It’s September, so lots of sweet young 18 year olds are headed off to their freshman year of college. Even the ones who were babies in diapers yesterday who I used to spend my Friday nights hanging out with while their parents had a (now I totally get it) much-needed date night. To add insult to injury, next year will mark me being out of college for TEN YEARS, which is making me feel super old. However, it’s also forcing me to reflect a lot about what I actually learned to prepare me for life. They say college is a time to grow, learn to be independent, find out who you are. And they’re not wrong. But college, for me, was also about making messy mistakes and learning important lessons, both in and outside of the classroom.
So, I’d like to share a few; maybe as advice for those of you who are embarking on your first college year, maybe as a laugh for those of you who went through it with me, or maybe as a way to remember your own experiences. Here goes:
- It’s really important not to burn down your apartment complex. First, even if you’ve done laundry all your life but are now using a different machine, THERE’S ALWAYS A LINT TRAP in the dryer. Always. Don’t just chalk it up to, “Well I think the dryer’s kinda crappy because I’ve had to run the clothes through it EIGHT TIMES and stuff still isn’t dry.” And don’t feel too bad when your dad laughs forEVER and never stops telling this story. Also, the 3 inch thick blanket you pulled off the lint trap when you finally found it was kind of shocking, so maybe keep that to yourself. Second, I know that frozen pizza was super tasty and an easy weekend dinner for yourself, but TURN OFF THE OVEN. It does not need to stay on at 500° for 12 hours. And last, when trying to recreate the donuts your crazy 5th grade teacher used to make every Friday, just remember that the oil does NOT need to be boiling to fry your little lump of buttery dough. It just needs to be hot. Also, when in doubt, throwing said boiling oil and the charred black piece of would-be donut on the front lawn while screaming hysterically because of the smoke seems to be a good way to handle the situation.
- Never again (probably) in your life will you have a free membership to a gym, so USE IT. I gained the freshman
fifteenforty because I didn’t have year-round sports to keep me in shape and I actively ignored everything my mother taught me about good nutrition. My sophomore year I got it together a little bit because none of my clothes fit and I took a lifeguarding class for my PE credit that required me to swim a 500m freestyle in order to pass. So, bonus points for your gym if it has a pool; it’s a great way to get in shape!
- Eat some vegetables. Just do it. Listen: Very Berry Captain Crunch and Spaghettios are NOT a food group. They might taste good for a second, but I promise, you don’t need them. They do weird things to your insides. Eat some green stuff everyday. Your post-college mom body will thank you in the years to come. However, a spoonful of rainbow chip frosting straight out of the can is never a bad choice.
- Learn some things outside your own culture and interests. College is a great time to explore different ideas, meet all kinds of different people, learn the other side of the story you might have believed your whole life. I remember people kind of scoffing at me when I chose to take World Religions instead of History of the Bible, but I’m so glad I did, because being able to see the world through different eyes is an important step in cultivating empathy.
- Find your people, and hang on tight. You meet so many people at college, and for people like me, who cannot remember someone’s name five seconds after they say it, it can be a little overwhelming. I was constantly worried about which group to belong to and who to hang out with and what clubs to do. But I learned that you can’t, nor should you want to, be friends with everyone. Find people who will love you despite waking up in the middle of the night after a Grey’s Anatomy marathon asking, “Do you want me to scrub in??” and embrace a quality-over-quantity view of friendship.
- If you ever find yourself in the midst of something that doesn’t bring you joy, it’s okay to stop and find something new. I started out as a business major. My college had a very good business school and I was completely clueless about what “business people” actually did. So I sat through some economics and a business calculus class, and EW. Boring. So I switched to elementary education, which was exactly the right choice for me. Since then, I have employed this lesson quite frequently, to the South Beach Diet, to running, and to listening to rap music. Also, I’m learning (slowly) that it’s okay to abandon books as long as I’ve given them a good chance.
- And last, Don’t feel like you ever have to apologize for who you are. You made it to college, away from most or all of the people you went to high school with. You can totally leave whatever persona you created there behind (unless you’re a completely secure college freshman in which case you should probably write a book on that or something). You have a blank slate. So you’d rather stay in and read that novel you just started? Okay, do it. You’d rather take 8am classes to have some free afternoons? All the more power to you. You’d rather not join a sorority? Don’t let that grown-ass woman in the TCU parking lot make you feel bad when she finds out you’re not in a sorority and puckers her face and says, “ohhhh,” and drives away like you’re some kind of alien. (I have nothing against sororities BTW, they just weren’t my thing.) Be you. Once you figure that out, it feels great.
Now that I’ve been out of college for the better part of a decade, I wouldn’t choose to go back. I’m so in love with my life right at this moment. But I can (and do) appreciate the coming-of-age experiences that college offered me. So, live it up, you bright-eyed freshmen, you’re going to learn so much!
Currently Reading: I’m Judging You: The Do-Better Manual by Luvvie Ajayi. Luvvie is a hysterical Nigerian blogger-turned-author who is basically just telling it like it is. She writes about light-hearted things like always being late and how to not be stupid on social media, but she also has some really powerful chapters on racism and privilege. I’m learning so much reading about these issues from a perspective completely different than my own. It’s very eye-opening and thought-provoking.
Currently Cooking: Dove Jalapeño Poppers! Dove season started last Friday (let’s not talk about how I briefly thought there was an active shooter in my neighborhood and hid in the closet for a minute), and the hubby brought home some meat for us. He filleted and butterflied the breasts, salt and peppered them, and we stuffed them with a slice of jalapeño and some cream cheese seasoned with a little garlic salt. Then we wrapped them in a half slice of bacon, because, duh. They baked for about 40 minutes at 400° and they were AMAZING. I’m not a huge fan of hunting, but when I get some free (and delicious) meat out of it, I try to keep the complaining to a minimum.
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Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.