Don’t we all wish we could’ve done some things differently?
In all honesty, I think my 18-year-old self should give me some advice. She still has some light in her eyes. I truly embody the Taylor Swift lyric “How can a person know everything at 18 but nothing at 22?” and I wonder what my 18-year-old self would think of me now. But with time comes learning, and while past is past, I still wish I could reassure my younger self that everything would be alright.
At 18 I was on my last year of high school, about to enter my dream program at my dream university, so excited at all the new that was about to happen.
Well, all this “new” came at me like a truck. To be fair, a pandemic was new. It was just the opposite of exciting. And after my first low grades and a rejection that truly, unfortunately, shaped my entire college life, I was henceforth sick and afraid of the new. But here I am, looking back, changed by time like water smoothing stone, hoping everything I learned could help someone else.
SO, TO MY 18-YEAR-OLD SELF:
Resist the urge to underestimate yourself, but keep the humility.
First things first—you’re going to think you peaked in high school. And that’s
kinda not true. Kidding aside, college is a shark tank of all the smartest, most ambitious sharks that want the same things you do. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, to think you can get swallowed up by all the doubt and shrink into yourself, believing that there’s no space for you to explore and pursue your dreams. But don’t.
You’re where you are because you, and other people, had faith in your ability and your promise. So keep that faith locked in. There’s enough space in the world for you to learn, to chase your own dreams, and to do what you love.
You can’t give up the moment it gets hard. You can handle more than you think you can.
Speaking of underestimating yourself, I’ve always been so guilty of simply passing over opportunities because I think I can’t do it. Or that it’s not “worth it.” I’ve said “okay na yan” more times than I can count. I lower the bar because I’m afraid of pushing myself to the limit only to fail. But I know that you can’t see the view from the top of a mountain without making the climb.
And I don’t tend to regret many things, but looking back, I know I was too complacent and never pushed myself or my work to its best. Unfortunately, I find that I still do that sometimes. But we work through it. You power through the anxiety and the fear of failure, and you’ll strike gold.
Open yourself up to the possibility of enjoying and learning from new experiences.
Some of my favorite classes were electives that I took because I was drawn to it, despite the potential of a bad grade, or classes I thought were unnecessary. Some of my lowest grades were in those kinds of classes, too! But as a self-proclaimed nerd, I found that the learning was worth any bad grade. Also, some of my favorite experiences in student organizations were in positions I didn’t even think I qualified for.
I learned so much from those classes and org experiences, and not just about the lessons and the kind of work I did, but about myself and all the possibilities I had in front of me. How would I feel if didn’t let myself be open to the possibility that an experience, while presumably out of my comfort zone, could be great for me? I’ll have spent so much time wondering what if or being ignorant about something that could help me understand myself and the world I wanted to partake in.
Surround yourself with good people, and be the kind of good people you want to be surrounded by.
My thesis partner, whom I knew since freshman year, once said to me that they regretted that we only became close during our final year, and while the pandemic (and unfortunate circumstances at the time) did fracture newly-formed friendships, I was lucky to have found friends that will stick with me long-term. I don’t have to tell you to be a good person or a good friend, but you do have to choose friends wisely and with an open mind.
“Time goes fast. Eat it up, but chew slowly.” – Emily Wickersham
This is a shot of the driveway I got lost in the very first time I stepped on campus—the same driveway I spent about 20 minutes in every day both my freshman and senior year before going home. I don’t think it changed much, but I definitely have.
Four years of college went by just like that, and I’ll always feel a sense of resentment at having a full experience ripped away from me. But what the last few years have taught me is that you just have to take life day by day, moment by moment. Life changes and we grow old fast. Before you know it, you’ve graduated and you’re thinking about all the regrets you have and all the things you should have done and writing about them like you’re a 60-year-old with all the wisdom in the world. Regardless, while “make the most of what little time you have” is generic and clichéd, it’s always sound advice.
In all honesty, all that this sentimentality leaves way for is me wishing I knew better before. But the important thing is, I know better now. And hopefully, you do, too.
Continue Reading: So, You Just Graduated From College. Now What?