The day I left for school Emily posted a letter that someone had written to the class of 2012 giving them advice for college (I’ll post it at the end so you can read it if you haven’t already. You really should! It’s very insightful). Scared and nervous, having just ridden for over 10 hours in the car, I read the letter. At that moment, the thing I was scared for that most, scared of the most, appeared on my computer screen: “your friends will change a lot over the next four years. let them.”
I had just left all my friends. I had let Abby, Zoe, Katie and Rob. I had hugged them tight and walked into the dark summer night and into my car. I had stood shoulder to shoulder with my Kneesters and tried to create a moment, of which we ended up creating a completely different kind of, but just a beautiful moment. I had walked into my house and shut the door. I had walked down the dark hallway, past what was once Elyse’s room and then Iida’s and then nobody’s and then Grandma and Grandpa’s and now Elyse’s, maybe, sort of, kind of once again. I had remembered that day, those moments in which I walked across the room to Piera’s side and burst into tears, the moment in which Francesca pulled me into her arms and murmured things in my ear that made me feel silly for crying. I remembered walking back down the same empty hall and pushing the door open and not finding Iida in her room. That was the most horrible moment, the worst of all. I remembered the moment that I had kept putting off: pulling Iida into my arms for the last time. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t say what I wanted to, what I needed to, just like in Panama. We had both just cried and held each other tighter. I love you, I don’t want you to go. Don’t leave me. Stay. Please. I can’t live without you. I’m going to miss you. I love you boo. Thank you. Tears, half breathes in, half breathes out. These words, these phrases, they’re just from one of many until laters I have had to say but they are the melody to all of the ones I spoke two weeks and one day ago.
I’m going to miss you. You’re going to be okay. I love you. I don’t want to be alone. I can’t be alone. I need you. You’ll be alright. You can do this. Thank you. I love you. Breathes in, a struggle, always a struggle.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it a million times more: I hate until laters. I hate holding the people I love in my arms and not knowing when I’m going to see them again or knowing that the time is months from now.
But that is life. Change is life, and when I sat in our hotel room 2 weeks ago and read that sentence, my biggest fear: “your friends will change a lot over the next four years. let them.” I almost couldn’t breathe. What if nothing is ever the same again? That’s all I could think.
The thing is nothing is ever going to be the same. Ever, not again. Things are already changing and it’s only been 2 weeks. Imagine 15 more. Just close your eyes. Imagine that.
The point of this post is not to depress anyone, or cause people to think that I am going to come back and not love them. The point is that I realized today that life goes on even when I’m not there and that’s something that is hard to remember, hard to realize. The point of this post is so that when I look back in a few weeks, months, whenever I can remember that if I want to keep my friends, which I do more than anything, I have to give them room to grow so that then I can grow too and when we grow simultaneously, perhaps we will be able to not grow apart. Perhaps we will be able to change together, because change is and will occur. It’s going to happen to all of us. So why don’t we change together and always try and remember that we all have the right to do so?
It’s easier said than done but when you love someone, you will either let them be who they are or you’ll let them go.
dear class of 2012,
as you begin your college experience, i thought i’d leave you with the things that, in retrospect, i think are important as you navigate the next four years. i hope that some of them are helpful.
your friends will change a lot over the next four years. let them.
call someone you love back home a few times a week, even if just for a few minutes.
in college more than ever before, songs will attach themselves to memories. every month or two, make a mix cd, mp3 folder, whatever – just make sure you keep copies of these songs. ten years out, they’ll be as effective as a journal in taking you back to your favorite moments.
take naps in the middle of the afternoon with reckless abandon.
adjust your schedule around when you are most productive and creative. if you’re nocturnal and do your best work late at night, embrace that. it may be the only time in your life when you can.
if you write your best papers the night before they are due, don’t let people tell you that you “should be more organized” or that you “should plan better.” different things work for different people. personally, i worked best under pressure – so i always procrastinated… and always kicked ass (which annoyed my friends to no end). 😉 use the freedom that comes with not having grades first semester to experiment and see what works best for you.
at least a few times in your college career, do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. the night before my freshman year psych final, my roommate somehow scored front row seats to the indigo girls at a venue 2 hours away. i didn’t do so well on the final, but i haven’t thought about psych since 1993. i’ve thought about the experience of going to that show (with the guy who is now my son’s godfather) at least once a month ever since.
become friends with your favorite professors. recognize that they can learn from you too – in fact, that’s part of the reason they chose to be professors.
carve out an hour every single day to be alone. (sleeping doesn’t count.)
go on dates. don’t feel like every date has to turn into a relationship.
don’t date someone your roommate has been in a relationship with.
when your friends’ parents visit, include them. you’ll get free food, etc., and you’ll help them to feel like they’re cool, hangin’ with the hip college kids.
in the first month of college, send a hand-written letter to someone who made college possible for you and describe your adventures thus far. it will mean a lot to him/her now, and it will mean a lot to you in ten years when he/she shows it to you.
embrace the differences between you and your classmates. always be asking yourself, “what can i learn from this person?” more of your education will come from this than from any classroom.
all-nighters are entirely overrated.
for those of you who have come to college in a long-distance relationship with someone from high school: despite what many will tell you, it can work. the key is to not let your relationship interfere with your college experience. if you don’t want to date anyone else, that’s totally fine! what’s not fine, however, is missing out on a lot of defining experiences because you’re on the phone with your boyfriend/girlfriend for three hours every day.
working things out between friends is best done in person, not over email. (im does not count as “in person.”) often someone’s facial expressions will tell you more than his/her words.
don’t be afraid of (or excited by) the co-ed bathrooms. the thrill is over in about 2 seconds.
wednesday is the middle of the week; therefore on wednesday night the week is more than half over. you should celebrate accordingly. (it makes thursday and friday a lot more fun.)
welcome failure into your lives. it’s how we grow. what matters is not that you failed, but that you recovered.
take some classes that have nothing to do with your major(s), purely for the fun of it.
it’s important to think about the future, but it’s more important to be present in the now. you won’t get the most out of college if you think of it as a stepping stone.
when you’re living on a college campus with 400 things going on every second of every day, watching tv is pretty much a waste of your time and a waste of your parents’ money. if you’re going to watch, watch with friends so at least you can call it a “valuable social experience.”
don’t be afraid to fall in love. when it happens, don’t take it for granted. celebrate it, but don’t let it define your college experience.
much of the time you once had for pleasure reading is going to disappear. keep a list of the books you would have read had you had the time, so that you can start reading them when you graduate.
things that seem like the end of the world really do become funny with a little time and distance. knowing this, forget the embarassment and skip to the good part.
every once in awhile, there will come an especially powerful moment when you can actually feel that an experience has changed who you are. embrace these, even if they are painful.
no matter what your political or religious beliefs, be open-minded. you’re going to be challenged over the next four years in ways you can’t imagine, across all fronts. you can’t learn if you’re closed off.
if you need to get a job, find something that you actually enjoy. just because it’s work doesn’t mean it has to suck.
don’t always lead. it’s good to follow sometimes.
take a lot of pictures. one of my major regrets in life is that i didn’t take more pictures in college. my excuse was the cost of film and processing. digital cameras are cheap and you have plenty of hard drive space, so you have no excuse.
your health and safety are more important than anything.
ask for help. often.
half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at any given moment. way more than half of you will be in the bottom half of your class at some point in the next four years. get used to it.
in ten years very few of you will look as good as you do right now, so secretly revel in how hot you are before it’s too late.
in the long run, where you go to college doesn’t matter as much as what you do with the opportunities you’re given there. the mit name on your resume won’t mean much if that’s the only thing on your resume. as a student here, you will have access to a variety of unique opportunities that no one else will ever have – don’t waste them.
on the flip side, don’t try to do everything. balance = well-being.
make perspective a priority. if you’re too close to something to have good perspective, rely on your friends to help you.
eat badly sometimes. it’s the last time in your life when you can do this without feeling guilty about it.
make a complete ass of yourself at least once, preferably more. it builds character.
wash your sheets more than once a year. trust me on this one.
if you are in a relationship and none of your friends want to hang out with you and your significant other, pay attention. they usually know better than you do.
don’t be afraid of the weird pizza topping combinations that your new friend from across the country loves. some of the truly awful ones actually taste pretty good. expand your horizons.
explore the campus thoroughly. don’t get caught.
life is too short to stick with a course of study that you’re no longer excited about. switch, even if it complicates things.
tattoos are permanent. be very certain.
don’t make fun of prefrosh. that was you like 2 hours ago.
enjoy every second of the next four years. it is impossible to describe how quickly they pass.
this is the only time in your lives when your only real responsibility is to learn. try to remember how lucky you are every day.
be yourself. create. inspire, and be inspired. grow. laugh. learn. love.
welcome to some of the best years of your lives.