Letters to my First-Year Self

To my first-year self,

Where do I begin? You will change majors about four times, and know how to speak six languages by the end of junior year. College is going to start off rough. You won’t have the same friends you started out with, all your expectations of how college was supposed to be will fall apart and you will face reality. There will be lonely, confusing moments throughout most of college and that is fine. These difficult times are going to teach you how to mature, deal with situations and build your own self-respect. You’ll learn how to cut out toxic people and environments from your life and allocate your energy to those who merit it. Do not be afraid of letting go because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, certain people are only supposed to be in your life for that certain period if they no longer have the capacity to grow with you. Give yourself space for the new chapter, which will be more exciting than you could ever imagine.

You’ll find that life and academics get easier once you start taking on that attitude. Don’t take classes you’re not enjoying simply because it’ll fulfill the requirement of some major that will probably get you a well-paying job. It’s not worth it and you will be miserable trying to catch up in subjects which you clearly aren’t compatible with. You are full of talent and passion; put it towards what you truly love. Don’t worry about what job you’ll have by the time you graduate, you’re a first-year, for God’s sake!

 You have a huge fear of not accomplishing anything significant during college, which is valid, but I promise you: once you end up realizing what you want to do with your life, you’ll become unstoppable. Accept the vagueness, allow yourself to explore your interests, reasonably say yes to (almost) every experience — it will open doors you never knew existed. I must emphasize this, too: reach out to your professors as much as possible! It’s not high school anymore. The professors and staff at Mount Holyoke are some of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. You can really depend on them, not only for academic matters, but also personal ones. You will have close relationships with them and they will give you extraordinary opportunities that’ll pave the way for your career. Networking is extremely important, and your professors are definitely the right people for that.

 Like any college student, you expect to have your share of fun. You know, frat parties and dancing on top of tables at the Amherst College socials. It’ll get old soon and you’ll see the ugly side of it. No, you won’t find some Amherst guy to be the love of your life — and be thankful for that. I know you’re crazed to be in love but the truth is that the only person you’ll be head-over-heels for is yourself. Once you realize who you are and what you’re capable of, why would you even bother sharing yourself with someone who probably doesn’t even know how to do laundry?

 Now to talk about your hair ... You love being bold and you’ll definitely make quite a few changes throughout the years. The MoHo chop you vowed yourself to not get during undergrad ...Well, that was a promise unkept. You’ll go into a barbershop in Rome one autumn afternoon and come out looking like an Italian version of Ruby Rose, which is fine, because who doesn’t want to look like Ruby Rose?

 I mention Rome because you will be in Italy, several times. I know you thought you’d become a diplomat or financial analyst, but instead you’re going to be a classical archaeologist, fascinated with ancient Roman art. Super random, I know. In a way, however, it’s nice knowing that your long-lasting love for art manifests into your career. That anxiety you had of never studying abroad will pass because you’ll spend the first half of your senior year in Rome, but that was also accomplished because you’ll work extremely hard to get there. You’ll have no idea what’s waiting for you when you put in the effort. By the time you graduate, you’ll have excavated in Tuscany, studied at the most prominent institution for archaeology and worked at the Roman forum.

 You’re going to be faced with some life-changing events. It will suck, but you will get through it, I promise! You will prove, not only to others but most importantly to yourself, what you can accomplish when you put your heart and hard work into something. Mount Holyoke might make you feel like you should’ve transferred a couple of times, but you’ll stick it out. Thank God for that, because I’m not sure you would’ve grown into the beautiful person you are now if it weren’t for everything you’ve experienced since the first day of orientation. Accept the process of life, accept when things don’t go your way and embrace the fact that you are destined for greatness.

Much love,

Renée Portes