Dear Almost Eighteen,
First things first: sit next to the tissues at that graduation and birthday party mom and dad are throwing for you.
I know you don’t think you’ll need them. She called tonight’s celebration one of Wine and Cheesy Poetry for a reason, and I promise it will be funny, but trust me: grab that box of Kleenex. Dusty’s about to read you a poem that his brother wrote just for this occasion. You’ll recognize it by his voice and by the frame in which it sits.
His voice because it will crack the same way his brother’s did when reading limericks he wrote for your eighth grade graduation. The frame because it will glint silver from your desk for the next four years, even when you head to Ireland: a physical reminder of how lucky you are to have these teachers who have loved you, these people who have taught you so much about life, about friendship, about thankfulness, about science and math and logic and writing, these people who have given you more knowledge than all the books you’ve read combined (and we both know that’s a lot of books).
The second thing you need to know is that biochemistry is not for you. I know your ego is flattered by the invitation to the Vagelos program. By all means, be in Vagelos! Just don’t stay for too long, okay? It’s not a good fit for you. Still, you will meet your first friend in college there, that weekend before classes start. It’ll be one of those “click” moments like you had with both of the Rachels. She’ll get every Harry Potter reference you throw her way, however subtle, and give as good as she gets. You’ll even convince her to watch Doctor Who, and she’ll give you a list of awesome Bollywood films to see.
(This will come in handy one day in senior year when you start playing songs from Dil To Pagal Hai to the rest of your group as you prep for a presentation and your professor comes dashing over because she, too, loves that movie.)
In any case, you’ll spend as much time in your friend’s dorm as you do in your own, and, after this year, she’ll be your roommate for the next three. Pay attention to those other two people she’ll bring into your room. None of you will really know each other at first, but I swear these will be some of the most important people in your entire life by the time you’re graduating.
You’re going to take American Sign Language. At first, it’ll be for language credit. You’re pretty sure it’ll be your easiest class, seeing as you already know some—and you’re right, it will. What you won’t realize at first is that the reason it’s easier isn’t so much that you studied it in high school, but because your ASL III class with Jami will leave you so absolutely in love with it that you’ll devote all your free time to studying it without even noticing where the time goes. YouTube videos, movies, books, advanced ASL classes. You’ll consume them all.
Okay, yes, you’ll be a bit obsessed.
Don’t believe me? How’s this: you’ll spend the first half of spring break sophomore year reading an 800+ page tome called For Hearing People Only: Answers to Some of the Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Deaf Community, Its Culture, and the “Deaf Reality.” Yes, seriously. It lives on the shelf by your bed. Yes. Still.
The third thing is this: more books, less television.
I know, I know. There’s a new season of Doctor Who and Netflix added NBC’s Life to their streaming video collection. It’s still my favorite crime show. I get it, I do. Just for me, though—save it for vacation? There’s plenty of time to watch Miranda over spring break. On the other hand, try to keep up with Castle and Doctor Who. Between those two shows, you’ll build friendships with some truly remarkable people—Stacy, Basia, Katie, Steph. Trust me, many, many good things will come from that (as well as many, many good cups of tea).
Say hi to that girl who smiles a lot. You don’t know it yet, but she’s your best friend. You won’t remember exactly how it happened—it’ll come about through some odd combination of bible studies and chemistry classes—but you’ll be glad Becky’s got your back.
Don’t be afraid to say no. You know that scene in 27 Dresses when James Marsden and Katherine Heigl are talking about this? Don’t be Katherine Heigl. There will be a few late-night talks over tea during your sophomore year (yes, this does mean you won’t be in bed until almost 3 am. You will survive. And yes, you will still wake up before 8 on those days), and they will be totally awesome, but don’t forget that you really do need your sleep. If that means missing out on the occasional event, that’s okay. Your friends won’t stop hanging out with you because you said you couldn’t make it to their BYO. I promise.
And hey: it’s going to be hard. There will be many Sunday nights (especially that first year) when you stop by the house after church and cry to your parents because you are so stressed and so tired and all you want to do is sleep—just hang in there, doll. There’s going to be a lot of laughter, too, and you’re going to head out of your first year of college into the wonderful place that is Greystone—
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Just make sure to e-mail Sandi about that camp she used to work at, okay? You’re going to make some of your dearest friends there, and it’s going to love you well. You’re going to love it well.
Study hard. Bake for your friends. Have them over for tea. Read in the sunshine once April rolls around. Go on road trips for spring break. (You’ll do this twice, and each time will give you awesome time with friends and some absolutely amazing stories.) Listen when Elise tells you to pray for someone, because that someone might just become one of your best friends. And make sure to apply for that office job your sophomore year—your friendship with Taylor depends on it, and she’s going to be important.
Keep writing, keep praying, don’t give up on those dreams of studying abroad, and keep hanging out with your siblings. In four years, they’re going to be much cooler than you could ever be. Don’t worry, they’ll still love you (even if you’re still bossy and fall asleep before 2013’s Sibling Sleepover can even start because you’re so jet lagged from your semester in Dublin. They’re awesome like that).
Don’t freak out too much about graduation. It’s just another step in your life. A big one, yes, but a single step nevertheless. You’ll find a job (I think. I hope. I’ll get back to you on that in a few weeks). Give yourself some space to breathe. Take an evening off to walk around the city, read a book for fun, write a thank you note, or have lengthy heart-to-hearts with those awesome roommates I mentioned. It’s college, and it’s going to fly by. Enjoy it for me, okay?
I know I have.
All my love,
P.S. Don’t let mom talk you into getting rid of that ridiculous red t-shirt from eighth grade, okay? The letters will be rather faded, and it will drive her crazy that you still have the thing, but seeing it will always make you smile.