What I wish I’d known before starting senior year

Bonus lesson: find a crew like this and hold onto it with all your might

Back-to-school supplies are inundating the economy, syllabi are getting emailed out, moving trucks are hustling to campus — and it feels weird as hell to have no part in any of it. I thought I’d barely notice, what with the glamour of being a post-grad that is spending my weekend cleaning my bathroom and trying to buy arugula. But instead, I am actually a tiny bit sad and jealous of you college kiddos, especially the new seniors who will be taking over CoMo officially tomorrow. Especially because, well, my senior year was exciting and amazing, but also terrifying and full of mistakes. Which leads me to pen a fartsy old plea for you all to enjoy it as much as possible, and to also learn a few things a lot faster than I did.

1. Learn to really, actually focus.

This looks and sounds boring as hell, especially when you look into the horizon and foresee only a beautiful landscape of irresponsibly shotgunned beers stretching for miles into the sunset. But this is one of the first things that my extremely wise already-graduated friend Celia warned me about when I started my senior year, and it’s this: learn how to sit still and focus on one thing. This includes studying, working or holding a conversation. Do it for at least one, if not two, hours at a time. Because soon (ridiculously soon), you will probably find yourself sitting in a cubicle for a third of your entire day, and you will expected to operate at least nominally without constantly checking your phone or taking periodic breaks to add things into your Etsy online shopping cart.

2. Host as many house parties as you feel up to.

The best part about living in a shoddy student apartment is being able to play host to the kind of parties that collegiate nostalgia is made of. Plus, everyone has more or less developed a sense of party etiquette at this point, so while you should still keep your valuables somewhere safe, you can generally trust that people won’t be barfing/sexing/destroying your place in the process. Sometimes, though, your grandiose Animal House dreams will not work out and only eight of your friends will show up. This is more than okay. Because your living room is probably not even that big, and the required minimum for a dance party is really just you and two people and maybe Mr. Jose Cuervo.

3. Take classes you will genuinely enjoy.

Ahh. When I think of all the classes I took because I thought they would “look good” or would be just blow-off easy, I get so embarrassed because it was such a colossal waste of time and tuition. As long as you’re getting your reqs fulfilled, fill the rest of your semester with courses that will make you actually happy to get out of bed for. About 90% of satisfaction from a course depends on the professor, so if your friend has been raving about Overby for ever and you’re only minimally interested in the writings of Tocqueville, just take it. (Seriously though. Overby is the shit.)

4. Be unapologetic about taking photos.

The whole “stop living your life behind a lens” thing has its merits, but be completely unembarrassed about taking lots of photos this year, especially with friends and loved ones. You will miss them sooner and harder than you think. So don’t feel bad about being “those” girls or whatever taking pics at a bar. No one says you have to post everything, though.

5. Try very, very hard to actually make and stick to plans.

I wish I’d been so much better about keeping in touch with the friends who I loved being around but who also weren’t necessarily a part of my regular routine of class/home/going out. Senior year is full of obstacles like capstones and work and job-hunting and a billion other obligations and being tired all the time, and it’s so easy to just not follow through on lunch dates or coffee. Not to get all existentialist on you, but just remember: you all have a finite amount of time together in the same place.

6. Burn bridges strategically.

Racist comments on the street. Sexist comments in class. Rapey behavior everywhere. The rather unfortunate part of still being in college is the tendency of some people to act terribly because they think college equals freedom equals being an asshole. Luckily for you, college equals freedom which equals standing up for yourself/other people in a relatively safe environment. It is much trickier to do out in the “real world” when you can’t afford to burn bridges or lack a campus safety cushion. But this is your senior year. You have nine months. Tell assholes off, before it’s too late, and they wander out into the real world thinking that their behavior is an okay way to carry on.

7. Think of anxiety as your internal weather.

God knows that there are going to be some anxious times, especially for my fellow crinkle-foreheaded J-schoolers. Anxiety is normal and okay to have, and everyone has it at varying levels, yes. But what I wish I’d learned a year ago was to not let myself freak out about having freakouts. Something that has helped me go a lot easier on myself ever since was thinking about anxiety as like a sort of internal weather system. Sure, it rains and sleets and hails, and you can’t control that. But you can decide whether to put on rainboots or not.

8. There is free therapy. Use it.

Unless things have drastically changed in a year, you should know that every full-time student at Mizzou has access to at least three sessions of free counseling through the Student Health Center, per semester. When I luckily found out about this at a very low point, I felt so silly for not taking advantage even sooner, or even remotely feeling weird about it. Especially because after this year, you will be hard pressed to find free therapy ever again.

9. Things will work out!

Things will work out. Things will work out. Things will work out. Cross-stitch that shit and hang it over your mirror. Because things will work out.

10. Make peace with yourself.

A month ago, my darling friend Colette, who is starting her senior year in strat comm tomorrow (knock ‘em dead bby ❤), asked me what I wish I’d known one year ago, and I thought about it forever, because girl is seriously insightful, and it was a great question that would go on to inspire this blog post and also this last lesson:

I wish I’d known, on the eve of my last year of childhood, to make peace with myself. If you’re like me, chances are, you are not exactly the person you thought you’d be when you first got to campus as a wee lil’ high school grad. Especially because your imagination as a high school grad was probably very limited and informed disproportionately by “Gossip Girl” or ABC Family.

When I began senior year, I was constantly angry at myself for being needy and emotional and anxious. I thought that at that point, I should have had it together (and be also a little taller) and be 100% cool and 100% well adjusted and 100% independent and 100% calm. I have since realized that I am nowhere near 100% on those things, and probably never will be, and that’s okay. Maybe I just happen to be an anxious person. Maybe I like being in relationships. Maybe I am dramatic. Maybe I am always and forever going to be 5' 4. None of those things were/are inherently bad, and I needed to just stop worrying and spend more time on the important things, like penny pitchers. Because, as it gives me great pain to remind you, those are definitely not a thing after graduation.

Knock ‘em dead, you guys.

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