My sister (cousin, soul mate) Samantha just got accepted to some great colleges and was awarded a full scholarship—I can’t get over how proud I am of her and how inspiring she is to me. As a soon-to-be college graduate, I have so much advice and love I want to share with her (and anyone else who’s about to start college this year), so I’ve written a list of things I wish I had known when I was 18.
Get a job and save your money. A part-time job can help a lot and doesn’t have to take up too much of your time, either. My parents kept telling me to get a job when I started college but I was too lazy and too wrapped up in my relationship, making new friends, and binge-watching TV to think about my future, let alone my finances. I didn’t have any big living expenses when I was 18-21, so I wish I had saved up money for traveling or for a car, instead of splurging on clothes I don’t even wear anymore. Clothes are just things you’ll enjoy for a little while, but I wish I had saved up for experiences that’ll last me much longer than a bunch of crop tops.
Don’t get into a relationship. My biggest regret of my early adult years was getting a boyfriend right before I started college. At the time, I thought I was happy, but being in a relationship really prevented me from going out and trying new things that I would’ve done if I weren’t so concerned with my boyfriend’s feelings. These are the most formative years of your adult life. You’re only 18—you don’t know what you want in life yet, and if you think you do, chances are that you’ll change so much by the time you graduate that you won’t even be with the person you’re dating now. Go out and make new friends, go on adventures, have (safe) sex with whomever you want, do things alone—just have fun and figure out what makes you happy and what inspires you as an individual. You’ll have plenty of time to fall in love later.
Don’t be afraid of talking to new people. Maybe it’s our anti-social social media culture, or maybe it’s just because I’m an introvert, but I used to purposely avoid saying hi to people I knew or talking to new people in class (or anywhere). I dated this guy who went out of his way to talk to new people and stopped to talk to acquaintances everywhere he went, and eventually I started doing it too. I still hate getting into awkward conversations, but you’d be surprised at how many good friendships and connections you can make by biting the bullet and talking to people even if you don’t feel like it at first. Even if you don’t feel super confident or comfortable talking to people you don’t know, start small—talk to whoever is around you or find another person who is alone and talk about how awkward it is to talk to new people (how meta).
Join clubs and go to meetings. I can’t stress enough how important this is to figuring out who you are and what issues are important to you, and making lifelong friends. I reluctantly dragged myself to meetings for the Pacific Islander Student Association, and I ended up becoming the co-chair by the end of the year, and learned a lot about what it means to be a Pacific Islander. I joined the Student Commission on Racial Equality and discovered a passion for social justice—I didn’t even call myself a feminist until I joined this club. Putting yourself into groups with other people who know more about things than you do but have similar interests helps you learn so much. Joining clubs will help you make the most out of your college experience.
Everything will be okay. I’m a naturally anxious person and I go into spirals of bad thoughts and worries. It took me a long time to learn that even if it doesn’t seem like it at the time, things will always work themselves out in the end. It’s cliche, but bad situations help you grow so much. They even turn out to be funny stories you can tell people later (like the time I was engaged, lol what).
Fall in love with yourself. This is 100% the most important thing you can do as a young adult. I’ve dedicated this entire blog to falling in love with yourself, which goes to show how important it is. Friends and girlfriends/boyfriends will come and go and you won’t always get to live near your family. The only person who will always be in your life is you, so you might as well get to know her and enjoy her company. Take the time to think really hard about what makes you happy and find ways to enjoy being alone, because you are going to be alone a lot (and I’m sorry if that sounds depressing, but it can actually be a good thing!). When I was 20 and started my journey of self-love, I even went so far as taking myself on solitary dates to the beach or out to get food and talking to myself (only when I was completely alone lol) and wearing a ring to remind myself to honor my own needs and happiness. Be completely selfish! Post a bunch of selfies! Eat as much as you want and love your body! The sooner you learn to love yourself and be okay with being alone, the happier you’ll be in life.