It’s been almost 16 years to the day since I lost my dad right before I started my first day of high school. Almost 12 years since I left my home and started college. Writing those milestones down makes me feel a lot older than I am. For the longest time I didn’t believe in having any regrets…but I guess as you get older you tend to have a little more time to reflect which leads to regret.
As I saw a lot of high school students posting their launch into college, I began to think about my time in college and especially that first year. My regrets have come as I reflect on the decisions I made and the ones I didn’t. What I really wish is that someone would have sat me down and told me the following before my first day of college classes:
1. This is not a place for you to discover yourself. Often I hear people encouraging kids to discover themselves and find out who they really are while in College. I realized post my collegiate years that if you don’t know who you are before going, college will chew you up and spit you out. It’s important to have a foundation, so that when the storm of ideas come you won’t waiver, but rather have deeper, richer, and fuller understanding of your foundation. It may not be immediate…but you’re there to flex your brain.
2. College is not a lab to “experiment” in. The great college experience is defined as experimentation. Imbibe this. Inhale that. Watch this. You are encouraged to experiment with people, situations and experiences. This is meant for you to discover yourself (see #1) by finding out what you like and what you don’t like. Post high school, unless you’re a scientist, there is no experimenting to be done. You’re told you’re an adult…you’re not. You’re told it’s okay…it’s not. You’re told everyone does it…they don’t. You’re told no one is watching…someone is always watching. Your best college experience will come not from experimentation…but from the application of the things you were taught of what to do and what not to do. (Trust me when your brain fully develops at the age of 25, after you graduate college, you’ll thank your parents for steering you in the right direction)
3. College is a place to have fun. I’m not going to be Debbie Downer in this whole blog. I had a lot of fun in college. Most of it happened working on a group project outside of class. But I also took a lot of fun elective classes: origin of language, oceanography, meteorology, billiards, wine tasting, map and compass, astronomy, WWII from the Japanese perspective and several more. My advice, meet new people, take new classes, learn as much as possible from a plethora of subjects and challenge your mind and body…don’t run experiments on it (see #2).
4. The decisions you make now, really…I mean really, effect the rest of your life. I know it’s hard for you to imagine that if you only do something once that you will never ever do it again. Your brain however starts to create chemical connections and pretty soon, before you know it, you’ve done it a second time, and instead of an epidemic, you’ve got an addiction on your hands.
5. College is a place for you to have a fresh start. In life you rarely get an opportunity to start over. College is one of these opportunities. Forget worrying about your nicknames. Forget worrying about your nerdy likes. Forget worrying about staying in touch with old friends. Forget that you dress like you’re going to basketball practice. It’s time for you to create new nicknames, find similarities in others you never thought could be a friend, make new friends, and refine your appreciation for gym ware.
7. I wish I would have attended church. I saved this one for last, because this for me is the one that haunts me the most. When I went to college in 2000, I was encouraged on numerous occasions to attend a church that six years later I would work for. But I didn’t start attending until 2004. I’ve often times wondered what my life would have been like if I would have attended church in 2000 rather than 2004. How would my life have looked if I hadn’t wasted those four years discovering myself, experimenting and making bad decisions? I don't know...
I know I can’t change the past. But part of going to college is learning that ignorance is not learning from your past mistakes. So, while I can’t change my past, I’ve learned that I can help others to not make the same mistakes that I made…so class of 2016, please heed my advice! Don’t think you know it all, because trust me I know you think you do after breezing through High School. But be humble, ask questions, and make good decisions because if you don’t…you’re probably going to be one step away from receiving a bad education.