Oberlin Blogs

The Last Ride

August 20, 2015

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

The countdown is officially at eight days. I have been playing around like my living room is not exploding with my stuff, like my iTunes playlist does not need a serious update and like my phone's playlist does not need some love too. By the time I get it together it will be the first day of classes (*I'm exaggerating, but y'all know the struggle too!). I am just trying to keep the stress pimples away and make sure I do not forget something that matters in the crossfire of (re)packing things.

Every year I make list after list of things to pack--my bag for the car, the hotel bag, my "let me be cute for the first few parties and opening days of classes" duffle and then everything else. It is almost ritualistic how college students, new and returning, go through this process of deciding what is important enough to come with you and what will be okay to stay behind.

The amount of college checklists available is mind-blowing so I will provide a different kind of checklist. Here are some suggestions for things you should spend your last week doing before you shell off for campus.

Enjoy a meal with some fantastic company

While you still can easily get a home-cooked meal or make it out to your favorite restaurant at home, make that move. Food brings people together and sharing a meal is one of the ways that you will come to appreciate the folks around you, wherever you are in life. Also, the conversation had during the meal might be useful for you as you move on to your new setting.

I always make it a point to cook for my family at least once in my last week. My dad taught me how to cook and we have had some of our most significant bonding moments over food. I am teaching my little brother to cook and we have made a lot of "creations" together that have been special. My mom and I are at that friend stage where we can grab cocktails together now and talk about life.

Go to a place you have never been before

A couple days ago a close friend of mine (and an Obie alum) invited me to the Woman Made Gallery to see the exhibition "Aesthetics of Wellness." It featured artists of color who talked about how they use their creative aesthetic to engage in practices of healing.

It was such a timely conversation, considering that my friend and I spent the entire car ride over talking about Oberlin, the culture of busyness, how not to lose ourselves in the work we do and how to stay afloat. Even more fitting that my last post, Dreams to Vision, was about launching a creative project.

Write yourself a letter and/or warm fuzzies

Trust me on this one thing--future you will be thankful that current you took some time out to write yourself a letter or short and sweet positive notes called warm fuzzies. These small mementos will affirm you at the times when you really need it and they might help to focus and ground you later on.

On the bad days I have (college will give you a lot of them) these notes and warm fuzzies creep out of the drawer or folder I have them in and make the day brighter. Do not let yourself arrive in your new living space without writing something to yourself first.

Spoil (how ever you define it) yourself

One thing everyone should do before coming is treat yourself, dare I say it--spoil yourself. Spoiling yourself can have endless possibilities: maybe you go to a yoga session everyday for a week, perhaps it is getting a mani-pedi with your besties, or maybe it is workshopping plans for activist projects you're working on. Honestly, whatever fills your spirit up with joy and makes you feel like you are at your best: DO THAT.

Reconnect with someone

College is a time of huge transition so take advantage of this time to (re)evaluate some of your relationships. Remind yourself that high school is over, home will come to mean different things and that you are constantly growing too. Change is scary and sometimes difficult, but necessary, so embrace this reality early.

Also, understand that as you are evolving so are others around you. Hold yourself accountable to reconnect with the places, spaces and people that hold meaning for you, not just now but going forward as well.

YOU... YOU... and YOU

Out of all my suggestions the one I will emphasize the most is you. Create memories, build relationships, learn, cry, call home, go to new places, have bad days, realize your brokenness, do not give up and become stronger, do it all. College is such an exciting time to learn about so much and you should check in with yourself as much as you can to make sure that you are present for it all.

Just as important is remembering that as you take care of yourself, include other people as well. Become a mentor, a tutor, volunteer, be an RA, get involved in a student organization or anything that will connect you with folks you vibe with.

A friend of mine recently reminded me of a favorite quote, "I Am because We Are," which reminds me that all of what I do--success especially--is a result of someone caring for me. I am grateful for the care of my peers and mentors and I have learned how to extend it onto others. Such reciprocity has been one of many lights during my college years and is guiding me through this last ride.

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