Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Letter to Myself as a College Freshman

Dear Anne,

Welcome to college.

Do note that if you leave your gray fedora with the feather pluming off the side of it on your lamp it will definitely burn a hole in it, meaning you won't be able to wear it anymore to house parties, meaning you won't be able to wear it with your Flashdance sweatshirt while fist pumping to Prince's "1999" with a bunch of burly wrestlers and gay theatre majors that you meet at orientation, meaning you won't be found crying in the corner later when "Sister Christian" is playing and you've had enough.

As well, remember you are not the only one from a corn & soybean small town, though it will often seem as such. This is mostly fiction, and aside from the tall, blonde, Scandinavian foreign students who flock to your Lutheran college, realize that most everyone, including the tie-dye wearing Rhonda who lives across the hall from you and is already actively political with her anti-Reagan chants and her Mondale posters, is really just another shy Midwestern kid like you.

Listen to me on this: waitress. Since you're putting yourself through school and must work three jobs to do so, realize sooner than later that waitressing is the most money you can make in the shortest amount of time. Never mind that there will be lots of washed-up thirty-something men who wait tables too, and who will scrape lines of coke along the bar for you after close, and who will act extremely interested in your Shakespeare paper that's due the next day and who will want to give you rides home on their motorcycles—but resist. This will end up, if you let it, being a huge waste of time. Instead, walk home, act confident so no one attacks you, and keep your wrinkled piles of money inside a book for safekeeping. Don't ever keep tips inside the dictionary or thesaurus; it's the first place thieves look. Instead, To Kill a Mockingbird is a safe choice, but if you didn't pack that one, Catcher in the Rye is safe, too.

Relatedly, it's best not to steal textbooks from the campus bookstore if you can help it, even though The Collected Works of Shakespeare costs almost a hundred dollars. But what the hell. Do it anyway. It's the eighties and they don't yet have secret magnetic security strips tucked inside books. Surprisingly, no one will notice the huge 10 pound tome shoved underneath your sweatshirt. Consider it part of your financial aid package.

It's okay to cry.

Also, when your theatre professor with the long gray ponytail pulled up high on her head and her little dog, Zorba, by her side, tells you over and over the difference between "it's" and "its," remember it for the rest of your life. Listen when she says, "Annie, Annie, Annie! This may be one of the most important lessons you ever learn!"

Don't dance on top of the tables at Blondie's Bar during Happy Hour. This may send a message about you that you don't wish to send.

Don't feel bad when spring break finds you at your parents' house in Arlington eating frozen pizza and writing a Sociology paper while the rest of your friends are at South Padre Island. You will be better for it, stronger. Watching snow plop down off the trees outside your old bedroom window will set something off in you that will help you later. Try to be patient for it. Try.

Do not eat the ham salad at the cafeteria.

Do not under any circumstances lie to your professors, even though your old, eternally blinking, tweed-wearing religion professor would believe you if you told him you just found out your parents were getting a divorce last week and that's why you missed the midterm. Know that your very real tears would convince him. But don't do it. Please. It's beneath you.

Finally, keep a little cassette player by your bedside and listen to John Lennon's "Imagine" every night, which will comfort you while lying in your tulip sheets as I-94 and the rest of your future flies by outside the window.

Good luck. I'll be waiting for you.