When I was 17, I had my first baby girl.
Not really. No Teen Mom status. But my little cousin Magoo (her lifelong nickname I gave her) was born in June of 1997, the summer before my senior year of high school. I remember going to meet this squishy little bundle of pink with the biggest, bluest eyes. My aunt, one of my favorite people in the world, asked me to be her Godmother. I was shocked. I told her I was too young. She said that didn’t matter. I told her I had been Confirmed approximately 12 months prior. She said that didn’t matter. When I held her for the first time, I fell in love with my baby girl and nothing else mattered.
Well, that blue-eyed squishy little bundle of pink started college last week. Somebody hold me. I’m not old enough to have a college freshman! But she drove down her gravel driveway and into the sunset and now she’s living on campus and doing all those big-girl things. It’s wonderful. It’s terrifying.
The relationship her and I have isn’t mother-daughter. It’s big-little sister. I don’t have a sister; so Magoo sort of filled that role for me. Through the years, I held fast to the big sister status and made sure she didn’t view me as another parent chiding her for making mistakes, not making decisions, or being too hard on herself. She has mom and a dad, and a big brother, little brother, and two feisty-as-hell grandmas (one she shares with me) who do plenty of parenting for her.
Instead, I told her boys are idiots.
Men are too, but some are worth loving really hard.
Her hometown is too small.
Life is not.
It all goes fast.
But not fast enough sometimes.
The things that are important to her now, might not be later.
But they’ll always shape her life.
And she should consider taking less duckface selfies because when she gets married in that barn wedding she’s always wanted, all we’re going to have to work with for photos for the slideshow is all those duckface selfies.
Your real smile.
And now that she’s in college, I need to up my game with her. I think about my college experience and how much I loved all four years, even if that was 17 years ago (God; gross). So here is my advice for her, things maybe I wish I had learned, and not the hard way, or had my own big sister to clue me in on.
College does not prepare you for the real world. The only thing that prepares you for the real world is the real world itself. So don’t spend your precious few college years worrying about being a grown-up, because you’ll worry about being a grown-up when you are one.
Plan B. Not the contraceptive.
Well yes, the contraceptive, too. Because no matter what, people make mistakes. No big deal. Zero judgment. But figure out Plan B. Because you can start your college career with your eyes on the horizon, your shiny little plan all figured out until you actually get into it. Then you might want a new plan. Make one. Make 70. Nobody will care except you.
Wear eyeliner. Learn how to be a girl when you are surrounded by them.
You will never need both Oreos and those shitty, neon pink frosted animal crackers in your grocery cart at the same time. In fact, you probably don’t even need either of them.
Don’t drink whatever you can get your hands on. Have some standards, man.
Travel. And I’m not talking Cancun for spring break. In fact skip Mexico because that’s actually not a vacation when you’re 20. Take your girlfriends when you turn 30. Instead, take a roadtrip around the Great Lakes. Visit Savannah, GA, and stay at the Azalea Inn. Go snowboarding in Crested Butte, CO. Stay in a shitty hotel in Seattle and eat your way through the city.
Work your ass off. Work two jobs. Be a hustler like your Grandma S. She raised you to be one, and she’s so proud of you.
Don’t ever, ever smoke. It doesn’t help you relax, focus, get a buzz, calm you down, or make you appear like you’re a badass. All smoking does is give you cancer. And let me get a little Momish on you here, cancer from tobacco use is the only cancer that’s 100% preventable. Don’t. Ever.
Skip class. If you can’t decide whether or not to skip class, just skip it. If you’re already contemplating no-showing, your heart and brain aren’t in it, and you’ll just sit in class complacent, lethargic, asshole-esque, and the students around you don’t need that kind of negativity in their lives.
Your parents no longer are responsible for you.
I should leave that sentence on its own without any sort of supporting content, because that is a big, ol’ nasty one that’s really hard to accept. So if you think you’re sick and legitimately cannot get out of bed, swallow water, or get your temp to drop below 102*, you probably have Mono and you should haul your own ass to health services. That way, your mom doesn’t have to get a phone call from your roommate, leave work, drive 120 miles, and take you to the ER. Be your own advocate because you’re all you have right now.
Buy your parents cliché campus souvenirs for your first Christmas as a college student. Because your dad will wear that crew neck sweatshirt until the cuffs fray off, the logo indistinguishable. Your mom’s mascot coffee cup will be hand washed for two decades, and its handle will be super glued on six different times, but she’ll always treasure it.
The fitness center is free. Your gym membership the rest of your life will not be. Use it.
Don’t forget where you came from. And, don’t forget that you can always go home.
Date. But not exclusively. You won’t marry your college boyfriend and this world is a very, very big place.
You have all the control when it comes to dating and boys in general. Don’t ever, ever let any of them tell/force/believe you otherwise.
Learn how to cook using only real food. What you have in your pantry in tidy little cans, packages, and freezer meals are not considered cooking, or even real food.
On topic, SlimFast is bullshit, expensive, and never going to do what getting your ass to the gym and eating real food will do.
Find your ride or dies. Or a single die. College is full of scary, big, doubting, messy, dramatic stuff. Having your person there makes it … not as much. And be the same for her, or him. Say what you mean, and always, always pick up the phone when they call, day or night, rain or shine.
Be yourself. Yourself is amazing. People will fall in love with that girl, the real version of your very best you. But remember, you're not everyone's cup or tea, or shot of whiskey. And that's okay. Don't even try to convince them otherwise.
Don't drink and drive. Don't get in a car with people who are about to drink and drive. I'm sure I told you this when you turned 16, but it bears repeating.
Call your mom. She misses you. Write letters to your grandmas. They REALLY miss you.
Work hard and be nice.
And, don't forget to be awesome.