5 Things I Would Tell Freshman Me

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My roommate Katie and I cheesin' in our hall Freshman year, dressed up for a social.
my own photo
When I think back to my Freshman year self, the one overarching adjective I would use to describe my feelings and behavior is terrified. Freshman year I was scared of everything. Scared of going to parties. Scared of being alone on a Friday night. Scared of meeting new people. Scared of relying too much on my high school friends. Scared of professors. Scared of classmates. Scared of who I was and what I would become now that I was out from the protection of my hometown and my parents.

I don't live with regrets because I have the mindset that your life is one big learning lesson, and you need both positive and negative experiences to shape who you will become. In the spirit of learning and looking forward to graduation (HOLY CRAP), I thought I'd share 5 things that I would go back and explain to that tiny, meek, terrified little Freshman me:

One \\ It's cool to care. Something that stuck with me since Freshman year was a comment a Senior said to me at one of our many early meals at Chi O. She said "we never use the words sisterhood or sisters." It wasn't necessarily the comment that stung me, it was the snarkiness with which her voice oozed. Yes, I think there are a lot of aspects of Greek Life that are ridiculous and over-the-top (painting coolers, sorority squats, using the word "Grandbig"), but something about not being allowed to call each other sisters hurt. Because sisterhood to me means being able to rely on each other. It means you share a special bond with other girls in an organization that is built on the principles of growing and nurturing strong, independent, smart young women. Part of that progress is growing in community with each other, with our sisters. It's cool to care about each other. Don't believe the lie that being bored, unaffected, unexcitable, and chill is enviable. This concept applies to other collegiate opportunities as well: seek your passions and pour your heart into them. Get excited about whatever you get excited about. Work really hard and your caring will pay off. The bored guys and girls will become what they are: boring.

Two \\ Choose quality over quantity of relationships. In college you will suddenly find yourself constantly in the presence of other people, overwhelmingly so. First and foremost, people are more important than anything else in your day: more important than school work, more important than applying for things, more important than your own needs. With this in mind, you have the duty to be kind to everyone, but the right to invest in positive relationships. In an age where we measure our worth by Instagram likes (as much as I don't like to admit it, this is me), having a giant posse of people surrounding you constantly is desirable. But it is more important to surround yourself with people that love and support you and contribute to your well-being. And you'll do the same in return for them. This won't be easy. This means investing time, making sacrifices, stepping into other peoples' shoes, and always, always being kind.

Three \\ Start every day with prayer. Whether you are religious or not, spending a few minutes in the morning to center your head is so important. Drain your mind of all impeding thoughts and spend time being intentional and mindful of how you want to spend your time that day. I have wasted way too many days wrapped up in the recesses of my mind and my to do list and my problems to get anything productive accomplished. Time worrying is better spent being mindful about how you want to live your life. Prayer is the way I choose to get there.

Four \\ Say yes to everything. This is one of those bits of advice I received before heading off to UGA, but am just now learning the meaning of. Saying yes to everything doesn't mean getting in trouble, it means allowing time in your day to participate in stuff that comes up. Go to dinner with that roommate that texted you at the last minute. Spend time chatting to that guy from your Spanish class. Go on random road trips, stay up too late, sign up for a 5k, try that new bar. Don't be afraid to initiate stuff, either. Don't wait around for people to invite you, make them say yes to everything.

Five \\ If you learn nothing else in college, learn to be yourself. 
On my wall at home I have a sign that reads 'In a world where you can be anything, be yourself.' My mom gave it to me after one of my childhood dance recitals, and she later said: "you try so hard, Anna, stop worrying and just be yourself." I've thought about that plaque throughout college often because, honestly, I had no idea who I was. I couldn't be myself because I didn't even know what that girl looked like. I was paralyzed by self-doubt and worried that I was uncool for not wanting to party or immature for liking things like Broadway musicals. When I say, "learn to be yourself in college," know that knowing yourself isn't going to come in a day. It probably won't even come in the 4+ years you'll live in Athens. What will come is a comfort level and a healthy sense of self-love. Learn to appreciate your talents and what you bring to the table and what you like. Learn to face your fears, learn to be brave. Learn to let go of the things that bother you and learn to learn from other people. Learn to distinguish between constructive criticism and opinions from people who don't know you. Trust your gut and know that you are worth it. You are worth every unique interest you have, every little quirk and kink, every act of kindness you bestow on other people. As a Freshman I want you to know that self-knowledge and confidence will come. Right now, focus on learning everything about how you operate, what upsets you and what brings you joy. You're on an amazing journey.

PS: More powerful advice from Taylor and a thank you note to your Freshman year roommate.
PSS: Katie, you made the blog!!!!! Look how stylish we are!!!

What advice would you give to your Freshman year self?

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