1. Loneliness is OK.
You will feel lonely from time to time. Maybe all of the time. Even in rooms full of people, you will feel alone. This does not mean that you are broken, or unlovable, or worthless. It simply means that you are utterly and beautifully human. Don’t try so hard to fill this space. Sit with it, feel it, write about it, make art with it. Your sadness will prove useful someday. Hold it close and embrace it.
2. The only constant is change.
Enjoy the late nights in beanbag-furnished living rooms, the aimless drives at 2AM to see the snow, afternoons sprawled out on the lawn doing nothing but staring at stray wisps of cloud. You will never again have all of your friends living in the same place. You will never again roam the halls of your college, books spilling from your arms, your father’s old camera heavy around your neck. Later you will sit in new rooms, in new apartments, in new cities, your heart clenching for these moments.
3. Don’t let your best friend cut your bangs.
This will not turn out well.
4. Life is unfair.
Some people are rich. Some are poor. Some are born to loving parents. Some work their entire life to overcome a traumatic childhood. Some people are born privileged. Some are born into circumstances that afford few opportunities. You will resent those with lives that seem easier than yours, but do your best to put this aside. Jealousy is not a productive emotion. Instead, advocate for those less fortunate than you. Understand that racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice do exist. Do your best to combat these stereotypes. Become a feminist. Become an activist. Become an ally. You owe this to the world, and you alone can make a difference. You are powerful beyond measure, even though you don’t believe it.
5. This too shall pass.
Whatever sorrow you are feeling, no matter how immense, will dissipate over time. Some mornings you will wake up and feel like you can’t get out of bed, but this is only temporary. As cliché as it sounds, time goes on and nothing lasts forever. A day will come when you’ll step into the afternoon without a heavy heart. This will be your beginning. Wait for it. It will be here sooner than you think.
6. You can’t force someone to love you.
If you need to convince someone to be with you, this isn’t the person you want. Love should be easy, not hard. Someone will come along and love you exactly for who you are. This person will love you for the way you cry so easily, the way you feel so deeply, not in spite of these things. In the meantime, your friends will be your parachute, your safety net. Fall into them. Most importantly, there is no one who will ever complete you. Except for you.
7. Food is not the enemy.
Eat! Find good food that will nourish you. Eat until you feel full and then stop. Don’t skip meals. Don’t eat until you feel sick. Don’t throw up. Get exercise. Order dessert. The people who care about you will do so regardless of your weight. All of this concern over food and appearance will amount to nothing. You will look back and regret the time spent worrying about those s’mores you ate on that camping trip with your friends, instead of relishing the star-studded sky above you, the wind surging through the pines. Being thin does not equal happiness. It never will.
8. Cut ties with toxic people.
You are not obligated to be friends with anyone. That girl in the dorm room next to you who makes you feel uneasy for some unknown reason but that you are friends with anyway—let her go. You don’t need to explain yourself. Relationships should bring you up, not down. You have the right to choose. Be picky. Select wisely.
9. Don’t join a sorority.
These girls are not your friends. You will de-pledge after one semester. Your true friends are waiting for you, and they aren’t forcing you to degrade yourself for six weeks in order to prove you are worthy of joining their group.
10. Women are not the competition.
Jealousy will make you a sick person. Stop wanting to be her. You are you for a reason. No one will ever be you. Stop talking behind her back. Give others compliments and mean them. Support other women, don’t criticize them. An ex-girlfriend has nothing to do with you—she’s an ex for a reason. Stop stalking her social media profiles. Read a book. Go for a bike ride. Go to a cafe and stare out the window at the autumn afternoon. Let the sun wash over your face.
11. Forgive people.
Don’t hold grudges. Everyone makes mistakes. Even you. Especially you. Forgive your father, not for him, but for you. Forgiveness changes you. Do it often.
12. Wear sunscreen.
This is a must. Your skin will thank you for it later.
13. Question everything.
Those in a place of authority are not always right. Don’t be afraid to question their ideas or disagree with them. Don’t ever make yourself small in the company of someone who intimidates you. The professor who negates your interpretation of that beautiful poem isn’t right. He just isn’t. You have agency. You have a voice. Use it.
14. Do what you love.
That’s it. Just do what you love and do it every day. Nothing will give you more satisfaction or provide you with a greater sense of purpose. You will publish a book someday. All the time you spend writing alone in your room will be worth it.
15. Love yourself.
This is one of the hardest things you will ever have to do. Forgive yourself. The worst thing you’ve ever done isn’t that bad. Let it go. Resolve to do better in the future and move on. You are brilliant and intelligent and kind and smart. Stand in front of the mirror and say this to yourself every day, no matter how silly it makes you feel. Soon you will begin to believe it.
16. Don’t try to be someone else.
The right people will love you for who you are. The music you listen to, your hobbies, your weaknesses, your strengths—these are all the things that make you unique. Don’t cut your hair short when you love it long, or smoke cigarettes on the balcony of your dorm room to look cool. Don’t pretend that you love rock climbing, or let someone convince you to pierce your lip over spring break. Your true friends will stand by you regardless of that Dashboard Confessionals CD on your desk, or your ability to watch Bring It On endlessly. Don’t let others define your interests. Only you can do that.
17. Study abroad.
Do it! You will regret this missed chance for the rest of your life.
18. Be kind.
No truer words have ever been spoken than these: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Your assumptions about other people’s lives are rarely true. Social media lies. If nothing else in this list strikes a chord, at least be kind. The world needs your kindness. Make it a better place.