I really loved my college experience. After being a rule-follower at heart all through high school (I remind my parents regularly how easy they had it), I really embraced my independence and the freedom to make my own choices in college. Mostly good ones.
I loved that I could feel myself coming alive, like I was learning who I was while slowly morphing into the adult version of who I’d always been. By graduation, I felt full of wisdom from the last 4 years and so sure I knew everything I needed to know to move cross country and enter adulthood. And now? It’s amazing to look at and process how much I’ve learned and grown and evolved since then.
In honor of all the graduation pictures I've been scrolling though on social media this week, I’m embracing nostalgia with open arms. All week I’ve been mentally comparing where I was 5 years ago to where I am at this moment in time, and wondering where I’ll be 5 years from now. In that spirit, I’ve made a list of some of the nuggets of truth I’d love to send the 22-year-old me who was getting ready to move across the country alone and dive head first into real life adulthood, blissfully unaware of what the next five years would look like.
If you could go ahead and imagine this list being read to you by Morgan Freeman that would be great. It’ll really capture the mood I’m going for.
A Few Truth Bombs I'd Love to Send Through Time to My 22-Year-Old-Self:
- Surrendering to “I have no choice” is generally a cop out; it's almost never true, and almost always means you need to summon the courage to do something brave.
It’s easy to feel stuck in a crappy situation, like there’s not a great way out. But usually, there’s a way out. Sometimes it means being honest with someone when it hurts. Sometimes it’s having that conversation that’s uncomfortable and stomach-churningly hard, because the payoff is worth it. Sometimes it starts with admitting to yourself that you do have options, and giving them all due consideration. Whatever the case, very few situations are permanent and irreversible. Make a U-turn if your gut says you have to, no matter how far down your path you may be. In the words of Joy the Baker, “You’re not the kind of girl who settles. Keep not settling."
- Sometimes your instincts will yell at you, and sometimes they’ll barely whisper; know how to listen.
If I was in charge of things, I’d make sure our intuition came with clear, legible subtitles. But that’s not the universe we live in, and all we’ve got is an inner compass that tries to alert us when we’re in need of some course correction. Those signals can take on the form of a weight on our shoulders, a twinge in our stomach, or a murmur in our core. Learn what to listen for, and let that instinct guide you to the choices that feel right, even when the people you love and respect try to tell you their way is better. They mean well; ignore them anyway.
- Investing in relationships with the people who matter will take effort, and sometimes you’ll tell yourself you’re too busy or tired; invest in them anyway, and do it wholeheartedly.
I can pretty much guarantee you you’ll never regret the time and energy you spend fostering the relationships that fill your cup. Identify the people in your life who make up your tribe - the ones who get you, love you, and support you - and make sure they know that they matter to you. Pour love and energy into cultivating and supporting those relationships in spite of the obstacles, and a web of love and support will develop around you.
- A little foresight and proactivity go a long way.
I’ll admit, making some wrong turns and having to figure out how to get back on track can be the best way to learn some of the most valuable lessons. But! Some fundamental pitfalls can be avoided with a little bit of foresight and some basic planning. You owe it to yourself to be take responsibility for things like your health and your finances before they become major issues. The task of building small, healthy habits now is so doable, and much easier than having to undo years of lazy decision-making later. Create a simple budget (and stick to it!), find a method of exercise you enjoy and do it often, stock your fridge with fresh foods than came from the ground, and ask for help when you need it.
- Caring for the people and things you value isn't enough; building a life that feels rich and full means investing in a relationship with yourself.
You can’t wait for a “someone else” to swoop in, check in on your emotional state, and make sure you’re on a path that aligns with your values and goals. Committing to developing a relationship with yourself over time and nurturing your confidence will equip you to follow you compass, assess what’s working and what isn’t, and find the courage to pivot when you need to. Decide what this looks like for you, and put some of the basic pieces in place. Journal or introspect regularly. Have a passion project at all times, big or small, that energizes you and fosters your creativity. Commit to regular self care. Set goals, and let them evolve when they need to. Be gentle with yourself.
If you could send a few truth bombs to yourself 5 years ago, what would some of them be? Did I forget any big ones? Do a little digging and let me know - let's compare notes.
And congratulations, graduates! Big things are coming your way.