Dear College Me
Dear College Me,
As a 30-something whose name has changed from “Annie” to “Mommy,” I’ve been reflecting about our experience over a decade ago. College. There is no other time like it. You’re free from the ever-watchful eyes of the parents you left back home and you aren’t yet parent to smaller ever-watchful eyes. In many ways, this is the freest you’ll ever be. You made some bad decisions and good ones. And so with the clarity of hindsight, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for your consideration as you navigate the next four years…
Don’t sweat the small stuff. You worry a lot about tests and papers and over-commitment to activities. I know around midterms and finals you feel overwhelmed and nervous. Don’t. There are things in life both now and in the future that are way more important than midterms. Do the best you can in class, but don’t let procrastination or worry steal your joy. Prepare as thoroughly as you can and offer up any anxiety about the final grades. In the future, it won’t much matter whether you can regurgitate Aquinas’ proofs word-for-word, it will matter whether you’ve allowed these holy ideals to shape who you are and what you believe.
Soak up time with your friends. The late-night deep conversations. Every lunch and dinner spent together. Studying side-by-side on a blanket outside in the sun. These moments are forming the foundation of lifelong friendships. But through the coming years, these people won’t be a daily part of your life. So savor your time with them. They will be beside you on your wedding day. You’ll cry with them through life’s hardest moments. You’ll watch your children learn to play together as you learn to parent. Your time together will become more precious and more fleeting. Soak up those times now and don’t let petty arguments or boyfriends waste a moment.
Do lots of things that are for your benefit and lots of things that aren’t. Like I said, this is the freest you’ll ever be. So sight see, study abroad, network, join campus clubs, dance, attend concerts, and pursue your interests. Do so many things for you.
But also, do so many things for others. Bring your friend carryout when she’s feeling blue, babysit for a family off campus, call your mom and other family members, go on mission trips, and volunteer weekly. (You’ll never forget Diana from that after-school program. You don’t always feel up to going off campus to tutor, but once you’re there, you’re always glad you did. And years later, you will still pray for that little girl. I guess she’s not so little anymore. In some small way, she helped shape you into who you are today.) Enjoy the freedoms you have during these years by becoming the most well-rounded version of yourself and by serving others selflessly.
Go to Mass as often as possible. Don’t just go on Sundays, go every day. I know you think you’re “so busy.” You might be busy, you might be overwhelmed, but bring all that to Mass with you every day, and I promise your burdens will be easier to bear. Pour your whole mind, heart, and attention into those Masses. Someday, your attention will be split between Christ and your squirmy pew-buddies. While you’re at it, make Confession a priority too. It’s not always easy to make virtuous decisions in college, so take your sins and leave them in the Confessional. Form the habit of living in the mercy and grace found in the Sacraments.
He’s not worth your tears, thoughts, excessive drinking. Whoever the guy is, he’s not worth all that. Keep hold of your dignity, woman! Trust God with your entire life, including your love life. Trust God, but don’t be so quick to trust the guys you’re meeting. Demand that your trust be earned. He may be cute, he may even take you out to dinner, but that doesn’t mean he has your best interest at heart. Guard your heart and guard your open drinks. Dump any guy who disrespects you before he dumps you. The man God does have in store for you isn’t perfect, but he’s absolutely perfect for you. Hold out for him, and don’t waste so much time, energy, and brain-space on those other guys. God’s plans for your future husband are better than you could imagine, so leave the imagining up to Him.
Read everything you can. The assigned readings are mostly in subjects you enjoy so read them all. Don’t just skim. You can skim and ace the class, but college isn’t only about good grades, it’s about learning. Don’t forget to also read for fun and for spiritual edification and discuss what you read with your peers. You have a notion that someday you’ll get back to reading those entire texts (maybe while nursing a sweet baby?) But it turns out, reading theological tomes while nursing is harder than you imagined.
Save some money. When you enter the “real world” post-graduation, you’ll be glad to have some money in your bank account to get you started. It may not be as tasty, but cafeteria coffee is cheaper than Starbucks. Forgo the latter more often. Get in the habit of living on a budget and reap the benefits later on.
Your dreams are coming true, and its harder than you thought. Within minutes of meeting you, most people learn that you can’t wait to get married and have “millions” of babies. Marriage and motherhood have always been dreams of yours. Guess what? Those dreams come true. Praise God! But living the reality of these dreams is a constant challenge. You’ll have to daily choose to die to yourself and live for others. So anytime that you imagine the future, take off those rose-colored glasses. Every stage of life has its joys and struggles, and young motherhood is no different. Start praying now for the grace to live your vocation well.
That’s all I have for now. May these words encourage and inspire you. May you make the most of your college years and allow them to set the foundation for the years to come.
Annie (aka Mommy)