FLIPSIDE cartoon by ragini srikrishna

Believe in yourself

Letter to a daughter on the verge of college

Dear Roz,

I remember the day you were born - I hadn’t shaved for a few days and then didn’t sleep for the next few. Uncle Steve, not sure what the right thing to do had brought us one of those huge Palo Alto pizzas, and all of us had a good laugh even as we gobbled it down. A photo from when you were a week old shows an unshaven and sleep-deprived me holding an unbelievably tiny you in my hand.

A few months before you were born Uncle Dennis and I began training for the Bay to Breakers. I’d never run more than three miles and a month after you were born, I finished the Bay to Breakers in little over an hour. The photo from the finish line, shows a slim fellow in good shape grinning in delight. Seems like someone else altogether. So you’d begun changing my life even before you were born.

Now as you head out to college, I sense a similar life-changing event ahead of both of us. One of the many advantages of growing old is you get a chance to reflect and if you’re lucky learn from your mistakes.So as you set out for college, here are a few things I’ve learned, that hopefully prove useful to you.

Believe in yourself Every freshman, not just someone who travels 10,000 miles away from home, as you will, is plagued by a million doubts. Will I make friends? Will college be like high school? God no! What if I’m not able to cope? What if I’m home sick? Yes, you will make friends and yes you’ll be homesick and sure some courses will be tough and there will be days when you feel so lonely. But there will be other days, when you will be on fire, you will scintillate, you’ll be right on the money and you’ll wonder who the stranger in the mirror is — who’s charming, cool and composed. The way to get through the lows and the highs — is to believe in yourself — to know that you are capable of this and more. When you taught those autistic kids to paint — that was you. When you had that first art exhibition and sold your manga paintings, when you played soccer with the boys and kicked butt, when you topped economics and scored straight As (while feeling scared you’d fail) — that was all you. So believe in yourself at all times — there’s nothing you can’t get achieve if you set your mind to it.

Learn by trying lots of things Funnily, I still believe the reason we go to college (or school) is to learn how best to learn. Sure what you learn is important, but not nearly as much as knowing how you learn and how you can learn. So try a lot of things — audit a Japanese class, take that math class which scares you, join that a cappella group, try out for the soccer team. Learning happens just as much outside your classroom. Sure it’s good to stay focused and meet the requirements — that’s what your academic counselor and advisors are there to guide you (not to mention your mom and me :) If nothing else, you’ll learn how best to manage your time and to keep your head above water, most likely after you’ve swallowed a whole lot of it!

Keep a journal It’s amazing how easily we forget things. Keeping a journal makes it a whole lot easier to both believe in yourself and to keep track of what you’ve learned. And it may improve your writing to boot and it’s great fun to go back even a couple of weeks later, let alone at the end of the semester or the year to read what you’ve written. The bad times don’t last, the scary stuff is no longer as scary and doggone it, you’ve tried a whole lot of things and learned some to boot.

Help others One of the best ways to learn, make friends and overcome or get past issues we have is by helping others. You are naturally geared to do this — and maybe at times your mom and I have both said, take care of yourself first. That’s still true — if you’re sick or behind on your homework or haven’t eaten it’s hard to pay attention or help someone else. But it’s easy to get caught up with all the challenges you’re facing and drown in your own fears or worse yet feel sorry for yourself. So whether it’s helping your room mate with laundry or volunteering in the community, make time or find the opportunity to help others and you’ll find the world is suddenly a much better place.

Have fun Sometimes it will seem like everyone else just gets it and it’s easy for them while you’re struggling. If so see point #1 above. Even if we weren’t Indian, it’s all too easy to get caught up with school work, studying, grades and all that serious stuff. What’s the point of going to college if you don’t have fun? So don’t forget to have fun. Preferably loads of it. Some of the time fun happens and other times you’ve gotta make sure that you are doing things that are fun. Like with meals, no one else is going to ask you did you eat (now that you’re too far for your mom or me to nag you) — no one’s going to nag you to have fun. So it’s your job — to have plenty of fun.

love,
Dad

ps. Call your mom and write your dad