5 Pieces of Advice That Changed My Life

As a freshman navigating college, I’m dealing with a lot of changes. From sharing a tiny space with a whole other person, to the intimidation of lecture halls with 300 people, to the constant existentialism of what am I even doing with my life — there’s a lot to adjust to. If I’m not careful and don’t regularly check in with myself, my mental health suffers.

By no means do I know everything there is to know about living a fully content and happy life. However, I am lucky enough to have received some gems of wisdom over the past 18 years. So, without further ado, here are pieces of advice that changed my life.

  1. 1. “Nostalgia always makes things seem better than they were.”

    A beloved high school teacher told me this in the pursuit of convincing me that change should be embraced, not shied away from. And he was right.

    In the midst of the anxiety of adjusting to college life, I tend to look back at life before in a rosy hue, making it appear better than it was. Not to say that it was bad, but I just forget about the things I didn’t have then that I have now like freedom, excitement to learn and the opportunity to discover an entirely new city.

    In life, there is always give and take. You can look back on the past and mourn what you once had in a view that is definitely blurry and warped, or you can look forward and welcome all that is new. Hint hint: the latter will make you much happier.

  2. 2. “You can’t love someone one day and then hate them the next; that’s not how a relationship works.”

    I heard this at a time when I was in a pretty toxic friendship. I had days where I was content and happy with her, but there were also many days she left me feeling angry, resentful and sometimes even trapped. The constant back and forth was suffocating, leaving me disoriented and confused.

    Here’s what I learned: relationships should not be constant battles of love and hate, but rather made entirely of love. Flaws should be recognized, yes, but they shouldn’t be so intense that they are hurtful towards you. If you’re actively questioning whether someone is a positive or a negative force in your life, trust me on this  get the hell away from them.

  3. 3. “You can only deal with one thing at a time.”

    I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times before. But that doesn’t make it any less true  in fact, it’s quite the opposite. 

    We all get so anxious and overwhelmed between our personal lives, academics, work and everything else, that we tend to feel we have to tackle everything at once. More often than not, though, that move is actually counterproductive. 

    Sit down for a second. Close your eyes. Breathe. And then gently ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I have to deal with in this moment?” Repeat that with each task. The world won’t end just because you have to slow down.

  4. 4. “You’re not damaged goods just because you made mistakes.”

    Taylor Swift is a masterful wordsmith, but this quote in particular resonates with me. We are our own worst critics, and I think it’s important we are aware of that. Account for your mistakes, but don’t let yourself live in them. 

    Like a lot of Generation Z, I am an incredibly anxious person who overthinks everything. So when it comes to mistakes, I tend to beat myself up, and I’m telling you  it’s not worth it. It’s not productive; it never fixes anything. 

    What would you do if your best friend was tearing themselves apart over a mistake they made? Be gentle and kind, right? So treat yourself as if you’re your own best friend and be kind to yourself. It’s cheesy, but you really are more than your past mistakes if you just let yourself move on.

  5. 5. “The way you feel is always valid.”

    Lo and behold, my mantra.

    When I feel upset or emotional, a bad habit of mine is immediately pushing away my feelings with thoughts such as, “I’m being dramatic,” and “Why am I making such a big deal out of this?” I remember telling this to a close friend, and she just looked at me funny and said, “Nimra, all that kind of thinking does is make you spiral even further.” It’s common sense, but I needed someone to really spell it out for me to finally get it. 

    When I invalidate my feelings, it becomes a digression from feeling upset to feeling even worse. I feel wrong, unjustified and incorrect, but I can’t do anything about it because it’s not as if I can control my feelings.

    Don’t do that. You are entitled to feel the way that you feel. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get introspective with your feelings, asking questions such as, “Well, why am I feeling this way?” and “How did X situation warrant this response?” Looking into yourself can actually be a big help because it helps you understand yourself better. But never ever act as if your feelings aren’t important. Of course they are. They’re yours.

Navigating the ups and downs of everyday life is hard, and we’re all just stumbling around in the dark trying our best. I hope these points give you some direction and help make things even just a little easier. Remember that you’ve got this! Good luck.