What I Would Tell My Graduating Self

What I would tell my graduating self

They say you don’t realize you’re in “the good old days” until those days are behind you. But for me, when I was in college, I had an overwhelming sense of how special those few years were as I was living them. I don’t want to say the were the best years of my life, but they were incredibly important and wonderful. Experiencing those years somehow made where I am now better.

College was a time when I started to become independent. My mom was still making my doctors appointments for me,  so I can’t claim full independence. Instead, I was just getting my feet wet. I started to realize that my opinions were my own. I didn’t have to take on the moral code of every person I met. That I could be polite and still disagree. Mostly, I was in control of my time. I could do whatever I wanted with it. All these years later, that is perhaps what I miss the most, just having time to figure myself out.

My college years were really happy and fun. I loved what I was learning, who I was with and just about every day was an absolute blast. I don’t think I’ve had a moment since I left that I felt as carefree. It was like a little magic chapter in my life.

I sometimes wish that I could go back and whisper in my younger self’s ear a few wise words to get her through what comes next. So today, in the midst of graduation season, I’m sharing those thoughts. We’d love to hear what advice you would give your younger self, knowing what you know now, as you were entering the “real world.”

Dear Meg,

You just had some of the best times of your life. You think you know exactly how the next 20 years are going to pan out. You have a good plan, but you’re going to need to learn to be flexible and still stand by your convictions. You’re smarter than you think. You are going to have to fight to have your voice heard; it won’t be easy, but you’ll win that battle.

Right now, you’re pretty sure this guy is the one, but you can’t believe you’re considering marriage while all of your friends are getting summer rentals. Trust your gut. He’s a rare find. You’ll take good care of each other and build a beautiful life, but it won’t be without its ups and downs. You are going to learn a lot of lessons about yourself when you two are on the downs. Always remember that you are an equal and that what you say matters. Also bear in mind that he thinks you are as infuriating as you think he is.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Each and every one of us is on a journey. You’re not falling behind, or messing everything up because you’re not doing or don’t have what your friends have. They have their path, and you have yours.

Your confidence is heartbreakingly poor. You’ll overcome some challenges that will finally convince you of how smart and strong you are. I promise there will come a time where you actually believe this. Daily affirmations will be a big part of your life, and you’ll have a bookcase full of self-help guides to keep you on track.

You are a great friend, and soon you’ll find a solid group of friends who see you for who you are and love you for it. You’ll have to be okay with change as friendships evolve, and some end. There is one in particular that will feel like a death, and you will be devastated. Just know that the sadness will lessen with time. You will come to realize that that had to end so you can be where you are today.

Paying your dues is a big part of life. Your need for immediate results is going to leave you frustrated, so you’re going to have to get over that. Whatever you lack in skill you will make up for with your work ethic and determinate. They will be your greatest attributes.

Your money management skills are abysmal. It would be great if you would start saving now. Thanks.

Your family is going to become some of your favorite people. You are going to have to make the effort at first, which you don’t like to do, but do it anyway. Your future children will be better for it.

It’s okay to put yourself first, to demand a lot out of life, and to never lower your expectations. When someone tells you your expectations are too high, it’s only because theirs are too low. What others think of you is not your business. Only value the advice and opinions of the people who know you best.

You will always be in fear of offending someone. We haven’t worked this out yet.

Your metabolism is fantastic but fleeting. Enjoy your burgers and fries now because there will come a day when you won’t be able to look at them without gaining weight. Wear a bikini; you look beautiful.

You are going to struggle with forgiveness. One thing that will help is not projecting your standards on others. Assume everyone is struggling with something and that they are doing the best they can. Choose kindness over resentment.

On the other hand, some people are a-holes, and you have to walk away.

Eventually, you will be the boss of everything, from your work to your family. You’ll be the one your friends turn to for help; you’ll be the link that keeps friendships and family together, you’ll keep everyone in touch. You’ll fight for relationships and speak your mind when something needs to be said. This is a good thing. You are going to be the glue that keeps a lot of circles together. Just be sure to take care of yourself too.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you your emotions are wrong. You feel a lot. This serves you well most of the time, but you’re going to have to channel your feelings so you can better communicate.

Being a woman in this world is not going to be easy. You are going to feel conflicted about every decision you make. All you can do is respect yourself, and respect other women in their choices. You’ll end up raising two women and will never feel more responsible, protective and in love. Keep doing your best; that’s all you can do.

When things get tough, listen to mom and give it to God.

Stay true to who you are. Life will turn out better than you expected because you’ll stick to your convictions, you’ll work really hard, and the effort will slowly but eventually pay off.

Love, Meg

P.S. Hear me know: YOU WILL NEVER TAN! Just suck it up and wear the SPF 50. One day you’ll make enough money for regular spray tans.


Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

  1. Meg,

    Preach, woman! I say much of this to my high school young women. And I, truth be told, wish someone had taken me aside while in college to share these very real, very important and empowering words of wisdom.

    Be real. Be heard. Be present. And, most importantly, be kind to yourself. You will meet many people who do not care nor value you; they get easier to indentify in time. Ignore them, and you will find those who will nurture and respect you because you are you! Oh, and right on with the cheeseburger, bikini and SPF!

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  • Just speaking in front of 450 people this morning. 32 weeks pregnant.  Chances of me losing my train of thought half way through is 100%.

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