I’m behind on some key happenings.
My baby brother graduated high school. Boom. 18 years just happened.
I’ve been lost in a wave of “where did time go?” And I’m sure this isn’t the first time that it will hit. As I’ve wasted many hours thinking about what to pass along to him the best thing that I could possibly share would be the sage wisdom that I have accumulated over the six years that separate our age. What would I tell myself at 17 years old graduating high school?
It would go something like this:
College will go by fast. Holy crap. You think four years sounds like a long time; but it’s not. Don’t waste time in college. Don’t think that you have a year or two to figure out what clubs you want to join. Stop assuming that you’ll make other new friends next semester or that you’ll do that study abroad one summer before you graduate. Seriously, you’re registering for freshman orientation on a Thursday and by Monday you’re delivering your graduation application to the Dean’s office. I may exaggerate–but only slightly. Don’t go into your first year of college thinking about all the time you have to do the things you’re interested in. Before you know it you’re putting on a new cap and gown.
Be kind to your body. Somehow there’s an inconvenient overlap between the time you start eating cafeteria food and the time your metabolism starts to change. Take my advice and keep your workout regimen. Oh, and maybe go ahead and start taking a multivitamin while you’re at it. Also, now’s a good time to start liking new vegetables. I can’t judge too much on this front; but given the health history of our family–can’t be too careful with starting early. (Luckily, I think Jake shares my philosophy on this.)
Don’t forget what made you ‘you.’ One of the best things about leaving your nest of a hometown and the comfort of friends who have known you your whole life is the opportunity to explore who else you may be. That doesn’t mean you have to throw away the past though. Find ways to keep the things that make you happy. Just because it seems complicated (remember when I used to sneak into the music department’s practice rooms to play the pianos at Appalachian State?); you should make the effort to keep happy habits. Not only will it help you with stress relief when college inevitably gets a little overwhelming, it’s also going to keep your compass straight on who you are. The person you are is great. But it’s also the foundation. There’s still a lot to find out about yourself, but that includes building onto who you already are.
Push the limits of who you think you may want to be. Now is the best time to try. Try new things, explore interests, test drive talents. A vague interest in theater? Do the free workshop. A flighting thought of being a criminologist? Sign up for that elective course. Want to learn a new sport? Join a club or intramural team. The things you learn about yourself during this phase of life are irreplaceable and they’re going to shape your perspective as you one day decide where life goes longterm. Right now you’re in a test tube; use it to the best! There is no risk. What’s going to happen if you don’t like it? If it’s a class, it’s just one semester. If it’s a club, don’t go back. The gain of learning what things you like and what skills you’re good at far, far, far outweigh the risk. There is no risk of failure when it comes to trying new things. Only the risk of not using the time to the best advantage.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to take classes you don’t know if you’ll like. Don’t be afraid to join clubs that none of your friends are in. Don’t be afraid to scrap old plans or make new ones. Don’t be afraid to actually chase the dream you had all along. Don’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable. Don’t be afraid to own the things that interest you. Don’t be afraid to make new friends. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to have an opinion. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and be an adult.
But be safe. Obligatory, been to college–seen what college can be like. Be smart and realize that those crazy stories you swap about “what happened to this girl who was really dumb…” or “can you believe that happened to such-and-such guy?!” Yup, those people can turn out to be you. Don’t take your invincibility with you.
You can always go home. Life is going to be different from here on out. But the beauty is that there is always still a safe place to land. It might not be the physical place you call home; or maybe it is. Maybe it’s just going home to your parents or escaping to a sibling. Maybe it’s rejoining old friends who have gone separate ways. You can always go home. But don’t use that as the safety net–use that as the recharge button. When things get hard or scary, when you’re not sure where the next turn is; home is always a good place to recalibrate.
Man, I love that kid. He is going to be awesome. In fact, he already is. But I’m really excited to see what holds in the next chapter. Happy Graduation, Jake!