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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Dear 15 year old Me,

Elizabeth Veronis
MSN Class of 2019

(11/2015) So you want to know how to survive the cruel halls of high school? First of all, they are not really that cruel; stop picturing scenes from Mean Girls. Nevertheless, I suggest you watch a few episodes of the Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. Donít just study Serena Van der Woodsenís wardrobe. Trust me, nobody wears couture to class. Most suburban high schools rock a Forever 21 or J Crew vibe. But in your case, you get stuck with the classic plaid skirt and knee socks.

Listen to the wise words of Brooke Davis, "People are gonna label you. Itís how you overcome those labels. Thatís what matters." Still, you might want to dodge the Queen Bees, the Wannabes, the Type A super-strivers and the Burn Outs. Your goal, my friend, is to ditch the drama and focus on flying under the radar. This is not to say that you want to remain invisible all four years. You should leave a footprint, but not necessarily any DNA that could land you on an administratorís watch list, or worse, on a detention detail. This can be tricky, but there is one thing on your side.

As a freshman, you are a blank slate. Take advantage of your low status and say yes as often as possible. Never been on a mogul? So what? Join the ski club. Think you look good in spandex? Sign up for the Dance Club. But whatever you do, donít commit to any one group of friends or any one activity. You donít want to get stereotyped right out of the gate.

Another thing, donít for even one second, believe that high school is going to be the best time of your life. You are still living at home, still getting told just how short your skirt can be, still operating under a curfew, and still unable to sneak out to Starbucks for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. Worse, you have to suffer through Western Civ, pretend you care if the football team wins on Friday night, and figure out how to get a date for the Prom.

More often than not, things will work out in your favor. But donít despair when things donít. Believe it or not, everyone needs a few hiccups in life. Just keep them in perspective.

Hereís another thought: try to occasionally think about your future and I am not referring to your plans for the weekend. I am talking about college and beyond. What you do in high school does have an impact on the rest of your life. So donít blow off your studies, tank your mid-terms or always opt for the easiest classes. For some reason, most college admissions counselors frown upon those things.

But donít get too neurotic, either. You get a lot of do-overs in life, so if you screw up, chances are, someone will throw you a net.




Dear 22 Year old me:

Remember Nathan Scottís words?: "One day, youíre 17 and youíre planning for someday. And then quietly, without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And then someday is yesterday. And this is your life." Well hey-- here we are. Say goodbye to your childhood, kid. Your extended adolescence is over. Donít believe me? The first payment on your student loan is due in exactly six months. So hereís hoping those summers you languished as an unpaid intern start paying off.

You did log some quality time at career planning and placement, but I donít blame you for feeling anxious. You started college as an undeclared major. Who are we kidding? You would have marked the "completely clueless" box had that been an option. So congratulations on your progress. You found an area of interest, a path that held some promise. Hopefully, you came by it deliberately, after being exposed to lots of different disciplines and many different viewpoints. Thatís what you were hoping for when you opted for a true liberal arts education.

But unfortunately your degree doesnít come with a GPS for life. You will have to figure out how to parlay that, and all of your other experiences, into a career. I know you are seeking something that will give you purpose and meaning. Wouldnít it be great if you got that right off the bat? Alas, that probably wonít be your experience.

You may very well find your first job dreadfully dull. But you can take solace in the fact that you will probably have 15 to 20 jobs in your lifetime. Thatís the expectation for the average Millennial, who isnít afraid to job-hop or switch up careers. So, donít worry if you have one or two false starts, or even three or four.

But have reasonable expectations, too. You want pay equity and rapid promotions and you are willing to delay marriage and childbirth to get it. Good for you! But there is no such thing as having it all. Balance is always elusive and something or someone is always getting shortchanged. Donít lose your optimism or your confidence! You havenít been beaten up by life yet. So be fearless and unapologetic. Ask for what you want.

Sometimes what you want will be help, and you shouldnít be afraid to ask for that, either. You arenít expected to know it all, now or ever. Remember that your education continues and so does your obligation to serve those who have less than you: less money, less opportunity, or less ability. You have been the recipient of much love, support, and prayer.

This will continue. So donít get too neurotic over this stage of your life, even though it is scary and uncertain and in a constant state of flux. And hey, if you screw up, someoneís bound to throw you a net.

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