Dear Class of 2022 (and the rest of you),
Welcome to college! You probably have a lot of expectations about what the next few years are going to look like. And you’re probably wrong.
And that’s OK! Because that’s my first piece of advice. Be brave enough to be wrong, because being wrong is the best way to learn. We know that girls and women especially have been conditioned to be perfect or be silent, and that has hindered us in our education and work and development as human beings. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making mistakes, and college will provide you with the perfect opportunity to make those mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment, so that when you leave here and need to get it right, you’ll be ready. So go out there and fail fantastically!
But please don’t make those kinds of mistakes. You know the ones I’m referring to—the ones you know are mistakes before you make them. The ones that don’t feel right. The ones that hurt people, whether directly or indirectly. Try really hard not to make those mistakes. Find friends who help you not make those mistakes. Learn what you need to in order to avoid making those mistakes. Plan for the decisions you’ll make in situations where you know you might make these types of mistakes.
Also, do the reading! Please! I know you’re busy and there are a million things to do but people have spent a lot of time writing these books and your professors have put a lot of thought into what information will best prepare you to learn what you need to in class, and if you don’t do the reading, you (or your parents) are paying a whole lot of money for you to get half the education you deserve. So please, read.
Make friends everywhere. Don’t buy into the false narrative that your friends are your sorority or your dorm or your church or your youth group. It’s not true that you can’t make friends in your classes—some of the people who are reading this right now are lovely, wonderful, inspiring individuals who I met in my classes. So make friends in your sorority or fraternity, but also make friends in class and at work and on the bus and in the dining hall and at church and walking across the quad and in French club and at that honor society induction and when you study abroad. You have the great privilege of being on a campus with a diverse student body, and you will not meet all of the incredible people you have the opportunity to meet if you decide to only make friends in one place.
Eat some healthy foods. But also eat all the delicious unhealthy foods. Just don’t make a habit of it. Exercise. Do make a habit of that. Stay up late sometimes when adventure calls. But please sleep the night before a big test.
Listen. You’re going to hear things in college that you’ve never heard before. Some of them are going to be neat and some of them are going to be scary and all of them should make you stop and reassess who you want to be as a human.
Change. You should not be the same person when you graduate. This will scare some people. It may even scare you. But what is the point of education if not to become and become and become?
Find a thing that is not work or school to which you can contribute. Do not place all your value as a human on whether you pass that Chem exam. This is good practice for your life. You are not your grades or your work or your relationship with one friend. You are a wonderful conglomeration of all of these things, and you should begin to organize your life with that in mind.
And then continue to do all of this for the rest of your life. Continue to be fearlessly curious—to dare to make mistakes. To be kind to others and to think about the way your actions impact them. To make friends everywhere you go. To eat some healthy foods and some unhealthy foods because life is too short not to eat the delicious donuts. To exercise and sleep as if your life depends on it, because it does. To change as you learn new things and meet new people. To read every book you can get your hands on and let the stories shape you. And to find the things that bring you joy and do them.
This is how you make a life. This is how it begins.