The following post is a letter of advice to my high school senior self from my current state as a senior in college. I was and still am a worrywart. I feared the dreaded freshman 15, failing all of my classes and that I would somehow get myself into situations where I’d make a complete fool of myself in front of my entire class. Thankfully, looking back, I can safely say that the good times have definitely outweighed the bad. This letter includes some advice that, in my opinion, has been crucial for that outcome to happen. My hope is that you, the reader, can also benefit from what I have gauged to be important takeaways from my life as a college student through reading this post. Enjoy.
Dear 17-year-old Sydney,
Congratulations! You’re almost done with high school, a milestone you ought to be proud of. This is 20-year-old “Almost-done-with-college Sydney” writing to you to give you some advice that will help you through the next phase of your life: 3 years of bittersweet college. Now, I could honestly go on and on about all the new things that you will experience (I know you know that I could), but I will instead condense all of my words of wisdom into five pieces of advice that will hopefully guide you along your way.
First, a simple yet important one: stop putting Hello Kitty decorations on everything you own. You may be thinking, “But Hello Kitty is so cute! I don’t want to stop putting Hello Kitty stickers on everything I own” or “What does a Japanese cartoon character even have to do with college?” so let me tell you this: first impressions are incredibly important. The Hello Kitty Silly Bandz that your crush gave you or your giant Hello Kitty phone case will make you seem a bit childish and unprofessional. No, I’m not telling you to stop wearing what you like. I’m telling you to be more mindful of how others may perceive you. First impressions can go a long way and not just in the professional world, but also as you try to make friends. Towards the end of college when Hello Kitty has already been long gone from your life, people almost double your age will actually tell you that you seem way older than you are, because of how you carry yourself. Isn’t that crazy?
Second, put yourself out there. You know how people used to think that your shy behavior was cute? How they thought it was just a phase in your childhood and that you would simply grow out of it once you grew up? Well, they were wrong. Very, very wrong. You’re going to be a shy, 18-year-old in college surrounded by people in their mid-to-late twenties, and it’s going to suck. You’ll eventually try really hard and force yourself to be outgoing. It’s going to take you two whole years to actually join a school club. And, let me just tell you that it’s going to feel awesome. For the first time in your life, you will feel like you actually know where you’re going and that you have some control over it. You’re going to wish that you started sooner.
Third, while you’re trying to be more outgoing, make friends with people that make you want to be better. They don’t have to be some business mogul to inspire you. You’re going to meet a lot of students that juggle a full-time job along with taking 16 credits of classes, and raising children on top of all that at Portland State. These are the kinds of people that will never cease to amaze you. At the end of sophomore year, you will end up joining a program at school dedicated to leadership and you will meet the kindest, most sympathetic faculty member along with a whole room full of people with heart wrenching backgrounds yet brave faces. These are the people that you should become close with. The people that try and struggle in the face of adversities. They will keep you grounded and honest.
Also, remember to strive to be okay with being wrong. I know you love being right. Even as a child, you forced Mom and Dad to pretend play as students while you acted as their bossy-pants teacher. You loved telling them that they were wrong (which wasn’t true) and showing them the “right” way to solve 14 x 32. Unknowingly, that attitude has remained embedded in you. I like to think of it as a character “quirk.” You’re a little hot-headed and a bit stubborn. However, you have to learn to be the student in certain situations. If you never allow yourself to be wrong, you’re inevitably going to close yourself off to knowledge and that’s not really the point of college, now is it?
Lastly, since you’re probably tired from all of the reading you’ve been doing, a simple one: develop a firm handshake. Handshakes are meant to be a display of confidence, not an imitation of a dead fish, which yours currently feels like. Keep practicing and working on it until you finally have one that says, “I’m Sydney Kim and you’re not going to regret meeting me.” I know that you have it in you. Just keep trying and don’t give up.
Sydney, I know you’re confused and lost right now. Just know that it’s okay. Many people at your age and position also feel the same way. I know that this letter won’t make all of those insecurities go away, but just know that being scared and lost is a stepping stone towards becoming a more confident and wholesome person, leader, student, family member, and all of the other roles out there that you could possibly think of. I love you. Please keep these tips in mind and hold your chin up.
~Sydney Kim ’16, Fearless Business Senior