Let’s Pretend It’s 1990

Welcome to a two-part series sharing bits of advice and wisdom to college students. This post is a letter to my 18-year-old self from my 45-year-old self. Part Two focuses on the advice from a few of my friends. 

May the good life be with you
Down every road you roam
And may sunshine and happiness
surround you when you’re far from home
And may you grow to be proud
Dignified and true
And do unto others
As you’d have done to you
Be courageous and be brave
And in my heart you’ll always stay
Forever Young, Forever Young
Forever Young, Forever Young

                                                                                                        — Rod Stewart

It was June 13, 1990 and this was our senior class song. As I prepared to take my final walk across the stage at my school’s auditorium, I remember those lyrics vividly. We were and always will be forever young. If I could write my 18-year-old self a letter, I’d tell her to stay positive, remember the world is her oyster, and there’s absolutely nothing that she can’t do if she puts her mind to it.

Then I would look around to make sure my parents couldn’t hear me, I’d look her straight in her eyes, and I’d say, “while all of those things are true, you need to know some more important info. And sister, here it is.” 

If I could talk to my 18-year-old self again, I would want her to be hopeful for her future, but secretly, I’d want to share a few doses of reality as well.

  1. Your college professors are an important part of your inner circle. They will one day write you letters of recommendation. They can also be a great source for a part-time job on campus. They know the people who can tell you if your financial aid was approved. It’s in your best interest to keep them close. The only thing you have to do is attend class and do your work regularly.
  2. Give yourself a curfew, even if you don’t have a curfew. You technically don’t live at home anymore. You are truly on your own. No one is going to tell you to come in from that party by midnight when you have a class the next day at 8 am. So you need to give yourself a curfew. See #1 again.
  3. Sometimes it will be okay to break that curfew. Be responsible, yes, but don’t deny yourself the social life and fun that the college experience is built upon. Midnight pancakes with friends, chat by the reservoir (or another nearby body of peaceful water), and the occassional mid-week sorority or fraternity party. Use good judgement and have a great time.
  4. Decide on your personal boundaries now. Most people (including your 20-something self) will set personal boundaries as a reaction to being hurt. It’s far better to be proactive with the boundaries. #AskMeHowIKnow
  5. Get involved in clubs and organizations at school. While I would love to say that my academics helped develop my school pride, that’s only part of the story. It’s the friends, the sorority sisters, the newspaper staff camraderie that caused me to rep school gear 27 years later. Last year, I wrote about the fun I had at my college reunion. You can read about it here, and trust me, it was all that and a bag of chips.
  6. Build on your spiritual foundation. The same God that is guiding you now is the same God that will guide when your life comes crashing down in front of your eyes. It’s better to get to  know Him before the crisis occurs.
  7. Unplug. Pay attention to the small things in life. They really do end up being the big things.
  8. Call your parents. Text your parents. Thank your parents. I don’t think anything else needs to be said about this.
  9. Let your your parents make a fuss over you when you go home. I didn’t understand the importance of this until about four years ago when I was dealing with a thyroid cancer diagnosis. Don’t be like me.
  10. Understand that money management is intentional. You need to maintain that intention for the rest of your life. Definitely apply for financial aid and make wise choices when it comes to using student loans. One place to explore your student loan options is Earnest.
  11. Interpersonal relationships work better if you concentrate on being the best person you can be, instead of making the other person best the best person they can be. Out of respect for a newly and still ever-developing coparenting relationship with Mr. Ex, I’m just going set this right here without going into details. But trust me, this was a lesson I only learned within the past 10 years. Do the math.
  12. Your prince charming is not going to ride in on a chariot and sweep you off your feet. He is probably not even going to be the original “type” that you’ve casted for yourself. He is going to be a real person, with real thoughts, and real feelings. He will be your friend, your confidant, and sometimes it will feel like he’s your worst enemy. The bottom line is he is a real person, not a fairy-tale character.

So tell me, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self? 

15 thoughts on “Let’s Pretend It’s 1990

  1. This is great advice! I know college freshmen tend to live it up a little bit more, but they also burn out fast, so curfews really are important.

  2. I love the entire line to the parents. Amen. I love the financial part. I would tell myself, for every thing, item of clothing, vacation you give up now, will be a bigger and better one in the future.

  3. I was the class of 1990 too! It is interesting to think what I would tell my 18 year old self. I think I would tell myself to not be afraid to start over. I really didn’t enjoy my college but I didn’t think I could search for other options. And as I look at my life now, I’m more and more realizing that I shouldn’t be afraid to change paths if needed. You don’t always get it right the first time.

  4. These are great lessons for people to learn. How I wish I could just go back in time and tell myself what to do in life. It’s really important to value your parents and never forget to thank them.

  5. College isn’t what it was when I was first attending. Definitely having a curfew and joining clubs are key but also keeping up with your parents. They want to know how things are going.

  6. Excellent advice, Toni! I agree with everything on this list. Setting boundaries are essential in life and this is something I’m trying to teach my own kids. It hasn’t always come naturally for me. 😉 Also, I love what you said in #12….so true and important to understand going into a marriage relationship. Of course the world teaches a very different concept of love. Loved this post!

  7. I would have told myself not to stress the small things. I always seemed to stress so much stuff right out of high school that could have meant less.

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