An Open Letter to My Last Summer Self
Hey, I know how you feel. You feel indestructible. You struggled through high school—all the exams and applications. You graduated. You got into your dream school. You’re looking forward to moving out. You know you’ve never lived alone, but you say you’ll get used to it—New York is only 7,000 miles away. You barely know anyone there, but you figure it couldn’t be too difficult to make friends. You hear college is hard, but you’re not bothered. You think you’ve already seen how hard things can get. You think the hard part is over.
Too bad you’re wrong.
On your first night after move-in you’ll cry alone in your room because you’ll miss the way your sheets smelled at home. During NSOP you’ll exchange phone numbers with nearly every person you meet, but you’ll barely speak to any of them again. You’ll freak out during registration and panic about which classes to take, even though half of them have already been picked for you. Your five classes course load will get the best of you, and you’ll have to drop one just to keep afloat. You’ll wonder what’s wrong with you, since you’re used to taking 8 courses at once. Chemistry will be confusing, and you’ll be embarrassed to ask for help because you took it all four years in high school. Now that it’ll make your blood boil, you’ll try to fathom why you ever liked the subject. You’ll struggle with deadlines and wince at the sight of dining hall food. You’ll wonder why you never have the time to explore the city the way you planned to.
But everyone else will be comfortable with his/her workloads. They’ll have found their favorite place to eat in the city. They’ll have made close friends on literally the first day. They won’t miss home the way you will, but they’ll still get to go back over fall break. You won’t, because those 7,000 miles will prove to be too many. Even when people surround you, you’ll feel alone. It’ll feel all the worse because you spent years fantasizing about an amazing college experience at a fancy ivy-league institution only to realize you can’t survive there.
Good thing you’ll be wrong again.
You will survive. You’ll survive because you’ll ask for help and learn that chemistry makes other people want to punch a hole in the wall too; you’re not the only one. They’re struggling with tons of essays and hundred-page- readings too. Regardless of whether they’re from a different continent or two blocks down, they miss home too. You just can’t tell. You’ll realize you were comparing others’ best selves, the ones they choose to show to the world, to your most private core, where all your demons and insecurities lie. And just like that you’ll feel lighter. You’ll find someone to struggle through chemistry with, to whine about LitHum with, and to take breaks with. They’ll remind you that dropping that fifth class doesn’t make you a quitter. Because now that you have to remember to wake up, study, eat, sleep, bathe, do laundry and stay sane, all on your own. Living is your fifth course.
Once you’ve remembered to stop and breathe, you’ll do more than just survive. Because although you don’t realize how difficult college will be, you also don’t realize what you’re capable of. You think you already reached your limits in high school. You think you’ve peaked. Not true. Yeah, you may have gotten the best grades you possibly could in high school. You’re probably never going to get grades like that again. But that’s a good thing. You see, you’ll probably never be able to stop worrying about grades completely, you just cannot afford to, but now you have a chance to stop letting that worry consume you.
Recall the time when you actually liked learning. Unearth the curiosity that got buried under assignments somewhere along the way. Look beyond books a little. Make time to explore the city or join a club, regardless of a busy schedule. Create that 25th hour. Let yourself learn from experience, from mistakes, and more importantly from other people. Wasn’t that the whole point of going to a fancy ivy-league institution any way—to learn a thing or two?
Do that, and maybe some day you won’t just feel indestructible, you actually might be.