Wednesday, January 11, 2017

letter to myself

Just last week I began my second quarter here at Northwestern University. As cliché as it may sound, it has been an intense but extremely rewarding experience. To say that my expectations of this school have been meet is a cruel understatement. Everyday I feel extremely lucky to be here. That being said, the following is a message (a letter, if you will) to my incoming freshman self, with some advise and warnings I would have liked to know:


Dear... me,

Hello. I'm aware this letter finds you at a very exciting, but equally stressful, point of your life, so let's just get to what you are so eager to learn about: college. First quarter is going to be filled with exciting opportunities, amazing new people, cough drops, occasional tears and a sinus infection. Please, be responsible and wear enough layers when it's cold outside. Everybody realized you were a weak southerner when you started complaining about how cold it was when it was 70 degrees. Just get it together and put on a damn scarf. Your life will begin picking up speed since day one of orientation. Orientation in itself is going to be a crazy time; a ton of information is going to be thrown your way and you will meet some of the people you will remain closest to. Everything is going to seem brand new and exciting and maybe somewhat scary. Nonetheless, do whatever feels right; don't let anxiety ruin your experience. Let yourself go, let yourself meet new people and let them know what kind of person you truly are from the beginning. Meeting people from all over the world truly is as enriching and wonderful as we all made it out to be in our application essays. I literally cannot emphasize this enough: you will love meeting new people and making new friends. I (we?) have meet so many amazing people I can now call my friends it is crazy. Those "I have no friend" jokes don't really apply anymore, so you'll have to begin switching up the comedic routine. Honestly, just walking down the street and recognizing so many faces and having so many people to say hi to feels heartwarming. Actually talking and getting to know different people is truly fulfilling, because everyone has their own particular story and they are all thrilling to learn about. I feel like I have some sort of support system and just like a group of wonderful human beings that are rooting for my success, which is beautiful (sorry for the cheesiness!).

All that being said, new sorts of relationships are formed during college that your rather small high school did not provide. Before, you kind of knew where you stood with everyone. You either had some sort of friendship or nah. These relationships are not so black and white; they are complex combinations that cannot really be defined, and that's okay. Another difference from high school is that here some people feel like they come from another planet because you never thought an actual human being could be so perfect and succesful. You will meet people who seem like they have it all figured out; people who represent everything you wish you were right now. Comparing yourself and feeling deeply unsatisfied is, well, practically impossible. However, it is foolish to be hard on yourself for not being like someone else. Everyone's journey is different and you are here to continue progressing as an individual and as an artist. Strive to improve yourself, not to be similar to other people. Nonetheless, it is not necessarily a bad thing to admire someone's work and use that inspiration as motivation to get you creating. Basically, don't belittle yourself! Try your best, learn from your mistakes, but understand you have limitations. Whether you are feeling down about a certain grade or somebody not liking you back, know that not everything is always going to run smoothly and being hard on yourself is really just a waste of energy. I know it is hard not to feel disillusioned, but try to use that as a motivator rather than a reason to feel depressed. Understand what went wrong and try to fix it. However, there WILL be things that are just out of your control so just take a deep breath and relax!

Being the zealous daydreamer you are, understand time is precious. Everything will appear so new, exciting and intriguing that you are going to want to spend some time wandering around. This can be both very relaxing/inspiring and very time consuming. I know it is essential for you to just take a walk sometimes, listen to some music and daydream away. However, if done too often, this turns into a waste of time. So far, I have jotted down some ideas for future projects but I really want to materialize more of what I think about, which will not happen if you keep walking around aimlessly. Also, if you are taking an hour long "coffee break", something is wrong. Try to study with friends when you are feeling specially emotional so they will stop you when you attempt to quit working to start fantasizing about random stuff. That brings me to the next point:

What the heck even is time anyway? Procrastinating does not work as efficiently as it did in high school. You will have your classes, but you will also get involved in different clubs and groups. You will have a blast at all of them, so there are no regrets here! You will be part of the art/literary magazine, different film clubs, a philosophy group and a charity fashion show. Everything is a lot of fun and it will also help you meet a lot of incredibly smart and creative people. Possibilities for engagement seem endless here and that will be extremely exciting to anyone as curious and proactive as you. However, understand every commitment means time, so think about how you will manage each week at a time.

Let's talk about money. You need it to survive. Do NOT waste it on food and clothes. Do not go to Whole Foods everyday. It becomes an unhealthy addiction. The dinning halls are there for a reason!!!! I cannot stress this enough! Indulge in things you like, but it should not be something daily, because you will run out of money extremely fast if self-control is not implemented. It is also much better to wait until you are going out with a group of friends or something to spend money, than to spend it by yourself for no real reason rather than you felt like walking downtown. Have a reason behind your purchases!!!! Watching your spending now will come in handy later when you graduate and those loans kick in. Also, keep in mind that there are options, such as refinancing your students loans, to keep help them manageable.

Finally, always be friendly. Always say hi to people. It'll be almost impossible to keep contact with  everyone you meet but at least try to say hi to them when you see them walking around campus. :)

Have fun.

Best,
Maria