A few weeks ago, I brought my boyfriend home for Thanksgiving.
We had a week in Colorado, and it was full to the brim with dinners, and adventures, and family, and friends.
One night, a few of my best friends and I decided to give Carl a taste of our college experience. We took him to our favorite college bar, the Walrus, as a sort of right of passage.
When we made it through the line and into the dingy basement, we wasted no time before hitting the dance floor.
A while later, sweaty and flushed, I headed to the bathroom—and right as I was about to leave, two girls walked in.
It was one’s 21st, and as the birthday girl stumbled into a stall, her friend called to her, “girl, don’t worry about him. It’s your 21st birthday. Live it up. Life only gets worse from here.”
I tried to ignore it, I really did. But my heart ached and my blood boiled and I’m not even embarrassed to tell you what I did next.
I turned on my heel, not skipping a beat and with as much passion as I could fit in that cramped bathroom I said, “This is not the peak of your life—this is just the beginning.”
We stood there talking for a few minutes, and I got to tell her a bit of my story—and how much my life has changed since I stood in that bathroom as a new 21-year-old.
She looked at me with big, trusting eyes, and soaked in every word. Her willingness to take advice from a total stranger spoke volumes.
I gave her a hug before walking out, tossing one last encouragement over my shoulder. My heart ached.
What I needed in college more than anything was a big sister. I needed someone a bit older and a bit wiser to walk a few steps ahead of me and to turn around and be honest about what worked and what didn’t.
And that’s what The Lipstick Gospel is all about. I’ve never had that big sister, and so I want to compile those bits of truth and wisdom learned the hard way and share them with anyone who needs a hand, or a shoulder, or someone to tell them it’s going to be alright.
There are a million things that I wanted to tell that girl in the bathroom—things I wish someone had told me. But if I could put together a College Survival Kit and send it back to her, these are a few small pieces of advice that I would slip in there—along with a loofa and some homemade cookies.
These are just a few:
1. Work hard in your classes, but seriously—calm down.
It is not a stretch for me to remember the panic I felt about my college classes. Finals week was enough to give a girl an ulcer—feeling like the whole world was riding on that one Anthropology test.
But it’s also true that I skipped more classes than I should have—just because I wanted to watch a movie, or avoid walking through the snow.
There’s a happy medium here, folks, and it’s important to find it.
College is a privilege—an expensive one at that. Do your best, learn all you can, and set yourself up well for your next step in life.
But seriously, don’t panic. The world will not end if you get a C. And there are many factors that will influence your success in life other than your GPA.
Do your best, but don’t freak out. It’s all going to be ok.
2. You don’t have to know who you are right away.
College is a great time to experiment. Colleges offer a wide array of classes and clubs and experiences, and it’s a wonderful time to dabble in lots of them.
The beauty of life is that it’s a constant process. You’ll always be learning and changing and growing. So take this time to do just that, but take off the pressure. Nobody expects you to have it all figured out today.
3. Not all college experiences are good. Choose wisely.
Yes, college is a great time to try new things. But no, college isn’t an excuse to make monumentally stupid decisions.
Things like DUI’s, jail records, drug additions, and getting pregnant don’t stay in college. Those are decisions that will affect the rest of your life, and it’s hard to see the permanence of your decisions in the moment.
By all means—have fun, meet new people, try new things, but choose those experiences wisely. Your slate isn’t wiped clean upon graduation, and there are wounds and messes that you just don’t want to carry for the rest of your life.
4. Surround yourself with people who are nice to you
This sounds obvious, but really isn’t. I filled my weekends in college with guys who couldn’t remember my name, and spent a regrettable amount of time worrying about what those girls thought of me. I felt small for more of my college experience than I’d like to remember. And it took me a long time to find friends who really, truly understood me, and even better, loved me. Look for them and fight for those relationships.
5. You can make a bigger impact than you realize
I heard a new definition for discipleship this morning:“Discipleship is being who God made you to be in the midst of other people.”
The first place I ever remember seeing the Word of God was on a mirror in my sorority house.
My friend was living her life the best way she knew how, and that small note on her mirror opened my eyes to a whole new way of relating to God.
The biggest impact you could make in college, as a Christian, is to just be you. Be the person that God created you to be, and allow others to see it.
God will work through that more than you can possibly imagine.
If you are in college, or even if you graduated a long time ago, I’d love to get to know you and answer any questions that you may have for a surrogate big sister. [email protected]
What advice would you put in a College Survival Kit?