It feels weird, doesn’t it? The uncertainty, the fear, the nostalgia, the anticipation, staring you blankly in the face, and essentially owning your life. It’s all hitting you right now, a week before you’re a walking cliché, crying in your cap and gown, looking at all of your friends for answers you will never find, because they’re lost too. And now is when you realize how wrong it was to waste all of the time you had. Mentally preparing yourself for semester after semester, summer after summer, weekend after weekend—it’s left you with one week, 7 days, before it all turns into a fleeting string of moments that have molded you into whoever you are, right now.
Thinking back to that bright August afternoon, waving goodbye to the family you’ve never spent more than a few nights away from, aimlessly searching for a familiar face, yet knowing that there aren’t any—why is that memory still so vivid? And as you remember the girl you once were, fresh and naïve, timid and alive, impressionable and headstrong, does your growth comfort you, or are you frightened by it? If you survived college, will that be enough for the real world? Will they eat you up, spit you out, only to ask for more? Will you reach your dreams of success, of love, and of happiness? Is it possible to have it all without compromising an important part of yourself? What does it all mean?
Slow down. You’re getting ahead of yourself, which is no surprise—you always have. But this is the time to lag behind and take long strides. Be your own shadow. Slow it all down, because as you will soon realize, time will never be on your side. It will speed away as you’re trying to catch it, come to a sudden halt when you’re 12 paces ahead, and it will never look to you for direction. Stop wasting your efforts trying to control it when there is so much more to be done.
Like, for instance, raging on a Tuesday night knowing full well that you did NOT read the chapters for tomorrow’s class. Take a long hard look around the bar, because there’s bound to be at least five other people who don’t even have the book, and that’s good enough for you. Checking the balance on your debit card and spending your last $20 on alcohol and bed sheets (that will probably fall off of you at some point during the night) for a toga party (that you probably won’t remember much of). You’ll tweet about how broke you are, hashtag “seniorproblems”, and wind up having a great night. Mentally preparing yourself to walk into the library and produce a 10-page masterpiece without using Twitter and Facebook to complain about how loud the people in the library are. You distract yourself a hell of a lot more than any of those freshmen ever could, and you leave with 3 pages, double-spaced, with 2-inch margins. And yes, you feel accomplished.
I could spend hours listing the mindless, irresponsible, and borderline dangerous (we’ve all been there at some point) stunts you’re about to pull, but all you really need to know is that, at the end of it all, you will be fine. For once in your life, you will be spontaneous and free-spirited. You will shake hands with the imaginary college Devil, and he’ll welcome you with open arms, wondering where you’ve been all these years. You won’t be cautious. You will feel everything. You will smile more than you will cry. You will love hard. And trust me on this, you won’t regret a damn thing.
Like every lesson you’ve been taught up until this point in your life, there are a few things you need to remember before leaping into the unknown abyss known as Senior Year:
1) You’re surrounded by great people, but don’t be afraid to meet new ones along the way. The friends you’ve made over the course of these past 4 years aren’t there by mistake, and the ones you leave with will be with you forever. Some friendships will just happen. Others will start small and develop with time, almost making you question how you ever got by without them. No matter how you met them, or when you met them, or why you’ve stuck together all this time, one thing that remains constant is the presence you will have in each other’s lives. There will always be someone to send a nostalgic voice note to, or someone to trade emails and youtube links with while you’re stuck at a desk, or someone to cry with when you just need to let it all out. You’ve finally learned how to sort through the weeds, so stick with the roses you’ve found.
2) Your past does not dictate your future, and you need to stop allowing it to. So you’ve been hurt by someone, so you gave your heart out to a person who didn’t deserve it, so your trust was broken—NEWSFLASH—you’re not the only one. Rest easy in the fact that you are not the first person to be screwed over, and you are certainly not the last. You were burned plenty, but that should not determine how all of your other stories are going to end; and it won’t, if you just get out of your own way. Stop thinking so much. Meet him, get to know him, have no reservations. Forget what you thought you knew about love and open your heart up to what it has the potential to be. Let it scare you. Let it humble you. People can surprise you if you’re willing to walk around with a blindfold for a little while. Let him guide you; you won’t miss a step.
3) Regardless of time or distance, family will always be there when you call on them. And when I say family, I don’t just mean the people you share a bloodline with, but I mean the people you share your soul with. They know the real you. They accept you for the person you are, flaws and all. They fight for you, no matter how poorly the odds are stacked. Your happiness is intertwined with theirs; one cannot be without the other. Your family is inclusive of so many people: Your dad, who will always be your biggest fan, greatest supporter, and #1 guy, hands down. Your mother, who has countless bits of wisdom she can’t wait to pass down to you. Yours sisters, who protect you while you protect them; an unbreakable bond. Your grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—all so proud of your accomplishments and eager for your future. The people who have passed away who inspire you to reach new heights—they’re looking down on you with a smile on their face. They’ll drive you crazy sometimes; but family is family, and you love them for it.
4) You did it. Through all the breakdowns and breakups, midnight study sessions and 15-page papers, Saturday night bar crawls and Sunday morning hangovers, dramatic endings and hopeful beginnings—you’re here, stronger than ever. You stepped into college not knowing the places you’d visit, the people you’d meet, the questions to ask, or the answers worth keeping, and you’re leaving with more than that. You’ve grown into a new person without even realizing it. You’ve embraced the changes, the good and the bad, and you’re ready for the future. Trust me, you are ready.
You’re going to do some amazing things once you leave college. It’s not the end of the road, a thought that has consumed your mind for a while now. You’re starting a new life in a new world that you’ve never been a part of before. You have a million things to learn, a million mistakes to make, and a million dreams to see through. But take this with you before you go:
1) Happiness is bigger than everything else. Never, ever compromise that.
2) Don’t worry about the world breaking you down, because you are stronger than you think.
3) Make time for the right things. We have too little to waste it on trivialities.
4) The not knowing is sometimes better than the knowing. Don’t wish to tell the future.
Do yourself a favor and breathe. Let out all of the negativity, pour yourself a drink (or four), and listen to this song. I promise, you’ll be OK.