Fourteen years ago this week, when I was just about the same age as Five, I was wandering around the same campus, pouring over the same blue course catalogue, filled with a similar sense of awe and excitement and trepidation. And if I could go back and talk to my 17-year-old self, these are the Top 5 nuggets of been-there-done-that back-to-the-ivy-covered-ivory-tower wisdom I would share:
1. Revel in it! This is maybe the only time in your life when your most significant duty is to learn new things, stretch your brain and become a more complete person. Try to let that sink in, and enjoy every delicious minute.
2. LOVE the Semester System. Life in college gets crazy. Each term starts off with a bang, and builds into a frenzied crescendo of activity and obligations. In the weeks between Thanksgiving and holiday break, you'll probably feel like there isn't time to breathe. And you'll probably be right. But then, just like that, you'll wake up one
3. Pick your passion. This one is tough -- at one level, I want to say "try everything!" At the same time, I think you'll be happier if, from the din of political clubs and theater groups, animal rights societies and juggling guilds, you're able to find one or two things to do really well. Maybe choose ONE thing to which you really want to be devoted, and then cram the remaining space in your life full of bits and pieces of everything else? This isn't something I ever figured out, and I still struggle to focus my energies in a meaningful way. I'm not sure this is actually very good advice... Moving on!!
4. Date, (with caution!). This goes for you, too, Five. Dating was, without question, the best and the worst thing I did in college. The funny thing is, I kinda knew it at the time. The year I spent dizzy with love for 19-year-old (future) Mr. One was one of the most amazing and growth-filled times in my life. I knew that he helped me to be a better version of myself, which was an amazing gift during that terrifyingly malleable time in my life. Later, after my True Match graduated and I convinced myself I couldn't possibly spend eternity with the dude who had been my first real boyfriend, when I was suffocating in a relationship with a too-old, too-needy grad student, I knew it was a bad use of my time and energies. But I didn't have the backbone to tell him that, which was really unfair to both of us. If only he hadn't have been so dang persistent. And good looking.... Anyway, listen to your heart and then do what it tells you. And if you're not sure what it's saying, listen to each other.
5. Be/come yourself! College shouldn't change you. But it should give you the space to grow and become more completely the person you really are. Shed those parts of you that were adopted to make someone else happy or emphasized to help you fit in somewhere you may never have belonged in the first place. Explore new things and satisfy your curiosities. Seek out friends with whom you are appreciated as your authentic self, and then treasure those relationships. I have a hunch that as you settle into the person you really want to be, you're each just going to become more and more delightful/amazing. I can't wait!