May the good life be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you’d have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you’ll always stay
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young
— Rod Stewart
It was June 13, 1990 and this was our senior class song. As I prepared to take my final walk across the stage at my school’s auditorium, I remember those lyrics vividly. We were and always will be forever young. If I could write my 18-year-old self a letter, I’d tell her to stay positive, remember the world is her oyster, and there’s absolutely nothing that she can’t do if she puts her mind to it.
Then I would look around to make sure my parents couldn’t hear me, I’d look her straight in her eyes, and I’d say, “while all of those things are true, you need to know some more important info. And sister, here it is.”
- Your college professors are an important part of your inner circle. They will one day write you letters of recommendation. They can also be a great source for a part-time job on campus. They know the people who can tell you if your financial aid was approved. It’s in your best interest to keep them close. The only thing you have to do is attend class and do your work regularly.
- Give yourself a curfew, even if you don’t have a curfew. You technically don’t live at home anymore. You are truly on your own. No one is going to tell you to come in from that party by midnight when you have a class the next day at 8 am. So you need to give yourself a curfew. See #1 again.
- Sometimes it will be okay to break that curfew. Be responsible, yes, but don’t deny yourself the social life and fun that the college experience is built upon. Midnight pancakes with friends, chat by the reservoir (or another nearby body of peaceful water), and the occassional mid-week sorority or fraternity party. Use good judgement and have a great time.
- Decide on your personal boundaries now. Most people (including your 20-something self) will set personal boundaries as a reaction to being hurt. It’s far better to be proactive with the boundaries. #AskMeHowIKnow
- Get involved in clubs and organizations at school. While I would love to say that my academics helped develop my school pride, that’s only part of the story. It’s the friends, the sorority sisters, the newspaper staff camraderie that caused me to rep school gear 27 years later. Last year, I wrote about the fun I had at my college reunion. You can read about it here, and trust me, it was all that and a bag of chips.
- Build on your spiritual foundation. The same God that is guiding you now is the same God that will guide when your life comes crashing down in front of your eyes. It’s better to get to know Him before the crisis occurs.
- Unplug. Pay attention to the small things in life. They really do end up being the big things.
- Call your parents. Text your parents. Thank your parents. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about this.
- Let your your parents make a fuss over you when you go home. I didn’t understand the importance of this until about four years ago when I was dealing with a thyroid cancer diagnosis. Don’t be like me.
- Understand that money management is intentional. You need to maintain that intention for the rest of your life. Definitely apply for financial aid and make wise choices when it comes to using student loans. One place to explore your student loan options is Earnest.
- Interpersonal relationships work better if you concentrate on being the best person you can be, instead of making the other person best the best person they can be. Out of respect for a newly and still ever-developing coparenting relationship with Mr. Ex, I’m just going set this right here without going into details. But trust me, this was a lesson I only learned within the past 10 years. Do the math.
- Your prince charming is not going to ride in on a chariot and sweep you off your feet. He is probably not even going to be the original “type” that you’ve casted for yourself. He is going to be a real person, with real thoughts, and real feelings. He will be your friend, your confidant, and sometimes it will feel like he’s your worst enemy. The bottom line is he is a real person, not a fairy-tale character.
So tell me, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?