Don’t be like me

While I worked as an orientation and transition leader this past summer during the university’s student orientation, advising and registration (SOAR), one of the biggest pieces of advice that I gave my students was to not be like me. At the time, I catered the suggestion specifically to SOAR. I told them that I never became friends with anyone in my SOAR group, which was a mistake because of how glorious an opportunity it is to step into a new and unfamiliar place like college with an established support group on your first day.

But as my senior year comes to a close, and my walk across that stage inching ever closer, I cannot help but think about all the other choices I wish I made during college and all the ways I see myself as the epitome of what not to do.

They say that college is supposed to be the best years of your life. I would agree, but I just have this aching, inescapable bittersweet feeling after cramming all four years of fun and friendship into my last two semesters. I’ve met a lot of amazing people and it feels like the time between us meeting each other and us potentially saying goodbye exists between the snap of a finger.

I should have listened to my professors when they told me to start thinking professionally early on. I didn’t have the foresight or the humility to listen to them. I sat in my room doing my homework and while my grades might reflect that hard work, I am now going to be graduating without an internship under my belt and a nagging voice in my head that I’m a step behind everyone else.

I should have listened to my mother when she told me to start writing for the newspaper three years ago. I thought it was stupid at the time because I thought, what does my television production degree have to do with journalism? Spoiler alert: a lot, doofus.

After spending a single semester as the campus news editor, becoming further ingrained with the happenings and inner workings of our university and meeting the best newspaper staff a person could ask for, I can confidently say that it’s been the most rewarding work I’ve done yet. Plus, I’m pretty darn good at my job if I do say so myself.

Looking back, I should have listened to my heart and become more involved on campus earlier on. I was a hermit for three years and as sad as that may sound, I used to see people say “hello” to each other on campus and be genuinely surprised. After my summer at SOAR, I gave myself a kick in the butt and forced myself to do all the things I wish I did.

I joined a fraternity, something I wanted to do a few years ago but actually listened to my mother about, which granted me a brotherhood that will last a lifetime. I started attending the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) meetings and got to see the people who care most about our wellbeing as students devote their tenure to making sure we are heard.

I go to a college two states away from my hometown and I have found friends, family and people who will be at my wedding. For a person on the spectrum, especially that kid on the spectrum moving into the fourth floor of Bergami Hall nearly four years ago, this is an important feat and a reason I can finally consider myself happy. And yet, I can only ever think about how I could have had this epiphany years ago.

So don’t be like me. Don’t corner yourself into a life mired in hindsight. Live in the now, but don’t live exclusively in the now. Think about your future self and who or what you want that to look like. Take steps now in order to become that person. And most of all, enjoy college; you’re not going to be here forever.