Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
diego ph fIq0tET6llw unsplash?width=719&height=464&fit=crop&auto=webp
diego ph fIq0tET6llw unsplash?width=398&height=256&fit=crop&auto=webp
/ Unsplash
Life > Experiences

Advice to My Younger Self

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Williams chapter.

Considering the fact that I have written sporadically for HerCampus these past four years, it felt necessary to write something as these years draw to a close. And of all the things I could write about, it felt most natural to write about all of the wisdom and advice I wish I could give to my younger self. While I fear that this list of advice will fail to be all-encompassing, there is a lot that I wish I knew and a lot that I am still learning, and it feels only fair to try to give myself some of that wisdom. So, without further ado…

1. Belonging is essential. Being at Williams was, for the first time in my life, a place where I actually felt that people treated me differently because of my background. In my freshman year, I had professors who only focused on the white students in class or lab, and when they were done, only then would they focus their attention on other students in need. I had a professor once say after an exam, “The students I thought were going to do well on this exam didn’t, and the students I thought weren’t going to do well did.” I was trying to allude to the fact that I felt that I was being discriminated against in a class to a professor by saying that I did not enjoy the class, and their immediate response was, with no indication of it: “Are you failing the class?” I also burned off my hair freshman year, in an effort to straighten it, because I truly felt that if I looked more white, people would like me more at Williams. In my junior year, I was telling my “friend” about how my uncle was teaching me how to make a Caesar salad, and he responded, “I didn’t know soul food could be healthy.” And another “friend” said in front of me, “I don’t like black people, but not you, Lexi, you’re pretty.” To put it simply, belonging has been, by far, the thing I have struggled with the most at Williams. And because I had never felt treated differently before in my life, I am still struggling with it. But here are the best pieces of advice that I can give: first, friendships are built off of respect. Friends who fail to respect you aren’t friends. Two, some people are just evil. Some people in life are just going to treat you differently because of who you are or where you come from. As you learn how to deal with it, it’s important to remember that this is a reflection on them and not on you. Third, justified pettiness is okay. If someone does not believe in you because of your background, it is totally okay to succeed and rub it in their face four years later. 

2. Don’t procrastinate. I don’t even know why I wrote this one. You’re going to do it anyway, but you would save yourself a lot of stress if you didn’t. 

3. You need to learn how to forgive yourself. You’re going to burn off your hair with a flatiron. You’re going to sleep in a church in Niagara Falls because your AirBnB canceled on you. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s not about the mistakes. It’s about learning to forgive yourself and learn from them in the aftermath.

4. Family is important. Your mother is not perfect and is kind of crazy, but she loves you more than anything else in the world. Call her and annoy her, and tell her that you love her. You would not be graduating college if it were not for that woman. You should be grateful that you know her.

5. Say thank you. Cards, flowers, weirdly shaped mugs. There are so many people in life that have gotten you to where you are. You should be grateful and learn how to express it. 

6. Wear goggles in lab. To keep it short, in my sophomore year, I was working in a lab and I got lysis buffer in my eye. I ended up not telling anyone in the lab at the time because I didn’t want to look stupid, but later that night, I woke up with bright red eyes and one eyelid that I could not control, or even open. I went to the emergency room at about four in the morning, praying that I would not lose my eyesight. I now have a scar on my right eye that looks like a distorted frog. Let me be clear: there is no good reason that you should not be wearing goggles in the lab. Ever. Period.

7. You should travel. There is a big, beautiful world out there. Whether it’s Chicago or New York, Mexico City or Tokyo or Dublin, there is a big, beautiful world out there with fascinating people and interesting languages, and amazing cultures. Go explore as much as you can. You won’t regret it.

8. There’s more to life than just work. Go to history museums, try new foods, and go to live music. Get an axolotl if that makes you happy. Have fun. There’s so much more to life than just cramming for tests, getting A’s, or doing research. It is important to remember that your life outside of work has to be fulfilling too for you to ever be truly happy.

9. Balance prestige and happiness. You can go to the most prestigious schools with all the opportunities in the world, but if you don’t enjoy being there, or if you don’t feel like you fit in, you won’t take advantage of any of those opportunities anyway. If you want to truly reach your full potential, you need to find a place where opportunities abound and where you feel happy and comfortable enough to take advantage of them.

Look, this is all the advice I currently have, so I’m going to head on out. I would love to say something really sweet, but I wrote something a few years ago along the lines of how proud I am of the woman you are becoming and the girl you once were. And as you make more dumb mistakes, gain more wisdom, and experience more life, that is the truest thing I can say. I am eternally and utterly proud of the girl you have been and the woman that you are becoming.

My name is Alexis Poindexter and I'm a sophomore at Williams College.