Looking Forward + Looking Back

Yesterday my little brother (the vest-wearing one with the glasses in the picture above) packed up his belongings, got on a plane, and flew a few thousand miles from the home he grew up in to start a new chapter of his life as a freshman in college.  I got a little nostalgic and went through old photos on Facebook from my college days.  It's so crazy to think I've already been out of college three years, how has it been that long already?  I have "college days" people, is this what getting old is like?  I digress.
I remember packing everything up into a few suitcases, walking onto campus and finding my new dorm room, and saying goodbye to my parents while trying not to cry.  New chapters are always so exciting and simultaneously kind of terrifying.  Looking back on these photos, though, it's amazing to relive the moments and relationships that defined that time, and the (hopefully) lifelong friendships made.  It's exciting to see my littlest bro heading off to embark on that journey, so, Matt, here are a few things to keep in mind as you start this new adventure!

* Make friends.  Matt, you are so much better at this than I.  I may have been a straight-A student, but you were friends with everyone, so outgoing and approachable.  You won't have a hard time making friends in college.  College is like the ultimate friend-making territory.  But don't worry if you don't find your core group of solid friends in your first semester.  I didn't find my core group who I just *clicked* with until the very end of my freshman year.

*Spread your wings.  You've got em', spread em.  Something that kept me from spreading my wings as a freshman was my boyfriend (remember him? yuck...).  Instead of immersing myself in my college experience, I was on the phone for hours with a codependent boyfriend who lived 2,000 miles away.  I couldn't embrace my new situation because part of me was still stuck in Anchorage.  I didn't feel comfortable going out with people and worried about if he'd approve of my actions.  A lot of people will tell you to break up with your significant other when you go to college, but we did the opposite (you know, that whole "promise/commitment/quasi-engagement ring" thing? yeah. we did that).  Thankfully I realized that the relationship wasn't good and broke up with him, and I honestly didn't start my college experience until second semester when I was single.  I started feeling like Spokane was my new home and was really excited about forming relationships with people there (oh, and I kind of fell in love with Dan... go figure!).

*Consider other viewpoints.  I know you probably have pretty strong convictions, ideas about how the world works, viewpoints on issues, etc. In college you'll be exposed to tons of new ideas, people with completely opposite viewpoints, and ideas you may have never considered.  Evaluate things.  Take in this new information.  Most of my friends in college had completely opposite beliefs and viewpoints on most issues than I did and often were very passionate about expressing them, even to the point of being very rude and condescending towards people of the opposite viewpoint.  I preferred to keep quiet and evaluate their arguments for validity, fact check, etc, rather than get in heated arguments.  My beliefs and viewpoints overall aren't too radically different now, but some issues I've completely re-thought and I'm thankful for those friends for giving me a look at a different view of the world.  Don't surround yourself in people who constantly agree with everything you think.  Challenge yourself to understand, or at least try to understand, where people of different viewpoints/beliefs/ideals are coming from.

*Take fun electives.  Use your electives as a chance to take some random classes that you normally wouldn't!  I took ballet, pilates, African life and culture, ice skating.. and there's more but my brain doesn't remember them all.  I also had fun sitting in on a few lectures from classes that my friends thought were interesting.  This doesn't just apply to classes, though.  Do stuff like join clubs or intramural sports.  I did the Luau at my college and it was so crazy fun!  I also joined the hip-hop and ballet dance groups and did a couple performances.  It was a blast!

*Be silly, not stupid.  Lots of silly and stupid things are done at college. Learn to enjoy the silly times and let other people make the stupid mistakes.  For an example of silliness, see below.

*Get hard gen-eds out of the way early.  I got through my annoying, hard, gen-ed classes as fast as I could and was chuckling to myself every time one of my fellow Seniors complained about having to take those classes last semester of senior year and I was free and clear.

*It's okay to be homesick.  Don't worry, Christmas isn't that far away.  Find a place that makes you feel less homesick.  I spent many many hours driving in my El Camino freshman year.  It was a sanctuary for me.  Find your sanctuary.

* Go on random trips.  Whether it be to the corner store at 3 am, or a camping trip.  Some of my favorite memories from college were from random trips, and most of these photos, actually.

* Study hard.  Because that's why you're at college, mainly.  There are no pictures of this, because no one takes photos of writing a paper.  Plus, studying at college is way cooler than studying in high school because you're actually studying things that you're interested in.  And you're majoring in some pretty sweet stuff.

* Don't spend all your time on Facebook.  That's lame.

* Call home!  I called home (almost) every Sunday night and it was so great to hear Little Bit and Pansy barking in the background, and just to catch up on family junk.  Plus, Mom and Dad will be sad and lonely in their empty nest.  They'll love to hear all the sweet stuff you're learning in your classes, and about all your new fraaaands!

* Dancing is an acceptable form of exercise.

* Conversely, don't pig out in the cafeteria on burgers, fries, and soda everyday.  Trust me, it's tempting.  They have tons of yummy options, though.

* Here's a practical tip for finding somewhere to sit in the cafeteria.  Most people stand at the front of the cafeteria, tray full of food in hand, scanning for a friend to sit with.  To avoid the awkward scan-stand, do a pre-sweep before getting food, and then when you come out, scan as you walk.  Way smoother.  Also, don't be afraid of sitting alone.  Sometimes you're just not in the mood for telling the thousandth new acquaintance where you're from and what you're majoring in.  P.S. during the first few weeks, you will tell about a thousand people where you're from, what dorm you live in, and what you're majoring in.  Also, useless information to you since it won't snow there, but cafeteria trays make decent sleds.

* 8 am classes suck.  Just sayin.