9 months ago, I came to Chatham to begin my "freshman" year of college. I was fresh off a summer of Coca-cola, no sleeping, beach waves, and being with my best friends day and night; I was in no way a feminist, an inspiration, or a girl worth $160,000, but hey, they wanted me, so I was gonna give it to 'em. I said goodbye to my precious, crying little family, put my big girl panties on, and was ready for college. I spent one week in Pittsburgh & felt like I already had it all figured it out, I was gonna be a doctor, I totally got the busing system, and I was definitely immune to all of the bad things that happen to people their freshman year. I wrote a blog called, "20 Things I Learned My First Week in Pittsburgh," I loved life, I was funny, I didn't even have time to miss my mom.
Then I wrote my first college paper, in my opinion, the best paper I'd written to date, had every English connoisseur I knew edit it, and got a B+. A B fucking plus. I'd never gotten a B on a paper, ever. And that was the beginning of real life....
They tell you about your first year of college, they tell you all of the trouble you get into, all of the random boys you'll kiss, all of the mistakes you'll make, all of the bad grades you'll get, all of the friends you'll make, and all of the things you'll learn. (People have really low expectations of first year college students) But they don't tell you how much you change, how much you grow up, how much you lose, and how much you gain. They don't tell you how scary and lonely it can be some days, or how incredibly fulfilling and inspiring it can be other days. I learned a billion and one things this year, about myself, about Chemistry, Biology, English, Feminism, East Asia, and all that jazz, about people, and about life. Here are twenty.
1. I'm really loved in a big way, bigger than I will ever understand or fathom, by God, by my family, by my best friends. I am blessed beyond reason and understanding.
2. I came to college with the two best friends I've ever had already, and I will leave college with those same best friends. In fact, I will have them the rest of my life. If I ever have kids, they'll love them probably even more than me. They'll take me to the emergency room, pick me up, or pay the bill. My parents go far above and beyond the low expectations I have of people, they are real life angels.
3. You don't always have to have a plan, in fact, plans never work anyway, so why bother making one? Do the best you can with what you have in front of you every day, take it day by day. Nothing is ever going to happen the way you predict it, and that's the cool thing about life: you can't predict any part of it. It is always exciting, it is always changing, you can't fight it. Embrace the unpredictability or else, you'll always be miserable.
4. The best things don't fit into pretty boxes. They don't fit into ugly boxes either. They are too big, too special, and too magic to be contained.
5. Learn your limits. Become friends with your limits. Listen to your limits. When your limits say, "Maybe not," they mean, "No." I still haven't really learned my limits, but, I've learned that I should learn them.
6. Say thank you. Write thank you notes. Write thank you emails. Write your friends letters. Leave post its on computer desks. Leave love letters everywhere you go. Hug people. Tell people how nice they look today. Tell people how much you appreciate them. Tell someone, "Wow, you are beautiful." Smile, all the time, every day, even when you're not smiling on the inside. Tell people that you care about them, say it, even when it makes you feel vulnerable. Make people feel good simply because you can, and that is an amazing gift.
7. I am actually considered an adult now, which is weird and I still don't understand it very much. This means I can sign things and do things and people don't then say, "Did you ask your mom?" I am still waiting for most people to say, "Did you ask your mom," all of the time and I'm still asking her, regardless.
8. Coffee solves most problems. Even if it doesn't actually solve the problem, it makes things seem manageable. It is also okay for the baristas to know your name, it is actually preferred. I love Cafe Rachel. Running helps too, just be prepared to trade your cute feet for some hooves.
9. Ask. If you want something, ask for it. If you don't understand, ask someone to explain it. If you need help, ask someone to help you. If you never ask, you'll never know the answer and you may spend forever waiting for someone to give it to you. The worst thing that can happen is that someone says no, someone doesn't give you what you want, and then you know what you do? Refer to 8 and then ask someone who isn't an asshole for help.
10. I remember Tina Noble screaming into a semi-truck driver's window, "PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE." I was never patient until I had no other choice to be. I am not naturally a patient person, patience is not one of my god-given virtues. But, sometimes, patience is the only choice you have. Life doesn't always make sense, it rarely makes sense, and you don't always get to understand what the hell is going on, but you do get to trust and be patient. You do get to believe that there is a light at the end of every tunnel, because there is.
11. Say no when you want to say no.
12. Your story won't look like anyone else's, that is what makes it special. It belongs to you and only you and it isn't supposed to look like your best friend's, or your mom's, or the smartest girl you know's. Life isn't regimented and it isn't systematic, you are not a part of an assembly line, unless you wanna be.
13. I learned that you can make just about every word in the English language offensive, and we are deeply in need of another Women's Rights Movement. If you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to. But I really wanna talk about it. If you don't want to talk about it, don't call someone a pussy. Actually anything you say could trigger it, it's just so DAMN TRUE and NECESSARY TO TALK ABOUT. Meow.
14. You may think you're an overachiever, you're probably wrong. Someone is going to be a much bigger overachiever than you. Get ready, you'll know it when you see it. Just do ya thing, girrrrl.
15. Ohio has an accent. I don't wanna talk about it.
16. People disappoint you and people let you down. Even the best people, even the ones you adore. Everybody fails you at some point or another. We expect people to be permanent fixtures and they very rarely are, and that's okay. Presence may not be permanent but the things we teach each other get to be permanent. I came to college with two people's pictures and I haven't heard from either of them in a very long time. It is okay, it is growing up and sometimes it means letting go so that you can catch better things, or even better, so that you can catch yourself. The cool thing about this rule, though, is that it comes with a silver lining.
17. Someone will surprise you. Someone will reach far above and beyond your expectations, without even knowing it, because that's just who they are. Its okay to have a little bit of faith in people, its okay to trust people a little bit, because, every now and then, people will surprise you.
18. It is gonna be scary and it is gonna be overwhelming sometimes. The to do list will be a shit show and you might have some heavy roots going and you might spend too much time in the library and you might lose it a little bit. It will be okay. On any given day, plenty of other people's worlds feel like they are exploding into ash & dust, chances are you will encounter one of them. Occasionally, it is good to remind yourself not to take life too seriously.
19. Let people help, let people care, let people see the scary parts of you, let people in. WOAH WHO AM I? I KNOW. CRAZY. I'm sorry, be a tough, independent piece of work and make people say, Damn, you're impressive, and if they don't think so, FUCK 'EM. But, it is also okay, to care about people, and to let them care about you, it is okay to say, "Hey, maybe everyone doesn't suck." Because, everyone doesn't actually suck (little known fact.) If you're reading my blog, you probably care about me, at least a little bit, and guess what? I care about you too. Isn't that cool?
20. The grand finale, the last one, the big one, the thing that sticks out above all else...
Feel it. All of it. Every day. Feel pain, feel joy, feel so incredibly happy or so incredibly scared that your stomach is going to fall out. Feel the soreness in your legs with pride. Feel the disappointment in your heart with strength. Feel the burning of liquor down your throat and seriously wonder why this is a form a recreation. Its too short to be numb, to not be present, to be afraid to experience all of the raw intensity that we are afforded. Let it all hit you, every emotional, burning, salty wave, this is life. Never cheat yourself out of the feeling, it doesn't make you weak, it makes you alive.
That's a little bit of a lotta bit.
9 Months later, I get to say First Year instead of Freshman, because I have a vagina. I still love Coca-cola and I still love to sleep. I still have the best best friends plus a few more. I actually think my taste in music got worse, my taste in literature got better. I have gotten on the wrong bus many a time. I can hop from crow to low pushup in one fluid motion and sometimes I paint my nails. I'm not a Biology major, I'm an English and Chemistry major. I still love Stevie Nicks, so I guess I haven't changed that much at all.
P.S. I got A's on every single paper, in every single class, after the first one, so thank you, Dr. Lenz.