Writer’s Note: I just wanted to share bits of wisdom I wish I could have said to myself at age 17, just as I was about to apply to college. I hope this is useful for y’all 🙂
Dear Kaelyn, age 17,
Wow have you got a lot ahead of you. I know you want out, to go as far away from home as you can, to get your own life. I know you think that you are so much more than your small town, which believe it or not you’ll miss. There is so much that I wish I could tell you. Let’s start with this.
You’re about to start applying to college. It’ll be a very stressful time, I won’t lie. You’ll pour your heart, soul, and energy into your essays. You’ll constantly doubt yourself. You’ll associate too much of your self worth with your rejections and acceptances. There is no reason for that. First because the college admissions process is so complicated and random that you’ll never be able to figure it out. It is not a reflection on who you are. Secondly because things will work out in the best possible way. I promise. Be kind to your father; he’s just trying to help. You’ll realize in a year or so that he is your best advocate and confidant.
You’re about to embark on your senior year of high school. People will tell you to appreciate it, to enjoy every second of it and try not to look to the future too much. Since going to college, I have thought a lot about that. Honestly, it’s really bad advice for you. I have very few positive feelings about high school, even now, two years after I left. There’s nothing wrong with that either. High school is hard for you, you feel trapped and like you cannot be yourself. You wish you didn’t have to bite your tongue when your friends make homophobic jokes because the risk of outing yourself is too great. In a year, you’ll get the courage and the opportunity to call out an elected official for their derogatory comments. It is because of the hurt you feel now that you gain the courage to do that. Use that pain, hold onto it, but most importantly let yourself feel it.
The friends you made in high school won’t all stick around. You won’t want all of them to and you’ll be able to choose which ones you do. Some people are worth sticking around for, and some you will realize quickly were never worth your time. The people you meet in college will challenge you, expand your worldview, and be there for you. They’ll make you want to be a better person, to work harder. And work hard you will.
College will bring you unexpected challenges and joy. You will be happier than you have ever been while also experiencing some of your greatest lows. You’ll realize that questioning yourself will never go away, but that those moments bring you the most growth.