Dear Freshman Me: Pretzels Aren’t Dinner

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Dear Freshman Me,

What’s up? How’s life? I hope you’re feeling okay right now, but I also know that I would never trade places with you in a million years. That’s not super motivational, is it? Oh, god. Let’s get right into it, okay?

I know that nothing I can say will make starting college less terrifying.

You feel anxious and sad, confused and uncomfortable, scared and lonely. I get it; I really do. But I have a few things I’m gonna say to you regardless because I really do think you need to hear them (even though you’re stubborn as heck and probably won’t wanna listen to me anyway).

First of all, slow down.

You heard me. You wanna know why you always feel so incredibly anxious? Because you’re always in a rush. Whenever you meet someone new or take on a new challenge, your brain runs 3,000 miles per hour trying to stay on top of every interaction or exchange. It doesn’t have to be like that. Just take a deep breath and trust yourself to say or do the right thing. Time is something that will always be constant for the rest of your life—it can’t ever speed up or slow down, even if it might feel like it sometimes. Tell your brain to hop off the treadmill and cool down. This isn’t a race, and there isn’t a prize. Relax, bud.

Secondly, learn your own boundaries.

One of the hardest things about starting a new life in a new place is knowing the difference between pushing past your nerves to try new things and tuning out that voice in your head that’s telling you not to push it too far. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but your very first night of college you’ll have a choice to make that’s gonna stress you out beyond belief: should you venture downstairs to the dining hall all by yourself to eat dinner with strangers or hole up in your room with your oversized tub of CVS pretzels? Going to the dining hall will feel like a big move. Will other first years eat alone? What if I hate the food? What do I do with my plate when I finish eating? Do I just come back up to my room by myself after or do I try to socialize? But, on the other hand, if I eat alone in my room tonight, won’t I just end up eating alone in my room every night? First of all, stop pacing your room. The girl below you does not appreciate that. Second of all, you got this. Turn your brain off and go eat some unseasoned chicken like a pro. And then when you finish, come back upstairs and eat your CVS pretzels in peace.

The last thing I’ll clue you into is this: try to let go of things—or more specifically, people—from home that hold you back.

Keeping in touch with the people who matter to you doesn’t equal grabbing onto them and refusing to let go (don’t pretend like you don’t know who I’m talking about). Don’t keep people around just for the sake of keeping them around. I mean, how often do you get the chance to start over? Take the time to recognize toxic relationships and stop letting yourself put energy into them. I know that Rachel and Kurt and Santana lived together in NYC after graduating on Glee, but come on. Did you get into your school by begging Whoopi Goldberg to give you a shot? No. This is real life. Let yourself move on. I swear on our life that you won’t regret it.

Alright buddy, I’ll leave you with this: You rock. You’ve got this in the bag. Take a deep breath and show this school who’s boss.

All my love,


Lily is a junior at Smith College studying English literature and archival studies. In her free time, you can find her watching ocean documentaries, coloring or listening to podcasts.

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