The car is packed and you are fast asleep on this, your last night at home. We’ve emptied your room and stuffed boxes and bins full of essentials like toilet paper, pop tarts and the mini dunk hoop for you to have as you leave home for college. It seems fitting to send you off with a few words of wisdom as well, lessons I hope you have learned and things I hope you will remember in your head and in your heart as you launch out into the world.
Have a good faith life. Say your prayers. Go to church. Be proud of your faith. When you have dark days (and you will, we all do) check your faith life first. Prioritize and put it at the top of the list. Remember that when you put God first everything else will fall into place. You are likely to meet many new people of different religions and beliefs. Be respectful of theirs and share yours. Be a bridge of kindness and love. Find a thriving parish and faith community that feeds your soul. Who knows, you may stumble upon a bible study group and make lifelong friends.
Speaking of bible study, talk about stuff you want to do. Dream big. Share your passion and goals with those who will support and encourage you. Inspire others and chase your dreams with all you’ve got. Do big work. Put in the time, blood, sweat and tears it takes to make things happen. It can all be done. All of it. The world is yours and I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to, so long as you follow it with action and perseverance.
Learn the value of a dollar. There is a reason ramen noodles are associated with college students. These years are likely to be rather lean. Be creative and spend wisely. Stretch your pennies as far as you can. Work hard, play hard, save hard. Be mindful of your money and don’t live above your means; that won’t impress anyone. Part of knowing the value of a dollar means knowing what money can buy and also what it can’t. Remember to always take pride in earning an honest living and be mindful that the most important things in life cannot be bought.
Don’t waste a bunch of time. These next four years are unique and special. They are a gift, a luxury. Make the most of every day. Don’t sit around watching the world go by from the comfort of your dorm room and video game controls. Don’t waste days as you sleep off late nights. Go out and be part of things. Learn something new as often as you can. Take advantage of all the opportunities that will surround you. Go to sporting events, attend interesting lectures, explore crazy art. Admire the works of others. Learn from different people. Branch out. Never again will you have so much free time to absorb so many interesting and new things. And never again will so many opportunities be literally right outside your door. Take advantage of everything. You won’t regret it.
Be on time and show up. Don’t be late. Just don’t. Be early and be prepared. Respect other people’s time and give them the best of yours. Really show up for things. Be present and joyful. Participate in class. Engage in meaningful service projects. Dance at weddings. Wear a festive tie to the Christmas party. Go to funerals and offer condolences with genuine spirit. Kiss babies at baptisms. Share moments that matter in other people’s lives. Go out and be part of things. Celebrate the accomplishments and milestones of others. There is enough sunshine for everyone and when your time comes, your people will be there to celebrate with you as well.
Say yes to adventure and honor your commitments. Be spontaneous. Have fun. Every day is a gift and full of promise. Life is too short not to enjoy each and every day. Put yourself out there. Take risks. Allow for serendipity. Say yes to things and be open to what might come next. No path is perfectly clear, and by no means is any path perfect. So take roads that feel right. Trust your judgement. You never know where your choices will take you, so choose wisely and be open to opportunities that come your way. Commit to things and give them your all. Find happiness in your commitments; this is easy when things are new and experiences are fun, but it can be especially difficult when there are challenges and the gloss is long gone. Stick things out. Embrace the hard, you’ll find it’s worth it in the end.
Find your people. Be yourself. Be good. Be kind. Look for the good in others and surround yourself with friends who will challenge you, laugh with you, push you, encourage you and bring out the best in you, just as you should do with them. Healthy relationships enrich your life in more ways than you can even imagine. Who knows, that soon to be fraternity brother or that person in your English class may become one of your best lifelong friends and your kid’s Godparent one day.
Come home for love. Know that we are here. Always. We are your family and we love you unconditionally. You always have arms to greet you, hearts to welcome you and a soft place to land.
Love you so very much,