To My Younger Self: Make It Count

This year, we at HCK decided to launch a “To My Younger Self” series, inspired in part by Ellyn Spragins’ books What I Know Now and If I’d Known Then. Over the course of the semester, our writers have interviewed their older siblings, teachers, parents, grandparents, cousins, and friends, and asked them for some kernels of wisdom they wish they could have told their younger selves. This one’s a little different. This one’s a letter from me, to me...from Emma now to Emma freshman year. Here’s a little bit of what I wish I had known then.

Dear First-Year Emma,

As I write this, you have 3 weeks left before you go abroad (well…to Connecticut…but we’ll just call it “abroad’ for now.) You’re so excited for all that second semester holds, but you desperately want more time with the people who have transformed this place for you. You wasted a lot of time complaining about things here, and now you want back all the time you wished away.

I know you might not believe a single thing I’m saying right now, as you stand in your freshman dorm, counting down the minutes until the next break...but it’s all true. So, here’s a little bit of advice from a little bit older (and hopefully a little bit wiser) you:

  1. Push yourself. I know, it’s a whole lot easier to let yourself wallow in whatever you’re feeling – sad, lonely, homesick, scared – than it is to try and do something about it. It’s also a whole lot stupider. Stop letting yourself off the hook. Get up, get out, and get going. Start putting yourself in scenarios that set you up for joy. Be brave. Take advantage of all the things this wonderful place has to offer.

  2. Carve out opportunities. Complaining is also easy, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Figure out what it is you want to change and change it. There’s no other time in your life when all the resources will be available. For a while, it’s easy to wait for the opportunities to come to you. But, you’ll realize what you wish you could do and find friends who agree. What you can’t know now is that there are worlds of people out there waiting for someone to start. So, find each other. And get started.

  3. Let go of fear. This is your big one…the sticking point. You are terrified – scared that if you really put yourself out there, you will face rejection and failure, scared that you will open yourself up and nothing will change. But you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Break down the barriers you’ve built to keep fear out, and you’ll give yourself a fair shot at getting all you can out of your time here.

  4. Change this place and let it change you. When you start feeling differently about being here, you’ll start making your mark. Once you start trusting yourself, you will start taking opportunities to do what you love. When you follow your gut, you will find the right people to work with, and then you find the right way to start leaving an imprint in this place – but you still have a lot to learn. Don’t hold on so tight to what you think you know, and let go of your ideas about who can teach you. Some of the most important lessons will be learned on a long walk, around a classroom table from students who became teachers, in a dark theater late at night, or over toast in Peirce. If you’re ready, this place – and the people in it –  will change you when you least expect it.

  5. Make it count. We get four years on this little Hill in the middle of Ohio. As I write to you, I’m watching my third come to a close. So, my advice to you: don’t wish away the days; live in them. Tear down the calendars. Walk through the world with your eyes wide open. Fill each day with the people who have begun to shape your life in immeasurable ways. Use your awareness of time – but stop counting and start making it count.

With love,