The week before last, I had the strange opportunity to be back in the exact same ballroom I was in for my senior prom. It was for a work event – our biggest event of the year – and as part of that event I spent two hours inflating 600 thunder sticks in the ballroom. (Yeah, you read that correctly. It’s fine.) While I was sitting on the floor in that ballroom behind my thunder stick bunker, I had some revelations I wish I could have shared with my 18-year-old self as I experiences a strange sense of deja vu. I have also driven past my high school in the middle of the day recently and had some things I wish I could have said to the students leaving the school as I passed by. These are those thoughts.
Dear 18-year-old Lindsay (and high schoolers everywhere),
Hey, what up? NMH. (I couldn’t resist.) Let me be the first to say that things are going to turn our very differently than you think. These are not “the best years of your life.” Far from it, actually. You’re going to look back on these years and laugh. Here are a few things you should know:
- You think everyone you are taking pictures with on prom night is going to be your best friend forever (and ever, omgz). They’re not. There will be one person in this ballroom you will still be speaking to almost seven years from now. And she will be your best friend in the world. But you don’t know that yet. Take a little extra time to hang out with her instead of the people you’ll never talk to again after graduation.
- You didn’t have a date to prom. Or any other dance in high school. That’s OK. No one is ever going to judge you by this standard. You will not be asked about this in college. Or on job interviews. Or ever again beyond the week after prom when you get your disposable camera photos developed. It’s all good. You’ve got time to find the “love of your life,” or the rejects who will tell you who the love of your life isn’t.
- Your prom dress will still be gorgeous to you seven years from now, and you will still wish you had somewhere to wear it. But you will not. Ever again. Get over it and say goodbye. (No, seriously, get it out of the closet, almost-25-year-old Lindsay.)
- The fact that you didn’t get drunk and hook up with anyone the night of your senior prom is OK. You went to the school PTSA-sponsored after-party at the bowling alley? So what? Did you have fun? Because that’s all that matters. You don’t need to worry about the rest of that crap. You probably would have regretted those other decisions anyway. Probably.
- On that note, lighten up a little. Really. Try new things. Meet new people in college. While alcohol is not the be-all and end-all of your freshman year, it also doesn’t mean anyone who partakes in activities involving it is a heathen. Again, lighten up. And get the hell out of your dorm room every once in a while.
- Pajama pants? Are not real pants. They should not be worn outside the house. Ever. You might do this a handful of times in college when you are hungover and late for class, but really, never again. You will look back on this as an adult and regret it. There is something (read: a lot) to be said for looking put-together.
- On that same note, wear a freaking coat. A hoodie is not the same thing. It may be “cool,” but you will be a heck of a lot warmer in a real coat. Oh, and they make some damn nice “real” coats too. Learn to love ’em. And umbrellas? They don’t make you look like a nerd. They make you look dry. Imagine that.
- If there is something you really, really love, go for it with all your heart. Because I can promise you that seven years from now, your passion for journalism will still be burning strong and you will find your way into the field. Just keep going.
- People will change. You will change. It’s a fact of life. There will be times to say goodbye to the people who no longer fit, times to move on to find the people who will. But never discount the role any of those people played in your life. They are all a part of creating the [pretty awesome…and humble] person you will become.
Lastly, I want to say… learn to stand up for yourself. Don’t let other people tell you what is right or wrong for you. Have faith in yourself. Be confident. See the world. Follow your instincts. And hey…did I mention have some fun? Do that. A lot. You won’t regret it.
Keep on keepin’ on…
PS: You think “sing we ever Perry Hall” is powerful when singing your alma mater? Wait until you get to chant “Long Live Elon” at your college graduation. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, kid.