Monday, August 22, 2011

Wear Sunscreen, Etcetera Etcetera.

This is my welcome letter/advice to this year's incoming freshmen. It'll be showing up the freshmen issue of The New Hampshire on Friday. I promise I'll get back to real blogging soon, shit's been crazy.

Welcome to UNH. I’m sometimes envious of you—my classmates and I are staring down the barrel of a job market that’s so spectacularly bad for new college grads it would be almost funny if we didn’t have to graduate into it in a matter of months. By the time you graduate, maybe things will be better, or maybe we’ll all be scrambling to learn Chinese. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m not really envious of you. Because I’ve learned a lot since I first lay in the top bunk in a sweltering room in Stoke during freshman orientation, unable to fall asleep because I was so excited to begin, to start what you’re starting this week, this big adventure called college. Here’s what I’ve learned since then.

Work hard, but don’t work too hard. Take a late-night walk in the snow, have long talks, hang out with friends at HoCo until it’s time for the next meal, lie on Thompson Hall lawn in the springtime…take time to notice that this is a nice place. Don’t miss it because you’re holed up in the library.

This seems like a big place to you now, but it will start to feel small. Explore everything—internships, study abroad, alternative spring break. Durham will always be here, and it’s a big world out there. And you’ll appreciate our sleepy little town even more if you’ve been away.

The people who are worth your romantic attention aren’t the ones texting you at 1 a.m. asking you to come over and “watch a movie.” Know what you want, know what you deserve, and stick to your guns. And, when you inevitably ignore that hard-won little chestnut from a wizened senior, just remember that every person you date/hook up with/have a weird undefined thing with is part of your story and part of the hopefully functional adult you’re going to become. Don’t disavow that. It’s college. We’ve all been there. (Just use a condom).

Fight for your friends. From this year onward, and progressively for the rest of your life, your friends are going to be increasingly scattered across the country and the world. The friends who were two doors down last semester might be in Kenya or London or New Zealand next semester. Your friends from home may not come back for the summer—they might take on internships in California or summer classes in Cambridge. Make the effort to hang onto the people you care about. It’s worth it.

Finally, don’t get locked into a five-year plan or fixated on a dream career. The jobs I’m looking at now are in fields I didn’t even know existed when I was a freshman. Things happen. You learn new things—about yourself and about the world—and you change your mind. That’s okay (and you’re not even remotely alone). Whatever you think you want now might not make you half as happy as something you haven’t even discovered yet. Yes, have goals—just stay awake to the rest of the world, too. And don't take it too seriously. You're gonna be great.

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