1. The belief that these were going to be the four greatest years of my life. Up until then, yes, they had been the four greatest years of my life. But I went through college with a mindset of ‘it’s never going to be better than this.’ And that was true for some things: my level of responsibility, the fact that I was surrounded by youth and excitement on all sides, the fact that my full-time job was simply to learn. But what I hadn’t realized was that it would get better than that, I just hadn’t yet learned that sometimes, for life to get better – more exciting, more adventurous, more thrilling, more broad, more interesting – it also had to come with more challenges, more difficulties, and more responsibilities.
2. The belief that when the real world came, the fun and joy and happiness that I experienced every day would evaporate. Yes, it was hard at first. I had to get up every day and go to a job I didn’t like, I was separated from my friends, and I couldn’t go grab a beer with my roommates on a random Tuesday at three o’clock. But the real world also comes with a lot of wonderful things: financial stability and independence, scary but satisfying challenges like moving to a new city or starting a really cool job, traveling to new places on your own, meeting people that vary vastly from the ones you met in the claustrophobic bubble of college. The opportunities require a lot more work, but they’re also incredibly rewarding.
3. The belief that I had to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life at twenty years old. It often felt that way, because I was surrounded by people who seemed to have their ten and twenty year plans all figured out. But plenty of people don’t know what they want to do at twenty, and that’s okay. All that matters is that you keep trying as many things as possible. The more you do and the more you explore, the more you’ll get to know yourself and the closer you’ll get to the path you really want to be on.
4. The belief that classes were something I just needed to ‘get through’ and do well in. There were a few classes that I enjoyed effortlessly, but most of them were courses that, while interesting, I still considered as chores. What I wish I knew then was that most things require hard work, even the things you love the most. I wish my freshman year self had more fully grasped the fact that I would truly never be in the same place again, that knowledge is such an intense privilege, and that a happy life is a life in which you never stop learning.
5. The belief that I needed to have landed my dream job the day after graduation. Some people did, and they were lucky. But I wish I had put less pressure on myself, and spent more time researching what I wanted to do long-term, rather than freaking out about finding an impressive opportunity that I’d only be interested in short-term.
6. The belief that the fraternity or sorority you get into means EVERYTHING. This was really only something that I was hung up on my freshman and sophomore year, but still, I wish I had realized that the type of people who judge you solely from the letters on your sweatshirt are not the type of people you want to hang out with anyway. I met some of my best friends in my sorority and I’ll be forever grateful for that, but I also met some of my best friends outside of it. It’s not the be-all, end-all of your college career, and the minute you graduate, no one gives a damn anyway.
7. The belief that judging others would make me feel better about myself. It’s a tempting thing to do when you’re unsure of yourself and you’re surrounded by people in all sorts of majors and friend groups and Greek organizations that you could make easy, instant assumptions about. But I would have been way better off focusing on myself, and who I was, and what kind of person I wanted to be, instead of wasting my time obsessing over what everyone else was doing.
8. The belief that I would be worried about what any of these people thought in a couple of years from now. It’s hard not to worry about your reputation and your classmates and your acquaintances when you’re surrounded by them 24/7. But the minute you leave college, the only people you ever really talk to or see from school are the ones who truly love you and matter to you, and they’re the last people who would ever make you feel self-conscious or insecure. Your time is so much better spent learning, trying new things, exploring your interests, and getting to know yourself better.