I remember leaving Chicago after a summer of bickering with my mom in Target aisles. I carefully went through all of my clothes and pulled everything I considered fashionable into a massive duffel, desperate to impress the classmates I’d meet who (based on my understanding that Serena from Gossip Girl was going to go to Brown) would be far more chic than me.
But when I went to school, Barack Obama was in the White House.
People debated President Obama’s policies but except among racist birthers, no one doubted his intelligence and capacity to be President. At the very least, he'd held elected office before.
Now, it feels like there are no longer any adults in the room.
Life in America has become a board game with no rules and no way to win and also all of the pieces were made in different factories and don’t quite fit together. No one is in charge of anything! It’s madness!
And so, to the future class of 2021, here are a few words of advice for you to take into the next state of being a person while someone you’re probably objectively smarter than is in the Oval Office:
Your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s
That dude in your Econ class who keeps interrupting you and saying, “Okay, but…” is a douche. No matter how confident he sounds or how dismissive his tone, his points aren’t necessarily more valid than yours. You are entirely in the right to continue your thought. “As I was saying before I was interrupted….”
…Except the professor
Yeah, don’t be that douche, by the way. Don’t interrupt the 300-person lecture to raise your hand with a "question that’s really more of a comment" secretly designed to show off how smart you are because you listened to a podcast about the subject on the way to class.
You are basically an idiot who knows nothing
This might seem contrary to point number one, but it isn’t. You know nothing, he knows nothing, basically every freshman knows nothing about anything and the quicker you realize that the more you’ll get out of your classes.
The devil doesn’t need any more advocates
If you begin a sentence with, “Just to play devil’s advocate for a second,” pause and really consider what you’re about to say and the reason you want to say it.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
This applies to intramural ultimate frisbee, taking a creative writing class, dating jocks, and anal sex.
You have so much ability to affect change
College kids get shit done. Problems in the world are solvable. Not all the problems, but some of them. And you are in a place with a lot of resources designed to help you and a bunch of other young, passionate, smart people around you.
Think outside the campus and get to work! I know it sometimes feels as though college is its own bubble completely isolated from the rest of the world, but the things you do there are actually real. Start a company! Start a blog! Write a book! If you write a book in college, you write a book in real life!
Sexual assault is real, and it’s not your fault
Trump bragged about grabbing women without their consent. This is sexual assault. It’s also sexual assault when a boy says, “Come onnnnnn,” and keeps pulling off your clothes when you say no, or when he does it when you’re too drunk to say no, or when he slips off the condom before he goes inside you. It’s never your fault.
There are going to be assholes who feel emboldened by our President and by the mutated grubs who have created festering Internet communities in his honor.
If anything happens to you, you may feel broken, and lonely, and vulnerable but you shouldn’t feel guilty. You should tell someone — the police, or the campus authorities, or a sexual assault hotline. Even if you invited him over. Even if you were dating him. Even if you had sex with him before. Rape is rape and you should not be silenced by a world that acts as though your account is in any way unworthy.
You can kind of do whatever you want
I mean, nothing too against the law, obviously. College isn’t an isolated bubble but it is this weird magical community where climbing onto your roof (pick the side where cops and R.A.s can't see you) and staying up until 4 a.m. reading H.P. Lovecraft stories is basically encouraged.
My senior year, I directed a play that I desperately wanted to stage in an old house somewhere. I emailed basically every campus building begging them to let me use a nice foyer or dining room (I went to a school on the east coast just lousy with fancy buildings). For whatever reason, a grad student campus center I didn’t even know existed said yes and I put on a goddam play. College is weird like that; there are so many resources. Take advantage of it. Especially the gyms.
You can study whatever you want
With so much talk about politics, it may seem like unless you’re studying international law with a focus in human rights you won’t be able to change the world. Think less about what you “should” do and more about what you could do. The world deserves you doing exactly what you want—something that you’re passionate about that will make you happy every day.
And when you’re tempted to skip the reading (which we all are), just remember that this is the one chance you get in your life where you have almost no other obligations than to learn as much as you possibly can. Take advantage of the brilliant people around you teaching you things. You’ll be insanely grateful for it all when you can casually drop Wilkie Collins references at Elite East Coast Media cocktail parties, trust me.
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