A Letter To My Freshman Self

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Dear Freshman Rachel,

How are you doing? Is your room set up? Has mom said goodbye? Are you done crying alone in your desk chair yet? We both know that the wise sage Hannah Montana once gave us some pretty stellar advice: Everybody makes mistakes and nobody’s perfect.

I’m going to give you a warning, though. Hannah never could have prepared you for just how many mistakes you’re going to make.

Right now, you’re barely 18. You’re young and naïve (I say this as if 21-year-old you is any less starry-eyed). You’re pretty damn scared, and for some reason, entirely ready to do whatever other people tell you is the “best” thing to do in college. That’s fair. You’re a compulsive planner and a perfectionist; naturally, college should be no less than an absolutely idealized experience.

Here’s where the warning comes: It’s not going to be ideal. College is going to take more of you than you ever expected.

First off, Zayn is going to leave One Direction. You may not care about that now because you’re still pretending to “hate” 1D, but one day—one day soon, Rachel—you’re going to care. You’re going to care a lot. And he’s going to leave you when you need him most.

More importantly, however, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make out with that random friend-of-a-friend boy at your very first party because you think you have to (Newsflash: You don’t). You’re going to get bangs—again. You’re going to neglect an introductory poetry class that will take up permanent residence–and not even offer to pay utilities–on your transcript. You’re going to be friends with people that turn you into the kind of person who sucks air from a room by talking too much, who speaks just to speak rather than to really say something.

You’re also going to lose a lot of your principles: You’ll be selfish and abandon people who need you just because you need to be free of it all—friends, boyfriends, any sort of intimate relationship. You’ll have sex without a condom. You’ll choose a boy over a friend, and not regret it. You’ll use Dad’s connections to get an internship, even when you said you’d never want to be given something you didn’t earn.

In a few short years, you’re going to become an entirely different person. Take a good look in the mirror now. Not only will your hair be shorter than you ever thought, but in three years’ time, you’ll be almost unrecognizable. You’re going to lose that softness—the metaphorical kind, not those baby cheeks (Those are here to stay, and you’ll probably be carded until you’re 35). Somewhere along the line, between water bottles of Svedka and morning-after bagels, you’re going to lose your hope and happiness. You’re going to lose Grammy’s locket, at the Homecoming dance no less. You may even lose your spirit for a while.

You know what, though? You’re going to be all right. Because sometime later, once you’ve realized who you don’t want to be, you’re going to find yourself again. All of those times when you did things because you thought you should like kissing boys who wear cargo shorts, going to “in” parties or drinking things you really don’t want to drink, will one day be in the past. You’re going to be new and utterly different—not at all the woman you thought you’d be– but someone pretty strong. Someone who craves to be around people, who wears matching pajama sets and who calls her mom at least every other day. And she’s doing just fine.

College may take a lot out of you, but it’s going to give it all back in completely new ways.

Yeah, don’t worry freshman Rachel. You’ll be OK.

Senior studying English at Boston College. Will always be found wearing cat socks. Still searching in vain for the world's best mac and cheese.

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