why I couldn’t let go for so long, why I acted out of my character and became somebody I promised myself I would never be. Maybe that’s why I embarrassed myself the way young girls sometimes do, maybe that’s why I wanted so badly for it to work out long after the truth was so apparent.
Our last fights had been a continuous battle of who was right and wrong; until the both of us had realized that the fight we had for each other had been replaced with nothing but aimless blaming and criticism. And towards the end, he finally said to go, to leave, that it wasn’t working.. and the 16 year old in me, that still believes in fairy tales, shook my head violently, “No, it isn’t perfect”. But I had known he was right. He knew that I knew, too.
I really don’t doubt that I still know him better than anybody else and I don’t doubt that he still knows me like the back of his hand. But I can feel my transformation, as an individual now without him and as a woman. Things change fast and change can be good, as long as you allow it to be. I can feel it in my bones that I am becoming somebody I recognize again, somebody I can love. And that was one of the biggest downfalls for us; we loved each other but had forgotten to love ourselves. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to know him; with every day, I can feel the distance grow and the both of us growing up, apart. We needed to grow up, someday. It would have hurt the same, regardless of how or when or why. We had always believed in the statement, “everything happens for a reason” and wondered why our paths had crossed and we had met. I’m starting to understand the reason, now.
He taught me so much about life and love, so much about myself and about others. We shared, with each other, things that we had never spoken out loud. And that feeling will never change even after we do. He helped mold me into a better person for the next time love comes around again- I know what to do, what not to do and how much of myself I should really give. And I guess I’m writing this all out in hopes that people will understand that life doesn’t stop for you to wait around hoping for things to stay the same because frankly, they won’t. And people you can’t imagine living without, sometimes, will leave. People will give up on you. People do change. But you can’t let it destroy you or hurt you so much that you forget about your worth and value. It hurts like hell right now but I promise you the feeling after the process of healing is worth it. And you have to let yourself love again, like you’ve never been hurt.