When I was seventeen, eleven days after graduating from high-school, I started my first semester of college. I had chosen to attend Colorado College in Colorado Springs, because I had good memories of the Rockies from traveling there once as a child, and I thought I would do well in a program that used the “block system” (one class at a time for three and a half weeks.). I arrived at CC a painfully shy, painfully self-conscious young woman. I didn’t drink, smoke, use any drugs, didn’t have a clue that things like NOLS existed, kept my (perfectly lovely) body covered, and was far from well read.
I visited the campus recently, and it made me wonder what advice the current me, would have given the seventeen year old me. Should you, or any young woman, find themselves in a similar position, this is the very incomplete advice I can offer you:
- Stop calling yourself a girl. You have just entered the adult world, and the sooner you start acting like it, take the responsibility that comes with it, and demand the respect that it commands, the better.
- That guy/girl that says “I’m really going to miss you, I wish you weren’t going.” versus “You’re going to have such an amazing time, I’ll be here when you get back.” is not the one. Go ahead and let him/her go. (S)He doesn’t have your best interests at heart, and you won’t grow with him/her they way you need to.
- That thing you’re so passionate about in the world, the one that occupies your mind, and sets you to problem solving at all hours of the day and night? That isn’t likely to go away. Research that. Make connections in the field. Find out what problems haven’t been solved yet, and start talking to others about it. Give up some of your “free time” to it. If someone says you won’t make any money working on it, tell them you will find a way.
- Work a crappy retail job, even if you don’t have to. Serving others will teach you patience, compassion, how to talk to anyone, how to resolve conflict, how to let the small things go quickly, and just how important it is to look someone in the eye and REALLY see them.
- Be bold backed with smarts. You do NOT have to be great at everything, or anything for that matter, but you do have to try things and put yourself out there. Climb a mountain, sing in front of others, get naked in front of others, let down your guard, wear crazy clothes, and do it all responsibly. Test your mettle, so that when someone asks you if you like/want to try something, you can say yes or no with confidence.
- You do not have to use intoxicants of any kind, read, listen, or watch certain things, or play or do any certain activities in order to fit in. Just be you. The people who don’t like you for who you are, aren’t worth your time.
- Learn to comfortably eat by yourself, at very nice restaurants, and in people’s homes. You will need to be able to do all these things in your future.
- Don’t let anyone, not your parents, your boy(girl)friend, teachers, friends, heads of state, and especially your own mind, tell you that you can’t have or don’t deserve the life you want. It is all up to you, and if you want it, you can find a way to build it.
- Be flexible. It isn’t all about you. Others will have needs greater than yours and you will find serving them holds the greatest joy and most satisfaction, even if it means sacrificing some of your own desires. Just make sure you aren’t loosing yourself in the process of serving.
- Stay in touch with the people who build you up now. They will most likely always do so, and will know you like no one else will the rest of your life.
- Love your body. I don’t care what shape, color, size, or disorders it may be or have. It is the vessel that will carry you through life, that will allow you to extend your love into the physical realm with others, and that will be the filter and framework for all of your experiences. Exercise it, feed it well, learn what it likes and doesn’t like, stop fighting it, and protect it with sunscreen, seatbelts, helmets (NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HAIR), and condoms.
There is much, much more, but that should get you started. I left CC after my first semester. I wonder, had I had the above advice, if I might have stayed.