Since yours truly has recently come down with a bad case of senioritis and sits through class pondering existence most of the time, I thought I would tell you, the beautiful young generation, a few of the things that college has taught me.
When a girl from a tour group asked me if she should come to Hopkins, I hesitated and she acted as if it was proof that she shouldn’t, but no question worth asking has an answer that doesn’t require at least a moment’s hesitation. It has been a bildungsroman, a becoming, through it all. And this is what I learnt.
1. Don’t aspire to be what you don’t want to be.
I’m a big fan of making lists of what I want to be and a lot of the times my lists included a point about “Have a clean and tidy room.” That was, until one day I realized that I don’t really want to be a person with a really clean and tidy room. All I actually want is for it not to be disgusting. Don’t take your aspirations to the extreme out of dumb perfectionism!
2. If you can get over someone, do it.
Don’t go all John Green “it hurts because it mattered” if you are quick to get over someone. Don’t deliberately dramatize your life, don’t think up inner dialogues such as “everything is different with him” or whatever.
Don’t think about someone just because you have no one else to think about at this point in your life. It is a sure way to create feelings you don’t actually have and make heartbreak last much longer than it has to.
3. Make new friends.
Like someone cool? Call them, friend them, invite them, spend time with them. Or at least try. Deliberately choose the people you want to hang out with at this point in your life. Always seek out new cool persons and if you like them, follow up and maintain the friendship.
4. Don’t say forever or not forever.
Take it day by day. If at this point, you’re doing exactly what you want, why think about anything else? If at another point in time you find that you’re not doing what you want, you’ll have good memories and can easily (or not so) leave. Then is then and this is now. Speaking of memories,
5. It’s cool to say you regret nothing, but if you actually don’t have any regrets, you’re living too much on the safe side.
Mix it up and shake it out. Do it for the stories. But then again…
6. If you are 100% sure no good will come of it, DON’T do it for the story.
If you are debating, though, always go for it.
7. You’ll know if he/she likes you. Promise.
No signs or metaphors or symbolism needed. Just interest in what you have to say, and that look in their eyes (you know that look). Oh, and actions. Trust me, you’ll know.
8. If a book/movie bores you, send it to hell.
I don’t care if it’s a classic, popular, or whatever. Obviously, do the reading for class. But don’t waste your free time on things you don’t like. Same goes for people.
9. At first you need to be radical. Then not so much.
If you are making changes, at first you absolutely need to be radical about them all. For example this year I decided I was not going to take any naps and at first went to bed at midnight and woke up at 8 – religiously! Literally minute by minute. Now, however I am less strict about it all and I still don’t take naps. Start big, then you can be flexible. Ever heard of inertia? It works in all aspects of life.
10. The third cookie is always less delicious than the first one.
Stay hungry, stay foolish. Establish a balanced workout and nourishment system that works for you.
11. You need to be selfish about where you want to go.
It is a well-known piece of advice to ignore the haters/general public. But you also need the strength not to care what your mum, dad, aunt, friends, anyone else thinks about your morals, choices, manners, career, relationship. It’s not going to be easy, but if they really love you, they won’t care.
Think about it this way: Why would you want to have them if they love someone who is only 50 or even only 28 percent you? You need to be brutal about doing you or you’ll end up somewhere they want you to be instead.
12. Be ready for Productivity Police.
If you were questioned about what you did today, how much of the time would be spent on random lingering and Buzzfeed? Make each minute count, stay active, be wise. Or soon you’ll get old and saggy.
13. Be informed about politics.
You can vote however you want. You can start a revolution. But you need to be informed about the reasons! There is a saying: “people who are smart enough not to go into politics are punished by being ruled by people who were not.”
These are our royals, and you need to keep your eyes open. You employ them to make the country suck less. Make sure they are the right choice.
14. If you are going to be an atheist, make sure you don’t create other gods.
Regardless of your religious beliefs, in all forms, God is really about the idea of the beginning and unifying love. Feel free not to believe in the concept, but don’t replace it with anything else: people, situations, yourself, things, knowledge, talent, anything. Don’t worship anything at all if you’d prefer that. (It’s difficult. Believe me, I’ve tried.)
15. Don’t have an addictive personality.
Whether its drugs or alcohol or sex or your education, don’t get obsessed. Life is all about a balance. Balance makes you happy. Try not to be categorical or fanatical, especially at the expense of yourself and others. It won’t lead to happiness.
16. Don’t bash what everyone loves. Don’t praise what everyone praises.
Everyone is over the mainstream/cool dichotomy. If you are going to express an opinion, make sure you have taken the time to evaluate and form it yourself. It is also perfectly valid to admit you don’t have an opinion on an issue. I wish more people knew this.
17. Accept the unhappy ending possibilities.
Every dream/wish has a part that depends on you and a part that doesn’t. Do the part that depends on you. Don’t worry about the rest.
Some people are not talented or smart enough to do x or y and, yes, that some people may include you. Remember, Van Gogh died without selling a single painting, but I bet so did 2328 other painters whose names we don’t know. Maybe your best is really not enough. But first give it your best shot – it’s the only way to find out.
Float through life. Most of your issues are ridiculous. You’ll be alright, you’ll survive. And even if you don’t, quoting Chicago, “in 50 years or so it’s gonna change you know…But ain’t it heaven nowadays?”
But to you, dear reader, I would advise you not to take anyone’s advice too quickly. When you do something an unusual way or get excited about something mundane, causing the upperclassmen to roll their eyes, neglect those dinosaurs. You’ll have time to be jaded by experience. Know that when we get drunk the adult way, not too much or too little, but just the right amount, or when we walk the familiar routes again and again without ever stopping to look around, we are all slightly jealous of you. We are comfortable, but you have the alluring luxury of excitement. Maybe it is the only true way living, the touristy way: making an effort to remember, to try, and to transition. The “eureka” moment is the search for the “eureka” moment. There are no tricks, treats, and shortcuts. There is only you and your college stories to make up.
What would you tell your freshman self? Tell me in the comments.