Suddenly I felt old. I considered how I’d changed since my first time in college. This time I’d arrived plenty early rather than slipping in at the last minute, I’d worn a sweater dress with leggings instead of jeans, and I’d sat in the front instead of the back. Before I even sat down, I’d behaved differently. I’d grabbed a New York Times in addition to the campus newspaper, told myself I should go to the campus zumba party instead of the free pizza party (although I really wanted the pizza) and I intended to make a good impression rather than hoping the teacher wouldn’t know my name when I skipped class. Ultimately, I’d become the older student that I’d secretly hated when I’d been young. Why did I hate them? Because that motivated, “non-traditional” student took things too seriously and made me look bad.
Now that I’m the old fart I once resented, it seems fitting I dole out some unsolicited advice to the younger me. I remember beneath my happy-go-lucky twenty-year-old smile lingered fear. My senior year I worried that my liberal arts degree wouldn’t be enough to land me the job I wanted. I was right to be afraid.
So, go ahead and party with your friends because those are memories you will savor for the rest of your life. But you also need to get more involved with that club you love (in my case, it was APO, a co-ed service fraternity). Run for office--not just because it will look good on your résumé, but because public speaking terrifies you. Every presentation you give brings you closer to the point when you’ll be comfortable speaking up. (That day will arrive, I promise!) If you run for a leadership position and don’t win, analyze what went wrong and try again. People won’t see you as a “loser”, but as someone who doesn’t give up easily. You’ll earn their respect. You’ll feel empowered. You’ll have fun while influencing the direction of your favorite organization. The self-confidence you gain might not fit on your résumé, but it will follow you wherever you go.
Now that I think about it, I could be the teacher, but only if you want me to be.
LOOKING FOR A GOOD BOOK TO READ BETWEEN CLASSES OR CARPOOL? Click here to read the opening chapter of A Sister’s Promise .