Dear Li'l Jordan,
No, you’re not a SoundCloud rapper with a questionable ethos. You are the younger version of me. I am writing to give you some advice before you embark on the “journey” that is university. Got it? Good.
You’ll be glad to know that I made it to graduation without failing all my classes and getting sent back to high school, or being shunned from society over my innate dislike of superhero movies. Be warned—it’s a tough world out there if you can’t keep track of all the
Allen Wrenchers Avengers.
Anyway, in case the ghost of Stan Lee is coming to wreak his revenge, let’s get to the advice.
You will come into university with the expectation of pursuing a fine arts degree. You soon realize that you don’t want to pursue this fine arts degree, yet insist on continuing on in the pre-reqs.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a BFA, but you’ll realize you have some other academic interests you want to pursue while you’re in school. For a while, you’ll think you have to continue on with the plan you had going into university.
Though there is something to be admired in having all the flexibility of a telephone pole, don’t be afraid to loosen up and trust your instincts. University is a time of change, so follow your interests—even if they lead you into the maw of courses centred around writing research essays (Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 plays).
Having switched into your preferred degree stream, you’ll feel like you’re getting the hang of university. However, you’ll also begin a process of trying to accumulate as many friends as possible, rather than focusing on the quality of your friendships.
Not to say that the friends you make aren’t all quality people—they certainly are!
But it’s important to have those solid, core friendships that remain even after you finally get over your lack of popularity in grade school. When push comes to shove, or when the ghost of Stan Lee comes to wrap his ectoplasmic hands around your throat, you need people to rely on.
This year, you’ll take a full course load, work, be a club executive, and take care of the century-old house you and some friends rent. Though these are all fun adventures, don’t feel like you have to be everything for everybody.
When you have a lot going on, you might find yourself trying to be whoever people need you to be, chameleon-ing into different identities for different situations. This might help get you through the day, but eventually, you start to lose track of who you actually are.
Fulfill all your responsibilities, but remember that people will like the “real” you much more than they could ever like a “pretend” you.
Also: you’ll find hordes of silverfish in your old, old house. Never give up the fight. Conquer the silverfish. CONQUER THEM ALL.
You’ll go on exchange this year! This ends up being an excellent choice. Living abroad for 10 months gives you a clearer sense of self, improved self-confidence, and a greater appreciation for strong cheese. You’ll work really hard to save up money and prepare for your trip, and it’s all worth it.
Good job! You actually do most things right on this one.
However, while visiting Germany, don’t accidentally fall asleep by the Isar River on a hot day. You’ll wake up with a sunburn so bad that your torso will more closely resemble a Red Delicious apple than human flesh. Please wear sunscreen. Just—please.
Coming back home will be a strange experience, but, in my infinite foresight, I’ve already written about that.
You will take a smaller course load and work 2 jobs during your “victory lap.” Unfortunately, “senioritis” will kick in HARD. University is exhausting, and you’ll contemplate just giving up and pulling a Fantine by selling your hair to make ends meet.
Though the year seems like an inescapable maze, it will end a lot faster than you were expecting. Pushing through your courses will be tough, but don’t lose motivation. Putting in effort actually makes it easier to enjoy your courses and get something out of them.
When you feel the limp, pallid grasp of apathy taking hold, take a walk and remind yourself that it’s a very temporary feeling. You only have a few months left of your undergrad, and you’ll want to feel good about the work you put in up to the very end.
It’s not always easy, Li'l Jordan, but the next 5 years will be some of the most important of your life. Making mistakes is part of the experience, as long as you learn from them. You’re only human, after all—unlike the ghost of Stan Lee, now standing ominously over the foot of my bed. He’s raving about something called a “tesseract.” I’m very confused, but he seems to be harmless, so don’t worry about me!