I’ve officially graduated from high school two years ago. Here are some thoughts that I’d like to share with my eighteen-year-old self.
Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Christina,
Congratulations, you’ve survived sitting there as the names of your 738 classmates were called and you finally walked across that stage and said goodbye to your high school life—trust me, this is a victory.
You’ve sent in a deposit to Ithaca College and you’re officially a part of the Class of 2017.
You don’t know it right now but the years to come are by far the happiest and most fulfilling so far.
During your first few weeks, you will be really homesick. That’s okay. You don’t know anyone yet and having to share a bathroom with fifteen other women kind of sucks. It’s an adjustment but things will turn around quickly. For the first time, you aren’t just going through the motions in school trying to get the highest grade, you actually enjoy your classes. You’re actually learning things and it’s wonderful.
For once, what you’re learning about matters. You’re talking about race and gender and economic status and the way these pieces of our identities fit together to inform the advantages and disadvantages we will have in life. Unfortunately, a college classroom will be the first time that you ever get the chance to learn what the word feminism actually means.
Ithaca College is relatively small so it no longer feels like you’re slipping through the cracks like it did at your ridiculously huge high school. The days of sitting on a carpet outside the cafeteria because there isn’t enough room for everyone are over. (Yes, my friends and I actually ate lunch on a rug senior year.)
Because of this, you’re able to really distinguish yourself from your peers—you’re able to focus on yourself instead of competing with and comparing yourself to others.
Freeing yourself from this pressure will allow you to excel in your classes, become a DJ, start a new student organization, and speak in front of state legislators all in your first semester. With everyone’s information and personal business available to you as soon as Facebook loads, it can be difficult to not feel like you need to be having as much fun and accomplishing just as much as those around you—but don’t worry about it.
You’ll be so much happier once you learn how to focus on what you love and how to do those things for yourself instead of a resume or because you feel like it will please someone else.
Here’s another secret, first-year college student ever knows what on earth they’re doing. So stop worrying so much about what you’re doing with your life. You don’t have to have everything mapped out. Instead, let yourself stumble into things that you didn’t know you loved. For example, that politics course you randomly selected because you didn’t know what else to take will turn into your second major. The random writing seminar that you actually shouldn’t have been allowed to take will be the place where you meet your best friend. The random talk on Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights hosted on your campus will turn into something that you actively fight for and organize around.
Unfortunately, you will also stumble into bad things and bad people too. A few months into your first semester, you will meet one of the worst people you’ve yet to meet. My advice is to not blame yourself as much as you do for the things that happen between you. It is not your fault that someone else made the decision to treat you like total crap. Realize that he’s inflicted pain on many people and not just you.
This experience will raise the bar for all future relationships—whether it be romantic, friendship, family, or otherwise.
Suddenly you will have no patience for people who don’t text you back or friends who don’t put in enough effort or family members who make constantly criticize you or people who text throughout dates. Walk away quickly from people who make don’t treat you with the respect that you know you deserve.
A year later you will find yourself facilitating programs on healthy relationships and starting peer education based bystander intervention program.
This will be one of the best things you ever do.
You’re sophomore year is going to be a tough one—parts of it are going to straight up suck. Sorry. But work hard through it anyways because even though it may be incredibly challenging it will be so much more rewarding and transformative.
You’ll realize who your real friends are—and who aren’t. You’ll feel lonely sometimes—but that’s only because you’re removing toxic people from your life. Through everything you’ll become connected with wonderful people. Blogging will become an outlet that will give you the opportunity to live in Washington, DC for a summer. The things that bring you pain with inspire you to take action and that action will direct you towards what you want to do in the future.
Here’s to the next great two years of your life,