I am a college senior. While I am not graduating right now, I have gone through the past four years like every other college senior- experiencing the greatest moments of your entire life, with the friends you didn’t even believe were possible, while having those moments where the world feels like a standstill and you are in a whole realm of hurt. College is, it’s true, the greatest years of your life. And they are the hardest. And you grow the most, and change the most, and it’s like one of those paintings where it’s so beautiful at the end but sometimes during the process it looks like a hot mess that can’t be saved.
You hear the same college advice time and time again when you’re a freshman or soon to be freshman- branch out. Get involved. Meet new people, put yourself out there. The academics are harder than high school. Go to office hours. You will find your niche. Call home every now and then. Be a good room-mate. Volunteer. Find internships. Network. All of those make perfect sense, but none of it was what I needed.
I wish someone had told me that I mattered. I wish a senior had sat me down and said, “Hey you’re important.” Not the volunteer experiences, the internships, your GPA, or your student organizations. You matter. You health and mental well-being MATTER. You deserve to feel good about yourself, every day. College is so pressurized- it’s this condensed period of your life where you know you’re going to grow as a person and then then you kind of explode in a manner you may never have pictured. You will find things you love, and experience things you hate. This is where you can start making the healthiest or unhealthiest choices of your life- not just in terms of diet and exercise but in terms of relationships and stress and confidence.
There have been so many times where I had to tell myself, “You matter.” I’ve had to remind myself through tears after boy drama, and through the aftermath of a failed healthy meal attempt. Your health matters. Your body matters. Your privacy matters. All of these things need to be a priority. If you don’t give a crap about your body and how you’re treating it and talking to it, who will? If you choose a hold-nothing-back approach when it comes to privacy and secrecy, who will care for you? Your career experiences are important, but not more important that you are. Make you a priority. Save your mental health. I had a girl tell me the other day her life was over if she got a C. I wanted to pull her aside, remind her that she is important, and how she loves herself is more important than her GPA.
The haters do not matter. People will gossip about you, good or bad, and you can’t stop them. Do not try to fight them, and do not stoop to their level. They do not matter. You matter. The truth you know and understand and accept is more important than the “truth” they believe to be true about a life that isn’t theirs.
Your professors want you to succeed, but will not search you out. They will not find you to encourage you to step up. The initiative is on you. Respect your education.
Maybe sit out on Happy Hour this week; your liver will thank you. Go for a walk on a nice day. Call your mother. Give up that awful exercise class you hate going to and find a fitness activity you love. Try a new vegetable every week, and for goodness sakes learn how to cook as early as possible.
If you do not make you a priority, no one else will. It’s very simple. At times, I felt like I had to do everything possible to build my resume, to make new connections, be a better friend, have the most fun at a party. You can surround yourself with the greatest network and support system anyone could possibly want, but don’t rely on them. You need to be able to stand on your own, chin up, hands on your hips. If you do not do make yourself a priority, you are telling others that you do not matter.
You matter. You are important. Treat yourself with respect- your body, your dignity, your education, your saving grace. Treat others around with respect too- if they are important to you, they deserve it. Love them, and let them know.
I wouldn’t change a second of my entire college career, the good or the very bad, and could not be more thankful it’s not over yet. I am thankful for the moments where I thought I simply could not feel more- where I was so happy that I felt like I would spill over; that I would burst. There were also the moments where I felt alone, and sad, and scared, and had to admit through tears that either I screwed up or got screwed over. These past four years have experienced the worst of me and the best, and the ever changing ever flowing contents of my mind with all it’s hopes and dreams.
These four years (or five!) are a part of you, but you do not have to become them. You matter. You matter more than what is dragging you down. Don’t be afraid to let go. Don’t be afraid to say no, but pay attention to new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to say yes.