I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree today.
(Actually, I’m kind of lying, because this was definitely written on Friday and scheduled for Saturday…but by the time you read it the above statement will be true. Full disclosure folks.)
Graduation is terrifying and thrilling and a transition and probably a lot of other words that start with T as well, and that all leads to some major introspection. What does life ahead look like? Am I where I thought I would be?
I’ve been thinking a lot about freshman Kelvey. Did she expect what waited ahead of her? What do I wish she had known?
Therefore, the following list is 10 things I wish I could tell my freshman self. Maybe your list is similar, maybe it isn’t, but I’ve decided this list needs to be written down.
1. Health is more than your workouts and what you’re eating.
I wasn’t in shape when I was in high school, but that changed when I hit my first year of college. I became the meal prepping, gymaholic person that I am now…while totally neglecting other aspects of my health.
Your sleep schedule is CRUCIAL for your health. Chilling out when you’re sick to allow your body to rest is not something to feel bad about. And sometimes, it’s okay to trade your workout for an active outing with friends that will help your mental health.
2. Work hard, but don’t be a workaholic.
Staying debt free has been less of a goal and more of an obsession in my life; I’m a self-diagnosed Dave Ramsey addict. This meant that I worked a lot while going to college full time (‘a lot’ is an understatement).
I think at one point I was balancing three different jobs while trying to work through my first year of college at a new school. It was only this semester that my work situation took an unexpected turn, and suddenly, I had a lot more time on my hands. At that point, I began to realize how much of a workaholic I had become.
Staying debt free is good, and work is good too. Continually turning down time with your friends, people from church, and family in order to work is unhealthy. You have the rest of your life to work, so if you’re able to take some free time, do it.
3. Do the stupid college thing that you’ll feel silly doing.
This weekend, the seniors and other people on campus had an all out color war. Would I have participated my freshman year? Probably not. Think you’ll look ridiculous doing something or that the concept is silly? Do it anyway. The pictures and memories are worth it, and when you’re doing it with friends, you’ll enjoy it no matter how ridiculous it is.
4. Spend less time thinking about that boy unless you know he’s thinking about you too.
I wouldn’t have told freshman Kelvey to not think about that cute boy. I would have told her to chill out and be a little more discerning in who she wasted headspace on. Some boys are legitimately worth your time (marriage is a thing after all). The majority are not, and you definitely shouldn’t waste time thinking about a boy who couldn’t care less about you (or thinking about a boy who isn’t worth your time).
5. Think about your GPA early on.
Even if you’re a good student, it can be tempting to ignore your cumulative GPA until the last couple semesters of school. Don’t do that. While you may make good grades, not caring about your cumulative GPA could be the difference between not getting Latin honors and obtaining them, or even the difference between a couple levels of honors (I’m not salty whatsoever).
6. Don’t buy all the textbooks.
This was a lesson I wish I had learned early on when I was taking classes where I could get by without my textbooks, because my senior year classes used the heck out of all our books. A lot of classes will tell you that textbooks are required, and then never use them. Instead of just buying the book list out of obligation, talk to other people who have taken the class or wait for the first day. 50% of the books I was told I needed were a total waste of a purchase.
7. How you speak about your professors says a lot about you to your peers.
Romans 13:7 says, “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Look folks, there will be plenty of professors not worth your respect or honor. Professors who suck, who fail to do their jobs, and who play favorites in class. Yet, it’s not their performance that will speak to your reputation, but your response.
If you want to stand out, be different, and be Christlike, refuse to disrespect your professors. If an honest complaint must be voiced, find a kind way to do it. Refusing to make fun of or disrespect professors (or any person in authority), even if they deserve it, will not only help your reputation, but your heart.
8. Dig into the Word in the M O R N I N G.
Okay, so for some people, it may be totally fine to dig into the Word at night; maybe they wake up the next morning with it still on their mind. I am NOT that way, but for so long I tried to be.
Sure, carving out time in the morning to spend some quiet time with Jesus may not be easy, but in my life, it’s been so worth it. The days where this happens in the morning, I live from a place of strength and grace, represent Christ better, and listen to the Spirit more closely. The morning marks a new day-what better time to meet with your Creator?
9. Both discipline and spontaneity have their place.
I tried for so long to be totally disciplined and scheduled. Then, when that fell apart, I became sporadic and spontaneous. Neither end of the spectrum is good, and you certainly need both in your life-live accordingly.
10. Commit to the community of a local church.
Finally, the thing that would have made the biggest difference in the life of my freshman self is realizing how life giving and crucial community is in the life of a Christian. Being rooted in community was simple when I was in the church where I came to know Christ and had attended for 8 years. However, when I moved to a school away from home, my spiritual world was rocked because I had never actively committed to having my foundation built from a place of community.
It took until my senior year to realize that a deep and abiding commitment to community, no matter how I felt about it from day to day, was what my soul was longing for. Even though it can be hard to take the first steps, get plugged into a local Church, and start meeting with people, it is so worth it. Little is sweeter than knowing you are living life within a community of believers who don’t just superficially care about you, but truly want to see you seek after Christ and grow in grace and holiness.
We can look back and regret the decisions we made then based on what we now know, or we can take the knowledge we have and make it a catalyst for even more growth. My freshman self may not have known these things, but the Kelvey Vander Hart that just received a diploma does. What matters most is where I go from here.