On Thursday, my six-year-old sister moved into her dorm at Baylor University.
She’s actually eighteen, but I have her permanently freeze-framed in elementary school.
Somehow, she went off to college without me bestowing upon her all the wisdom I collected over the past four years. I am a despicable older sister.
I started thinking about what advice I’d give her, and I wondered what I wished I had known in August of 2007. I remember my biggest fear was how I was going to make friends. An older friend told me, “Look, everyone else is just as scared as you are, so for, like, the first six weeks, everyone is really receptive to being friends with everyone. They want to be friends with you.” That certainly calmed my nerves, but I still wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster that would inevitably come in the first semester, and I saw countless others who weren’t ready, either. The desperation to make friends and keep them drives a lot of people to a certain type of possessive insanity. You’ve found one person that you enjoy being around, and that person enjoys being around you, and suddenly, your identities are fused. We’ve all been there, to some extent, and if you went to college and are reading this, you’re immediately thinking of the pairs on your campus that demonstrated this creepy codependence. You’re probably also remembering when it happened to you, and you’re shaking your head a little bit, wondering what you were ever thinking.
So yes, Meagan, be receptive to making friends. The friends I made in the first few months of college are still some of my closest and dearest friends. But others of my closest and dearest friends arrived on the scene later, and I’m grateful I didn’t limit myself to only a few exclusive relationships.
College is a weird place. Never before and never again will you live in such close proximity with your friends and colleagues. Because of this, it’s a crucible for your own identity. I promise that in 2015, you will not be the same girl you are now. You’re going to find yourself in dozens of difficult situations that require difficult decisions, and those decisions are going to shape who you are. Yes, you’re going to make some silly mistakes. You will inevitably encounter drama, sleepless nights, bad grades, self-doubt, difficult people, and heretofore unknown temptations—sometimes all in one day.
With that, I arrive at the most important piece of advice I can give you: Be who you want to be. Don’t be confused—this isn’t a trite adage like Be true to yourself or Haterz gon’ hate.
The next four years are about figuring out the kind of woman you desire to be. You have no prior obligations to your high school self, and you don’t need to figure out what you want to do, where you want to live, or which specific person you want to marry. Develop a vision of the character you want to have, of the values you want to be known for, and use those to influence all of your decisions, from the academic to the social to the spiritual. Consider your time in college as a four-year investment in yourself—think about your gifts, talents, aptitudes, and preferences, and do everything you can to hone them. It’s not selfish—it’s responsible. By being intentional with your investment, I have every confidence that you’ll graduate as a self-assured, consistent, admirable young woman with the know-how to back it up.