Do not reject that class you really want to take because it doesn't fit into your 4-year plan. No matter how much you try to convince yourself⎯you won’t come back after graduation and take it just for fun. You will spend your life wondering if you could have been a famous Fill In The Blank Here had you just taken that one class. When you have your midlife crises twenty years from now, you will finally signup for a similar class at a local art center. It will leave you wondering even more.
Do not drink yourself to oblivion to curb social anxiety. If downing alcohol becomes a nightly contest with your new college besties⎯it’s time to check out the other end of the dorm hall. Trust me—your reputation and liver will be thanking you years later. How do you know when it's time to switch friends? Hint: when you wake up and don't know where you are or how you got there. Double hint: if you wake up on a different college campus than you started on, and still don’t know how you got there⎯it's way past time to trade the booze for a bottle of water and seek out calmer (more sober) friends.
Do not be a wuss. If you think you might want to be an anchor on the college channel news⎯audition. Do not wear a thick wool sweater. You will be hot and feel fat. This will make your already triggered social anxiety even more pronounced. You will wipe the sweat from your palms and change your mind about reading the lines. You'll tell them you want to be part of the set crew instead. You'll go back to your dorm and avoid the telecommunications building for the next four years. Do not do it! Read the fucking lines. It is ten minutes and you don't know these people, which means they don't know you either. They have their own issues to focus on, they don’t notice that you’re sweaty and look fat in your sweater. They secretly want you to succeed.
Do not be silent. Speak up in class. You don't have to stand on a soapbox, paint your face, and shout out protests, but join the debate. You can be wrong. You can⎯and will⎯change your mind often, because this is college and your mind should still be open. There will be plenty of times in your adult life when others off-handily disregard your opinion. Learn that your thoughts matter just as much as the next guy’s and you can both benefit from the discussion.
Do not follow a boy around. Yes, he may be the love of your life. You may end up married with three children and two dogs in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia. I’m not saying ignore him, just don’t forget this is your time to figure you out. When he goes out with his friends⎯do not follow. Do something with your friends. Pick girls who have varied interests. Have conversations that make you think. Explore new perspectives of the world through many eyes. Learn the universal lesson of higher education⎯respect people different than yourself while realizing core similarities bind us all.
In turn, earn an A+ in your own self-esteem.
Kim Drew Wright enjoys RVA's eclectic restaurants and breweries. The Strangeness of Men, her debut collection of short fiction and prose poetry, won Finalist in USA Best Book and a Silver IPPY. She lives in Richmond with her husband, three children, and small petting zoo. Find out more at kimdrewwright.com.