Dear College Alissa,
ONE: Give others a chance to count you in before you count yourself out.
Yeah, you’re quirky and awkward. There’s no real way to avoid that. But you’re also pretty funny and are genuinely interested in basically everyone. That’s cool and most people actually like you when you give them a chance. If you keep assuming you stick out like a sore thumb, you’ll keep acting aloof. If you keep acting aloof, you’ll keep driving people away. If you keep driving people away, you’ll keep missing out on friendships. Be confident in you who are.
TWO: Stop feeling insecure when you don’t care about things people around you care about.
Large social gatherings aren’t for everyone. You’re not lame. You’re just an introvert. Drinking isn’t for everyone. You’re not boring. You’re just smart enough to realize you’re not the type of person who will be able to maintain a healthy relationship with it. Gushing about finding your future husband isn’t for everyone. You’re not weird (for that reason). You just have different priorities. Having a sleek fashion sense and nice eye brows aren’t for everyone. You’re not a failure. You just truly enjoy wearing the same old t-shirt and jeans you’ve had for years. And also you’re lazy.
THREE: The struggle will be worth it.
You’re going to get terribly depressed, suicidal actually, sophomore year. Your anxiety will be through the roof and you will feel painfully alone. Long phone calls with your parents, the kindness of friends, words from others at just the right time, and silly giggle fits with your 5th grade shadow at the after school program where you work will keep you holding on when you’re living on the edge of that cliff. Counseling sessions and Zoloft will get you back to where you can breathe.
You’ll be bitter about it for a long time. But you’ll start this blog and a few years down the road you’ll receive a message from a high schooler telling you he read your blog and it made a difference to him. And around the same time you’ll get to go spend a weekend washing the smelly dishes of a depressed friend and making her buy groceries because you get it. And all that bitterness will completely melt away. All that will matter after that is how you can use your experience to make others not feel so alone.
FOUR: Tell your loved ones you’re depressed. (Sooner)
Your parents and your best friends care about you deeply and seriously. You’re terrified of being too needy or presenting them with a seemingly unsolvable problem that will eventually become old to them. But tell them anyway. They want to be there for you the same way you’d want to be (or have been) there for them.
If you never tell people when you’re struggling, they’ll think you don’t have problems. And this sort of thing feeds into the lie that everyone has it together, which mostly they don’t. Being vulnerable with others gives them a chance to return the favor from when you’ve been there for them. It gives them the opportunity to be strong for someone else. That’s a gift you can give them.
FIVE: Go with your gut.
Whether it’s a big life decision like changing your major or choosing a summer internship in a different state or it’s a pesky feeling about a creepy boy, listen and act. Your gut has always been loud and you won’t regret continuing to listen to it. I mean, keep doing your research and asking for wisdom from others. But never stop listening to your gut. You have it for a reason.
SIX: Stop pining for the attention of a boy who can’t be bothered to even be a good friend to you.
You’ll waste way too much time over-analyzing his words and actions and looks in his eyes. Girl, cut it out! Sometimes everything you need to know is right there in the lines. Sometimes there really is nothing to read in between them.
The boy you’re going to marry will be in front of you for most of college, but that possibility won’t cross your mind for quite a while. When it does, you won’t have to channel your imagination to see his kindness and warmth.
SEVEN: Learn more about yourself and how you function best.
Go ahead and look up ADHD and high sensitivity. Trust me, you will start to make so much more sense to yourself. You’ll understand why you keep skipping class and can’t study effectively. You’ll realize how much steadier you’ll be when you quit overexposing yourself to crime shows and heart-wrenching news stories 24/7. You’ll be able to research strategies that will work for you and your life will become less chaotic.
EIGHT: Eat, sleep, and exercise.
And by that, I mean:
Eat healthy meals regularly. [Don’t quit McDonald’s though. You know how all your life everyone has smugly told your scrawny self that your metabolism will slow down? Well, sister, they may be annoying and obviously jaded, but they’re also right. 😦 Enjoy those Big Macs without a second thought while you can!]
Go to bed by 10 PM and get up early. You’ll find you’re at your best early in the day and your anxiety is at its worst late at night. Who cares if it’s cool to stay up late? It’s cooler to be emotionally stable!
Exercise at least three times a week. And I’m not talking about running. Stop trying to convince yourself you’re going to be a runner! You’ll never follow through doing something you find boring (remember the ADHD thing?). Find things you actually enjoy, like long walks in nature and Yoga with Adrienne.
Your mental health will improve. A ton.
NINE: Be slower to invalidate your feelings and quicker to express your needs.
Of course, it is always good to check in with yourself to make sure you’re not just having an Highly Sensitive Person, hanxious (it’s like hangry but with anxiety), or sleep-deprived moment. But after that, remind yourself that your feelings are valid. You’re allowed to have them and they aren’t stupid. Pay attention to what they’re telling you and express what you need. It’s important in general life, and it will be especially important in your relationship with that boyfriend of yours you’re going to marry.
[He’s not as smart as you think (just kidding). He is smart, but I’m just going to tell you right now: you’re going to have to learn to make peace with having to spell things out when your feelings have been hurt or you’re angry. And to do so without second-guessing yourself.]
TEN: Don’t apologize for asking questions.
If you don’t ask questions, you won’t find the truth. As long as you’re being respectful, the people who discourage you from asking questions are the people you need to run from. And fast. They are bad for your spirit.
Think about it. Truth can be scrutinized and it will not fall apart. It’s unbreakable. If you seek, you will find. Even if it’s a headache of a journey. But that journey will lead to freedom. And freedom is sweet.
Well, College Alissa, you made it to the end. Let me guess how many other tabs you have open. More than 83? Some things never change.
Grown-up Working Alissa
BONUS TIP: It was Kirsty-Poo, Li-nay-nay, and Seth-ascope who kept pranking you with pineapples paired with cryptic notes on your doorstep. Start planning your revenge sooner. 😉