For the past few weeks, the graduation invitations have been trickling into my mailbox. It really is a nice break from the constant reminders that I shop way too much! My trip to the mailbox usually goes a little something like this: credit card bill.... credit card bill..... flyer so I can find more things to charge....bill....bill.... (and now) invitation!
It's that time of year and I know what most grads want in return for that invitation- money, money, money, MONEY!!! Especially high school graduates that are gearing up for their first year of college in the fall.
And money is great. Don't get me wrong. But I'd like to also pass along a little gift that they can hold on to - a few nuggets, if you will - from someone who's been there and done that. And like most advice to most people, they'll hear what they want. But it's worth a shot.
*Go away. Not permanently, obviously. You'll get to come back home for summer and winter breaks. But GO AWAY TO SCHOOL. I've had this debate many times, and I won't budge. You may, on the surface, learn the same course material whether you go or stay close to home. But you will miss out on so much. So much! Living at home with mom & dad is probably way cheaper than living on campus elsewhere, but trust me. Your parents have lived with you for a good 17 or 18 years at this point. They are ready for you to leave, even if they don't realize it. So whether college is 30 minutes away or 3,000 miles. Go! And live on campus. It'll be the scariest thing you've ever done this far in your life. But the experience is so worth it.
*Stay. I have you really confused now, and you haven't even went through the process of scheduling all your classes! Good luck with that! But here's what I mean: If you go away to college (and you should), do not....I repeat....DO NOT....come home every weekend. Stay there. Your first few months may be a little difficult to adjust to. Your classes may suck. Your roommates may be insane. If not, maybe you are the crazy roomie. Doesn't matter. DO NOT come home on the weekends. STAY AT SCHOOL. Get involved in a club. Go off campus with some people from your statistics class for a roadtrip. Heck, sit in your dorm lobby with your books all Saturday long eating Easy Mac and burnt popcorn for all I care. But don't you dare head for home. You'll thank me for this advice someday. Trust me.
*Wear flip flops in the shower. If you can't find them, be dirty that day. But NEVER (and I repeat) NEVER enter into those showers without protection.
You following so far? Good. Keep reading. You'll be doing a lot of that in the upcoming years, so don't poop out on me yet.
But beyond that, there is something that feels nostalgic to me when I can say in Chinese: "Thank you" or "Hello" or "I would like you to please bring me a bottle of beer." Here's the funny part. I don't even like beer. But I remember all of that because it genuinely interested me. I may never need to use it in my life, but I think I got more out of that class than I did out of some of my actual Communications classes (and that was my darn major!) So don't be afraid to challenge yourself with something that seems impossible. You could learn way more than you ever intended.
*And challenge your thinking. Take a religion class or a philosophy course. Even if you don't have to in order to graduate, do it anyway. I took a class on Taoism which is a Chinese philosophy. And I found myself reading ahead! Listen, I am a procrastinator to the EXTREME! I never read ahead before that point (or do anything ahead of time, to this day). I'm lucky to get things finished with usually only a few minutes to spare! Company is coming over and the entire house needs cleaned? Ok, I'll start cleaning at about 10pm...the night before. Usually for a 9am flight, I'll start packing at 7. Even if I'd had the trip planned for months! That's the kind of personality I have. But after the first few days of Taoism class, I wanted to continue reading things that weren't even on the syllabus! I was fascinated by it. And quite honestly, most of the time, I'm not easily impressed. So whether it's Buddhism, Islam, or any other form of thought or practice, just pick one (or pick a couple!). Learning a little something about what other people do and why they feel the way they feel is never a bad thing. The world may be a little better place if we all opened up our minds a little more. You don't have to convert. But you'll learn that it really is a great big world out there. And there's room for all of us.
*Call your parents. Remember when I said they wanted you out of the house? They did. I wasn't lying. They don't miss your mess. But they also do miss you. And after my suggestion that you go to parties, they are going to be thinking you are doing things that they don't want to think about you doing. And chances are, you are. But still call them. Or if that's too much, please text them. And not just when you need more money. Call on a random Tuesday, just to tell them you're alive. And tell them you're going to classes. And tell them you are eating more than just pizza and ramen noodles. And really mean it.
*And enjoy this thing they call a higher education. Most of this stuff won't mean a whole lot of anything to you until it's over. The truth? I wouldn't have believed most of it until I experienced it.
But believe this: It will be over before you know it. Those 4 years (2 for some, maybe 6 for others) will be some of the most overwhelming, sleep-deprived, terrible nutritioned, emotionally draining years of your life. And they will be crammed with memories and friendships, more than you can ever imagine. You'll come out of it thinking, "I'm ready for you, World!" And then the real world will actually set in and you'll wish you could have just one more year. So enjoy it--- the research papers, the group projects with students you like, the group projects with classmates you don't like, the internships, the failed exams, the professors who don't take attendance, the professors who do, the dining hall food that YOU didn't have to make, the surprise cards in the mail from your mom, the annoying people living next to you, the extra long dorm sheets that will never fit another bed anywhere after college, and the classes that will leave that one little nugget of something in your brain that lasts forever.
Enjoy it. Because as tough as it seems at the time. It's so worth it.