Kathryn’s Keys for Killing It In College (and Life!)

Now Brewing:  Good old H20. I’m trying to be better at drinking the good stuff. Here’s why.  

What did I get myself into? I remember thinking, as I looked around the room full of strangers I now knew as my fellow homeroom classmates. They all were seemingly lifelong friends, laughing and reminiscing on their shared histories—none of which I shared in. Outside of a few girls I knew from my years of playing competitive softball, I couldn’t even put names to half of the faces I was looking at. I felt invisible most of the day, as I spent most of the morning struggling to open my locker combination and getting lost in the nearly endless amount of hallways. In fact, except for the girl who’d shouted out, “Hey! Your mom is my therapist!” after the teacher called my name during attendance (the first of many similar awkward experiences my brother and I encountered since), I hadn’t even been acknowledged by the faces around me. “If this is high school, count me out,” I thought. Luckily, I adjusted and met lifelong friends (both in my homeroom and out) and ended up becoming so attached to my high school that the thought of leaving it for college made me question what I was getting myself into all over again.

Much like in high school though, I adjusted, made lifelong friends, and became so attached to my campus that the thought of leaving it for the “real world” made me question what I was getting myself into all over again.

Isn’t that how life goes? You get used to how things are and then they change; and you’re faced with the choice to either adapt to your new situation or be left out and behind. So we adapt, and learn, and grow into our new surroundings. And in the end, our new surroundings become our day-to-day.

So we face changes, with a little bit of fear and a lot of expectation for our new beginnings—despite how difficult it can be to adapt when life isn’t going exactly how we planned and eventually we become comfortable.

One of my favorite pieces of prose, Welcome to Holland, hits this point beautifully. Welcome to Holland is about what it’s like to raise a child with a disability, but it also talks about learning to appreciate the good, even when your plans, and dreams, and visions about how things should be, shift.

Throughout my life, Welcome to Holland has been a reminder for me that I am incredibly lucky to be my sister, Julia’s big sister and that that even though she wasn’t the sister I anticipated having 18 years ago—all of the wonderful things about Julia make up for the fact that I signed up for Italy and ended up in Holland, so to speak.

I could write a thousand blog posts about all the beautiful moments I’ve gotten to enjoy as Julia’s big sister and someday, maybe I will. But today, I’d like to reflect on one of the other parts of my life in Holland, the gift I received of a cousin who can fill in to grind my nerves, talk about life, boys, and our family, and keep me up all night at sleepovers—just like a little sister.IMG_8301

It’s difficult to believe that in a few short days she will embark on some of the most challenging and exciting years of her life, leaving our shared hometown for new adventures in college. It’s even harder to believe that I’ve already been out in the “real world” for almost two years. Although college is different for everyone and I can’t predict how college will go for my cousin, I do know that she’ll adjust, and make new friends, and become so attached UW-Stout that leaving will make her feel the same way she’s feeling now—a little bit sad to leave the place she’s come to love and a lot excited to experience the new. Having three and a half years of college and a diploma on my resume—I’ve learned a thing or two about the college experience (which I’ve found translates fairly well in the working world, too!), and I decided to provide a little guidance. So here are a few of  Kathryn’s Keys for Killing It In College (and Life!) that I think most people on any life path will agree with me on:

  1. All the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you have no experience or professional relationships. Make connections, get involved, and try new things. Not only will you be finding activities you’re passionate about, you’ll also be connecting with likeminded people who can help you get your foot in the door as you move forward in your career.
  2. Create your resume and keep it up to date. Get it critiqued by someone who knows what they’re doing, so it’s ready to go when you’ve got the chance of a lifetime to interview for your dream job. While you’re at it, make a personal website to show off your work or at the very least, collect materials in a folder to use as a portfolio, showcasing your work during interviews and documenting your successes along the way.
  3. Overuse “I love you.” Yup, that’s a song lyric. It’s also a good one to live by. How awesome does it feel to hear someone tell you that you’re loved? Why wouldn’t you want to spread that feeling to everyone you meet?
  4. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you, build you up, and make you laugh. Life gets tough; and sometimes all you really need is a deep belly laugh, someone to make you see your light when you can’t see it on your own, and a friend to tell you to get your butt up when you fall down.
  5. Be thankful for homesickness. Appreciate the fact that feeling homesick means you have something worth missing. Not until I got to college did I realize how incredibly lucky I was to have a warm house and loving family to return home to every break. Not everyone is so lucky, and you will meet plenty of other people in your life who want nothing more than to escape their pasts and reinvent themselves. Never stop counting your blessings—and throw in an extra thank-you to the people who make coming home worthwhile next time you’re there.
  6. Work hard, do what needs to be done and when you just can’t take it anymore, know when to let it all go.

Perhaps most importantly though, something we should all remember is that we don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. Our age of social media is great in that it helps keep us connected to our friends and family around the world. Unfortunately, our addiction to showcasing our lives’ like-worthy moments and shying away from posting our not-so-great moments—makes everyone around us feel inadequate when their life doesn’t seem to measure up.

“Nothing could make our lives feel more unglamorous than staring at the showcased glamor of others,” wrote Paul Angone in his book, All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!  It’s so true. Our lives are our own for the taking, shaping, and making. Don’t focus too much on what your friends are doing—do what feels right, what you love, and what you need—because your life is yours alone.

So in the words of the great Dr. Seuss:

“You’re off to great places, today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so…. get on your way!”

Dear Sami, I am so incredibly proud of you and cannot wait to watch you grow as you take this next leap in your life. God blessed me with the two best little sisters I could ever ask for. Thank you for being my late night conversation partner, my kayak buddy, my co-pizza hater, and one of my very best friends. Stout has no idea what it’s in for!


Kathryn E. Weast

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