In these past two weeks, I have signed high school graduation cards with nothing more than proud comments and my name. Yet, while I sign these cards as well as receive my own with trademark Halmark sayings of “Be Great!” and “Congratulations” and “You’re a Star!”, I have been wondering what I would write if I had the time to sit down and write all of my experiences on to one graduation card.
So I took it upon myself to write a high school graduation card to my 18-year-old self, just one week before college commencement:
Congratulations, grad! You’re now an official high school graduate and are ready to take on your next chapter. But before you go off into the world of independence and Natty Lite – take a little advice from someone who’s been there:
You will find that college is all about finding yourself, making mistakes, and defining your values as a person. Hear me? This is me telling you that you will make mistakes and you have to be ready for that. Some mistakes will be monumental, some will damage relationships, and some will just cause a really bad headache the next day – but it’s all okay. These mistakes will put you to the limit and test your willpower to get up the next day, put a smile on, and say “I can get through this.” If that doesn’t work – just remind yourself that Britney Spears survived 2007.
It’s okay to say “no” every once in a while. People will not stop being friends with you because you decided to stay in when they all want to go out.
Know that there’s a high chance you’ll fall out of touch with your friends from high school. As it is with all friends, once you go from seeing them every day to seeing them over break, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to work to at it. The longer you wait to pick up the phone or send an email, the further your friends will get from your life. Don’t let the distance become daunting.
Never be afraid to try something new. You won’t know what could be your next favorite activity or hangout spot is until you actively go out and try. Just don’t be too stupid about what new thing you decide to try.
When in doubt – go to bed. While the “nothing good happens after 2 a.m.” isn’t necessarily true, it is always better to call it quits when you’re ahead. Whether you’re drinking or just hanging out, if you’re starting to lose the enjoyment of the night, don’t feel the need to force yourself to stay awake until everyone else decides to go to bed or pass out. I cannot tell you how many fights I have avoided by deciding to go to bed.
If your dream job is the same senior year as it was freshman year – I’ll give you $20.
Do not let your bad decisions cost you your grades. I told you that you were going to make mistakes and failing a class might just be one of them. By the end of your college career, you’ll know how to study and be successful; but it’s hard work to save your GPA from a class (or two) you decided to ignore just because the weather was nice and the beer was cold.
Be careful of the people you decide to call friends. Just because you value them in your life doesn’t mean it’s mutual. Make sure that your friendships are a two-way street and not for the wrong purposes. There’s nothing more disappointing than sitting at a dead-end of a one-way street.
Most importantly, have as much fun as you can. There’s so much you can pack into your years at college, but time is always fleeting. Enjoy every moment of it – and if there is ever a time that you’re not having fun, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions. Are you surrounded by good people? Do you enjoy what you’re studying? Does your diet include more than just wings, pizza, and beer? No matter what the problem is, you have the power to fix it. Don’t blame your misery on others, your happiness is in your hands.
Enjoy your summer, enjoy your friends, and bask in the accomplishment of graduating high school. You’ll do great things.
xoxo, your 20-something-year-old self