I was drafting a letter the other day to my cousin graduating high school. I wanted to send over a few tips on how to start her next chapter in college and found it nostalgic to reminisce about such a fun time in my life. I remember college with so much fondness, and the friends I made there are still my closest friends today. Not sure how much I would change. I’m so grateful for all the experiences I created and the people with whom I shared them. I’m so thankful for every experience that helped me grow into the person I am today. So to my 2002 self:
College will be such an incredible chapter in your life, I can’t wait for you to experience it. You’ll learn what it means to be in a healthy relationship, how to motivate yourself to achieve big goals, and discover who you are and what you stand for. Don’t worry about dropping that Plan II Honors major, it’ll free you up to become President of the Vietnamese Students Association, where you’ll meet your best friends. And when you meet your quirky RA, she’ll pique your interest in Orange Jackets, which will broaden your mind and perspective. Remember to always balance academics with extracurricular activities, and diversify your views by exposing yourself to all areas of campus life.
What you may not realize is that UT can be a segregated place. VSA will show you this, but befriend your Filipino counterparts because they’re super nice people and Asians should help each other out Orange Jackets will open up a new world to you (outside of Asian orgs) and teach you the value of an open mind, inclusiveness, and standing for your beliefs and for others. You’ll take some fun classes like History of Gender, Women, and Sexuality where someone will ask you if you’re gay because you’re wearing a rainbow bracelet. Don’t be shy. A week later you’ll hold hands with strangers and surrounded the Capitol during Gay Pride week as a proud ally. You’ll walk into the Malcom X room one day when you make a new friend in the Black Students Association, and everyone will stare, but that’s ok. You have a higher shared purpose than skin color. You’ll see the space in the Union where Muslim students go for call to prayer, and years later you’ll witness this city-wide in Istanbul for the first time. You’ll organize and participate in a silent protest for Voices Against Violence in support of women going through domestic violence, and you may find out this issue hits lots of people close to home. You’ll develop ideas and opinions that shape you and probably ignite your path to becoming a yogi and minister. You will get this idea that everything you do is impactful and important to this world. It will make you want to carry the weight and expectations of everyone on your shoulders, but you’ll soon realize that it can be draining. You’ll learn to ask for help and to say no…eventually. You’ll begin to surround yourself with people who think deeply and speak freely. You’ll also walk away from anything/anyone that is toxic. You won’t realize at the time the gravitas of all these actions, but every day will feel like a wake up call from the life you knew growing up in Sugar Land, Texas.
For the most part, you’ll be a normal college kid. Not extraordinary, not struggling. You’ll balance studying with partying and hanging out with friends. You’ll cram and pull all-nighters but not all the time. You’ll work part time in recruiting for Target and take over VSA’s cultural/hip hop competition group…just to prove that you love a busy schedule and doing a ton (you’ll eventually find the value in un-busying yourself, but hey, you’re a 20-something with limitless energy!) Speaking of which, you’ll also pick up hobbies like flag football which will be a huge part of you and Andy’s life for the next decade and ballroom dancing which you’ll still love and forever cherish as a gift. (PS. You and your dad KILL it on the dance floor at your wedding 😉 Probably the most memorable thing you’ll do is study abroad in Barcelona. Fight for it, even if you have to beg and cry for your parents’ financial support; it will change your view of the world, and yourself, completely. You’ll become fluent in and even dream in Spanish; you’ll learn that you can blend in anywhere; you’ll learn what it means to live abroad and not just “travel;” you’ll learn that you can totally make it on my own and the art of being alone but never lonely. You’ll get to backpack with your best friend Christine through Spain, Italy, and France, and this will set off your trajectory of adventurous, and exotic travel for the next decade. (Always tell her where you dream of going because for the most part, she’ll be ready to book a flight asap!)
The best part of college, though? Growing with Andy and understanding the people who will become your tribe. You’ll (sort of) figure out what it means to be in a healthy relationship. You’ll struggle to communicate and ask for what you need. You’ll share your hopes and dreams. You’ll be motivated and inspired, you’ll cry and complain, and you’ll learn to love fiercely through it all. You’ll make friends with so many amazing people. Your DPG crew whom you still travel with to this day! All your VSA friends whom you see regularly in Austin or visit whenever you travel or have been on TV 😉 Andy’s GB friends who have become some of your best friends and have been there for y’all during the worst and best of times. You’ll all witness each other’s careers blossom, travel the world, stand by each other as bridesmaids and groomsmen, witness babies being born, talk about adult problems, go through mid life crises… It’s true, your college friends are your friends for life.
So to wrap up:
- Feed your mind with rich experiences and always keep it open, it’s the key to your soul.
- Take this time to earn your degree but also to explore, try fun electives, meet new people, and join in extracurricular activities.
- Your college friends will undoubtedly be around for awhile, so quickly decide who brings out the best in you and keep them close.
- Your GPA does matter (to an extent) but your major is debatable. You’ll meet amazing people in future jobs only to find out they studied English or something non-business related. Brilliant, hardworking people come from all paths.
- Take yourself seriously but not too seriously. This will be the most carefree time in your life. Cherish it!
- Give your time and money to great causes; leave an impact.
- Try out yoga and learn to meditate! (Sigh this doesn’t happen until 2009, but I had to try!)
- In the end, your experiences and your values count the most, and money can’t buy them. Invest in exploring who you are! Ask questions, but don’t expect answers.
- Also, know that while college may seem like your peak in life, it only gets better. And since it’s been a decade now since you graduated, I hope that means something