1. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, your major, your routine, or your shoes.
As Chris Brogan says, “Don't settle: Don't finish crappy books. If you don't like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you're not on the right path, get off it.” Amen, Mr. Brogan. Seriously. After a year and a half of feeling like my major was just mediocre, a few months of insane contemplation, and a couple days of gutsy courage, I’ve officially changed my major as a sophomore. I am jumping feet first, diving into the realm of religion, and out of fashion merchandising (disclaimer: fashion merchandising is a wonderful major, but no longer suits me, personally). While this radical change comes with the appreciated yet meager stability of an English and writing minor (no change there), it’s still frightening. I’ve come to realize though, that through the doubts and the overly analytical thoughts, and the “what am I doing with my life” venting sessions, there is something I am truly more afraid of than change. Mediocrity. Be fearful of it. Run from it. Escape it. Do everything in your power to make sure that the life you are living is nothing short of extraordinary.
2. Don’t be afraid to be asked, “Why are you so dressed up?” on your way to class.
On a lot of college campuses, including my own, those who stray from the cookie-cutter pattern of XL sorority shirts, Nike running shorts (“Norts,” if you want to be cool), and brightly colored Nike Frees will be endowed with not-so-subtle double takes. If that’s your style, then sweet. But if you’re like me, and getting “dressed up” in the morning is something that you actually look forward to (by the way... “dressed up” just means anything but the sorority outfit), and getting dressed up aids in peeling you out of the toasty covers every morning, then don’t be afraid to break the unwritten rule. You might get the question once, twice or a hundred times on your way to class, but when you’re asked what the occasion is, tell them it’s life. Being well dressed is a beautiful form of politeness.
3. Having a Kindle isn’t selling out (or a Nook, or a whatever else).
Don’t feel pressured to join the polar extremes of the page-turning-lovers and the innovation-hungry. I sat next to a lady on the plane once who didn’t even attempt to hide the disgusted look on her face when I whipped out my Kindle to read I’m No Angel (P.S.: The author of that book, Kylie Bissuti, was a Victoria’s Secret Angel who quit modeling to better pursue God. Radical.).
4. Stop rushing.
Gretchen Rubin stated it well in her joyful little book, The Happiness Project—“the days are long, but the years are short.” I’ve been discussing grad school recently with my mom and it just hit me that I only have two and a half years left in college, in Texas, and in an apartment (well...this one in particular, at least). Savor it. I was in such a rush to finish high school a few years ago and now I find myself reminiscing about the simplicity of my life back then (and then I remember the meaningless drama, the bathroom passes, and the attendance policy, and the nostalgic moment passes swiftly). Stop rushing.
5. California burritos are accepted—and are exceptional—at all times of the day.
If you’re stuck in Texas like I am, and everyone looks confused when you say you’re craving a cali b, I feel deeply for you. I really do.
6. Leave the cell phone at home, in the glove box, or zipped away in your bag once a day, twice a week or for five minutes each month.
This one is difficult to advocate firmly because some people need to be reachable at all times, but I stand my ground when I say challenge yourself. Talk to someone and give him or her your undivided attention. Do your homework and fully dive into the material. Read a book, walk outside, cook a meal—do something without your phone attached to your hand or ear. The Bible shows that God prefers to move in small, quiet ways and not with a big bang, and we need to be in tune with him to catch his communication. Put the phone down, and listen.
8. Network constantly.
Especially on a college campus, it’s easy and often necessary to adopt the attitude that a stranger is a friend yet to be met. Although what you know is absolutely important, whom you know is arguably as crucial—perhaps even more so. Make friends, set up meetings, join clubs. Dip your toes into culture and experience what those around you have to offer—outside of your safe little group.
9. If the fire alarm goes off at 2am (as it has three times for me and those in my apartment complex), bring a blanket and bring your phone.
Otherwise you will pull a Rachel and fall half-asleep, cuddling the concrete outside of the univeristy's nursing building, shivering, bored, and desperate for a bed.
10. Conformity isn’t cool.
I know that sounds like a line from American Girl’s Surviving Middle School book, but I think the theme is everlasting. If it isn’t cool to be a “try-hard” in class and ask questions but you know the answer, do it anyway. If you just want to write and swim and go hiking but aren’t down to party like the rest of your college campus, don’t sweat it. Don’t tune me out when I say be you. There are so many cheesy quotes in the crafter-world’s capital, Pinterest, advocating that we “be-you-nique” (Clever? Cheesy? Can’t decide...), but the gritty truth is that if we all followed blindly, the world would lack a great deal of intellect, innovation, creation, and creativity. Follow the beat of your own drum and make it a good one, while you’re at it.
11. Get a library card.
Admittedly, city libraries can be a bit frightening, but you can check out actual books at your college library with an ID (rocket science, I know, but it needed to be said). Also, you can make an appointment with the Special Collections office within the library (à la the Harry Potter restricted section), show proof of a project you have in the works, and look at insanely cool rare books. My library has a whole collection of rare Nancy Drew books from the early 1900s. Impossibly cool.
12. Go to bed earlier; wake up earlier (or find your best pattern).
Make time for productivity, and make sacrifices for it.
13. Lighten it up with laughter.
A few days ago I was laugh-crying on the phone as my brother told me about his friend who went to the bar and struck up conversation with the cute bartender. “What can I getcha?” she asked. Hilarious and confident by nature, he couldn’t resist—donning a frightened-looking face and the most awkward, nerdy voice he could manage, he replied, “Well... I’ve never actually... You know, tried alcohol before...” (She realized it was a joke). Laughter is great.
14. Stop picking out your every little flaw.
I’ve struggled with this for years, and still have to chide myself when I slip into the habit. Growing up and doing a little bit of modeling, the fiery excitement of visits to L.A., an entertainment permit, agency meetings, and photo shoots could easily be stamped out by the rubber-soled, no-nonsense boot of the rejection letter. Finding management is a lot like choosing a college in some ways. Regardless of whether the letter was sent by an agency I was interested in or merely a backup, it still stung to read: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, we are not interested in your look at this current time. You may submit in 6 months to a year for reconsideration.” I had to stop devaluing myself, analyzing what they didn’t like about my face or body or hair, and instead focus on what I (freaking) loved about myself.
15. You won’t be full after one EasyMac.
You just won’t.
16. Be able to say no.
Accountability is a difficult thing, but this world needs leadership. We need to be able to tell our friends, our family, and our children (if applicable), “No, you shouldn’t do that because it’s not good for your soul.” God doesn’t exactly give us everything we want, but does encourage us to strive for the perfection of His son. Accountability can be tricky, for when it turns into a “holier than thou” debate, it can be toxic. Be of good judgment, be of good courage, and keep each other accountable.
17. Don’t focus so much on being right.
“Sometimes, we need not an intelligent mind that speaks, but a patient heart that listens.”
18. Make time for natural, spontaneous play.
Go outside, throw the football, dance around the apartment with your friends, or take a long walk. Take a step back from the scheduled parties and dinners and events to connect with others through play. As lame as it sounds, getting friends together to throw the Frisbee can foster the best stomach-hurts, tears-are-flowing kind of laughter.
19. Avoid taking organic chemistry.
As my best friend says it, “you will rethink your entire life.”
20. People will probably talk about you.
They might envy you and the life you lead. They might think you’re a total weirdo. The important part is that you affected their life, but you don’t have to let them affect yours. The world is brimming with people whose core intent is to drag you down to their level, robbing you of your joy, stealing the sunshine from your heart, and tossing you back onto the street. Don’t let them.
21. “Don’t be delicate. Be vast and brilliant” (Unknown).