Dear freshman Annie,
You're about to begin something new, and it'll likely be the biggest change you've experienced thus far. And you're wondering whether you're ready, whether you're prepared, whether you're enough for what's to come.
The short answer? No. You're not ready. You're not prepared. You're not enough.
But you're not there yet. You're still home, cherishing the last few weeks of sameness before the newness. You're ready, prepared, and enough for that, which is what you should be resting in for the time being.
And when you finally arrive on campus? When you're hanging your clothes in your new closet and picking up your textbooks and running everywhere in ridiculous costumes as dictated by your WOW leaders? You'll be ready, prepared, and enough in that moment.
You won’t find your sense of readiness until the moment arrives. Why? Because who you are right now is not enough for what's to come, but who you will be when it comes will be enough. There's time for experiential learning and experiential growth, which will come naturally when you're fully present where you are. I think they call that "rising to the occasion."
So this upcoming newness? This upcoming change? It's big. But please remember that it's not the biggest.
Leaving is not something that should warrant debilitating sadness, and going is not something that should warrant overwhelming anxiety. Sadness and anxiety are both important, natural responses to big changes, but don't let them cripple you. Feel the sadness of leaving somewhere that made you who you are. Feel the fear of being that you in an unknown setting. And most importantly, embrace the possibility of the new you you'll become in that soon-to-be-known setting.
Please remember that this big change is not the ultimate change, the change that will make or break you. What if you chose the wrong college? What if you chose the wrong major? What if your roommate makes you miserable, or vice versa?
Please remember that, when it comes to these sorts of questions, there isn’t a “wrong.” There’s simply the choice, and that choice will direct your story. And your story? It will continue no matter which choice you make. So if you need to transfer schools or change your major or switch your rooming arrangement or apologize for a mistake, that’s okay. That too will become a part of your story, and there’s no such thing as a good story without a few mishaps, a few challenges to overcome.
Please remember that everyone else is carrying their stories too, and please remember how much you love to hear stories. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone and everyone to share their story. You’ll surely meet some amazing people if you do.
Please remember that you are not infinite. You should story-share with a lot of people, but you’re only capable of maintaining intimate friendships with a few. Be kind to absolutely everyone, but don’t attempt to keep deep friendships with everyone. Know your limits, and love as much as you can within those limits.
Please remember to take care of yourself. That requires sleeping and eating regularly, even if it means you can’t quite finish that assignment or make it to that meeting right on time. That requires a little time alone, even if you have to forego a friend’s invitation. Read a book for pleasure. Watch Netflix. Take a nap. You won’t be able to love others if you don’t take time to love yourself. That’s the essence of the second greatest commandment, remember?
Please call home. Often.
Please try everything. If a club peaks your interest? Join it. If your friend is passionate about their church home? Attend with them one Sunday. If a meal in the commons seems somewhat suspect? Try it anyways. If a panel discussion seems interesting? Attend and ask questions.
But please don’t stick with everything you try. Explore. Experiment. Let your curiosity roam wild. But – just as you do with you friendships – remember that you are not infinite. After trying everything, choose what is most valuable to you. Invest in those few things fully rather than investing in so many things that you can’t deeply invest in anything.
Please be confident. Others will benefit from your thoughts, your encouragement, your jokes, and anything else you have to share. Don’t be afraid to let yourself be known.
Please be humble. Voice your opinions, but remember that you might be wrong. When someone disagrees with you, listen intently. Hear not only what they’re saying, but why they’re saying it. Take the time to ask questions, to understand how their experience has lead them to that conclusion. Then, humbly filter their conclusion through your experience to arrive at your own conclusion. Hold your convictions, but don’t hold them too tightly. If you never loosen your grip, you'll never learn.
So ultimately, remember that life is a big balancing act: Feel emotions, but don’t let those emotions control you. Be outgoing, but spend time alone. Try everything, but don’t commit to everything. Know yourself, but allow others to shape you.
There’s some sort of sweet spot in the middle of all these spectrums where you’ll want to live. Finding it, however, is incredibly tricky. Luckily, you don’t have hold a perfect balance right now. You’ve got your whole life to swing from one side of the spectrum to the other, and your pendulum with lose momentum with each change of direction. Eventually, you’ll settle in the middle. Not today, though. Today, grant yourself grace.
So this big, upcoming change? Don’t approach it with trepidation. Instead, approach it with gusto. Don’t approach it expecting perfection. Instead, approach it expecting to learn as you go, always rising to the occasion as it presents itself.
And please, please remember that you’re not alone. There’s a huge group of freshmen (actually, a HUGE group this year) experiencing it alongside you. There’s also a huge group of upperclassmen that experienced it before you. And man, they’re excited for you to join. They’re ready to welcome you - exactly as you are - into this experiential learning we're all doing together.