Family members often remark that my niece Cece and I seem to share a personality, which is not a statement I think is ever meant as a compliment to either of us, although being who we are, we certainly take it as one. Thank you, we simply say. While I’ve done my best over the years to impart little wisdoms that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks — how to leave tiny footprints on the underside of her mother’s glass dining room table, a love for colorful language and the occasional double entendre, and an appreciation for sushi, all things Apple, and 80s alternative music — I couldn’t let this moment pass without a few practical tips as she heads off to her freshman year in college.
And so, here we go.
(1) Reinvention is overrated. A lot of kids go away to college and attempt to launch a new persona. (Ever wonder why some people on Facebook call me Jeff and others call me Jeffrey? This is why.) I imagine it’s because this may be the only time in their lives when they have the opportunity to start completely fresh and be whatever and/or whoever they want to be. That’s a great plan. For a week. A month or two, tops. And then they return to being who they always have been, which leaves everyone they’ve just met a little confused. So, don’t bother with it. You’re pretty fantastic just as you are, so just do that.
(2) Bathe. It bothers me that I have to even mention this, but please bathe regularly. One in five college freshmen don’t bathe at all (I made that statistic up) and there’s no excuse for it. Bathe in the morning before classes, which, yes I know, means rolling your lazy ass out of bed seven and a half minutes earlier. But, if you do, you’ll be able to concentrate better in class, you’ll end up learning more, you’ll look better to casual passersby (what’s more important than that?), and you won’t stink. Win, win.
(3) Avoid the 7:50. If you schedule a class at 7:50 AM, the likelihood that you’ll attend regularly is slim, so don’t do it. And even if you do end up attending the class now and then, you probably won’t have taken the time to bathe first. We just covered that, Cecilia.
(4) Meet people. Lots of people. People you wouldn’t normally meet. You’ll be surprised.
(5) Call your mother. She’s not going to figure out how to Skype, so you’re probably going to have to call her. On the phone. But do it. You’re her first born and she’s nutty enough as it is, so check in periodically. If you do this somewhat regularly, you’ll be able to get away with a quick call, too. If you only call every two or three weeks, you’re going to end up on the phone with her for an hour and who really has time for that? Texting is all well and good, but she’s going to want to hear your voice. Just don’t call her when you’re drunk, because she’ll know. Not that you’re going to drink, because you really shouldn’t do that, either. [Important side note: When your college friends tag you in pictures on Facebook, remember that your entire family will see them. Do I really need to elaborate?]
(6) Use a calendar. You have that shiny new iPhone, so use it. Enter all of your paper due dates, test dates, and study group times in the little calendar and have the thing alert you a day or two ahead of time. Because life will get busy and you’ll forget, that’s why.
(7) Don’t plagiarize. If you found it using Google, your professor can, too.
(8) And now, a word about grain alcohol. Don’t.
(9) Ask for help. You’re a smart kid and all, but you’re going to occasionally need help. When you don’t understand a particular assignment, when you need a safe ride home from an unsafe party, when you decide that you and your roommate would prefer to bunk your beds after all, and in countless other unplanned and unimaginable situations, don’t be afraid to ask for help. So, cultivate some good resources… before you need help. This is another reason why you need to meet people, lots of people, people you wouldn’t normally meet.
(10) Not every class is life-changing. In fact, I’m not going to lie to you, some of them will be complete bullshit. You can still learn something, though, even if it’s just learning how to tolerate (and succeed in) less-than-enjoyable circumstances. This is a life skill that will serve you well. Trust me on this.
This is an exciting time for you. It should be. You have all the promise and possibility imaginable right at your feet, so don’t screw this up. That said, you’re going to screw some things up and that’s okay, too. Learn from them, admit when you’ve been wrong, have a sense of humor about yourself, and then, press onward. They will end up being the life lessons you remember anyway.
I’m serious about the grain alcohol.
I love you.