A letter to my rising first-year self
Everything I would say to myself last August, if I could
The changes I’ve undergone in just two short semesters at the University are pretty astounding. The person I was in early August has started to feel like an entirely separate person from who I am now. Sure, I still may not have a forest green Barbour jacket, and it remains ambiguous to me whether or not pluralizing “Foxfield(s)” is correct, but I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two.
To that end, if I had the opportunity to converse with the girl I was at beginning of my first year, I’d be sure to mention a few things.
To my rising first-year self:
When you move in to the University, everyone around you is going to seem like they’re having more fun than you. Everyone will make you think they’ve had no problem making friends, they definitively know what they want to study and they find fraternity houses and cheap liquor and fake IDs to be a mere continuation of their everyday lives in high school.
Here’s the thing: they’re faking it — even those kids from Northern Virginia who always seem to run into eight friends on their way to class. They’re not going to say it out loud, but they’re as apprehensive as you are.
You’re going to wish you committed to your state school for a while. You’re going to have yourself convinced you don’t belong here after getting funny looks for never having heard of Jack Rogers (“Is that like, a band?”) and you’re going to wonder if your acceptance letter wasn’t just a glitch in the system.
Don’t be silly. You absolutely do belong here. And those shoes are wildly uncomfortable anyway.
The girl from across the hall who invites herself into your room every so often will be the reason you linger in the dining hall for three consecutive hours because you got lost in genuinely engaging conversation. You will find you have very little in common and yet you are the same. She will hold your hand and let you cry in her arms at two in the morning and she will be the reason you stop seeing yourself as a victim. Hers is the first friendship you will have had in a long time that makes you feel intelligent, powerful and strong. Cherish her.
Bon Iver will make you profoundly nostalgic. Do not allow yourself to listen to “Skinny Love” while in a room by yourself, and don’t let it make you think you miss your drug addict boyfriend from sophomore year. Trust me, you don’t.
If you have a feeling a boy doesn’t care about you, he probably doesn’t.
When you find yourself in bed with one such boy who does not care about you, you’re going to think you can change that. You can’t. No amount of witty remarks and playful quips and feigned disinterest is going to make him love you. The fact is, no one is ever going to love you just because you want him to.
When one of your friends sits on your bed as you’re at your desk staring in the mirror, listen to what he has to say. And when he tells you he’s gay, don’t turn to him and say, “No, you’re not.” You don’t mean that, and you will immediately regret having potentially made him feel anything less than wholeheartedly accepted. You will always admire him for the bravery it took for him to be so honest.
Your parents will be far more supportive and loving than you deserve. You still won’t really understand this, even at the end of your second semester. But your mother gave you the gift of your words and your father will love you and cherish you more sincerely than you will ever be able to love yourself. You’ll tell yourself you don’t miss them, but they deserve the world — and you owe it to them to be the best you can be.
Make sure you turn off your sound before opening your laptop in the library. Revealing your secret affinity for listening to the Booty Bouncers radio station on Pandora to every occupant in the stacks will be more than moderately embarrassing.
By the end of your second semester, you will have learned far more than you realize. But you will still know almost nothing.
In fact, perhaps the most strikingly new understanding you will have gained is the notion of just how little you know — about the world, about yourself, about life and about what you want. And somehow, this is probably the most important and valuable lesson there is.
Victoria’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.