Have you ever wished you could hop inside your DeLorean, go back to your teenage years and give yourself some sound advice? I do ... at least twice a week.
So I decided to make a list of things I would tell my pre-college self if I could. Clearly I won't have access to a time machine any time soon, but my hope is that some young readers on the cusp or in the midst of college will take some of what I say to heart.
Don't worry, I'm not here to tell you that youth is wasted on the young or to begin any sentences with "When I was your age ..." I just want to share some honest lessons learned and some things I would do differently the second time around. And if you're a parent or grandparent reading this, then maybe you'll pass it along to your kids or grandkids.
1. Spend less time obsessing about grades and more time figuring out what you love to do.
Take that ceramics class, that creative writing seminar, that late-night improv workshop. The truth is that in 10 years, you won't remember what you learned in your accounting class unless you're an accountant (and in that case, you'll learn it on the job). It likely won't matter. What will matter is whether or not you ever figured out what kind of work you love so much that it never feels like work.
2. Don't be afraid to enjoy your summer vacations.
I'm all for hard work, but there are years of working your butt off ahead. For now, balance hard work with sitting on campus lawns cracking jokes, hanging out in student lounges with good food and great company and being just plain silly all summer long.
Laugh a lot. Daydream as much as you can. And enjoy that feeling of being invincible that flows through your veins. You're not invincible, but it's okay — every now and then — to think that you just might be.
3. Make your first "I love you" count.
Don't say it because someone told you it was time to say it. Don't say it because your boyfriend or girlfriend said it first. Say it because you mean it.
There's a great line in the movie P.S. I Love You: "Watch out for that signal, when life as you know it ends." If you do it right, the first time you say "I love you" should mean just that ... that life as you knew it is quite different now.
4. Stop worrying so much.
I can't stress this one enough. Grades, whether or not your best friend is two-faced, that fight you had with your boyfriend, that your parents don't like your major — learn now to let it bounce off of you. You'll be much happier in 10 years if you can master this today.
This is especially important if your parents don't like your major but you really do. Go for it — you're building your dreams, not theirs.
5. There's always enough time.
Swing by your best friend's house party, even if you have nothing to wear. Go for a run in the park, even if you're tired. Get to know random students, even ones you think you might not like so much — they might surprise you. (And even if they don't, you'll learn something from them, I promise.)
There's something about seeing the world through young eyes that's just different — it's less tarnished, less hardened and more colorful in so many ways. See it now — as much of it as possible — and remember every bit you can.
I didn't do many of the things I listed above, partly because I didn't listen to people who gave the same advice to me, but mostly because I'm not sure I really took the time to think about the things I'd one day miss.
Don't make that mistake. Think about it all. I assure you that someday you'll thank yourself. And if any of you create a time-traveling DeLorean in the future, I have first dibs.