I have two beautiful cousins graduating high school this weekend and as I got their invitations in the mail recently, I started thinking about what I'd love to tell them about starting this new adventure:
Hold off on the tattoo. You've waited 18 years. A few more won't hurt. Let's see if you still want one at 23. For what it's worth, none of my friends (nor I) would get our 18-year-old tattoos again.
Stay at college for the entire first month. Don't go home to visit. Text and call your family all you want, but don't go home. Home is comfortable. Home feels safe. But, you need to learn to be in your new environment. It's okay to cry a little over homesickness. It will get better.
Make new friends. It is hard to go up and start talking to people. I know. But, you have to go for it...especially when you've moved to a new city. When there's a school spirit club meeting in the dorm lobby, go. When your R.A hosts a hallway nail painting party, go. Sit by randoms in the cafeteria. Strike a conversation on the bus. Join a young adults group at church. Say "hi" to people as you pass by. Help out the guy who just needs a couple coins to finish his laundry.
Dye your hair a fun, temporary color. Not too many jobs will let you have purple streaks or pink ends one day...but, if you can get away with it as a freshman, go. for. it! This may be your only shot.
Learn to shake hands. I don't think I had done this much, if at all, before I went to college. Probably just when I got my high school diploma! Practice with someone. It's how you say "hi," in adult land. You need to know how.
Open a few credit cards to build some credit, but for the love of all things: do NOT use them for more than you have in your bank account. Make a small, $30 transaction a month and no more. If you can't seem to control yourself (me), pay them off and cut them up. School debt is the only debt you need to have. Don't add more.
Don't get a dog. Really, don't get any living/breathing thing, for that matter. The people with dogs have to leave early to feed the animals. Or leave early to let the animals go the bathroom (which you also have to pick up). Or miss out on road trips and weekend staycations and spontaneous sleepovers because they can't find a dog sitter. No fun.
Find a gym. Join a gym. Go to the gym. Or, run outside. Frequently. If you don't keep up with your high school exercise routines, you will never start again. Well, you'll attempt to make it a habit again every once in a while, but then you'll be turning 26 and trying to think of the last time you worked out...Months ago? Years ago? Nobody knows.
Put your photos, videos and memories on social media as they happen. Snapchat is great and all, but it's temporary. Always upload some permanent social media memories. They can be private, but make sure you're doing it for yourself. Right after college, I lost a great friend. Nothing brings me more joy than when I see his smiling face in my Timehops, Facebook archives and throwback apps. It brings me right back to the moments I may have forgotten otherwise.
Get a professional personal email account. firstname.lastname@example.org is perfect. While you're at it, buy your domain name: firstnamelastname.com. It's the best place to put your future resume and/or portfolio. Plus, it's good to have something positive under your control when someone Googles your name. Someone will Google your name.
Speaking of the internets...either have open, public, professional social media accounts that you wouldn't mind your grandma reading...or hide away with vague usernames and locked-down privacy. Don't attach your full name to inappropriate tweets, embarrassing photos or shameful name-calling for the world to see (and the world wide web to archive). If you think future employers won't see them. You're kidding yourself.
Live with friends, not a boyfriend. Can. Not. Stress. Enough. I wouldn't trade a single dirty dish, girl fight, silent treatment, stinky fridge, slammed door or tears for any of the wonderful memories I have living with my best friends in "The Blue Light." No, it's not fun every day. Living with anybody is tough. But, the good times are SO good. The Netflix marathons, the midnight Sonic runs, the times you're snowed in for an entire week and you start doing gymnastics in the living room, the all-night study sessions, the sarcasm and laughter, the first holidays without family, the I-just-failed-an-exam hugs, the movie nights, the made-up games (like, successfully landing an object on top of the fan blades), the Ramen noodle creativity, being broke together, the list goes on and on...If you end up with that boy and marry him, then you can move in with him. Friendly reminder: boys are pretty much disgusting anyway.
Continue being a granddaughter, daughter and sister. Call your family. Send random group texts. Facetime them. Surprise them on their birthdays. You'll meet plenty of great people away, but still love on those that have been "home" to you for so long.
Choose joy. Choose happiness. Nobody can ruin your day, unless you let them. Easier said than done, but oh, so true.
I'll never forget how fearful and terrified I was that week right before I moved away from my hometown. Now, I'd tell that silly 18-year-old girl that the best really is yet to come. College is such a great time of your life. Remember every moment. Savor every memory. If you thought high school was awesome, just you wait. Congratulations. You're on your way and you're going to be great.
PS: Decorating dorm rooms and apartments is probably the most fun thing I've ever done. If you need some IKEA or Target ideas, you just let me know!