Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Dear College Caitlin (circa 2006)

Earlier this month, someone reached out to me about writing a letter to college self. I loved this idea, and considering current Caitlin is in grad school, what a great time to reflect on all I learned.

Let me set the stage: In the Fall of 2006 (how I am already this old!), I began my time at the University of North Texas (Go Mean Green) in Denton, TX (which just happens to be the cutest town/city in all of Texas). I lived in the dorms my freshman year with my very best friend since age two: Allison. After our freshman year, we moved into a 4 bedroom apartment with 2 others girls from our small group. I got my degree in Education- Interdisciplinary Studies 4-8 (because middle school seemed like a good idea). I loved college, but there are some things Caitlin-from- Aug 2006 to Dec 2009 should've known

Dear College Caitlin, 
 You will love college. You will probably also hate it at times, but trust me nothing in undergrad will compare the pressure of grad school 10 years later when you have a job and family also vying for your time. Allow me to give you some advice: 

1. School. Don't. Even. Think. About. Skipping. First of all, don't kid yourself, 8 am classes are really not your thing. Also, Friday classes aren't either. Just because high school was easy and you rarely ever studied, doesn't mean that these new topics will come as naturally. Health Psychology? Sure, it was the only thing open when you went to Freshman orientation and now it's on your schedule, but a 2 pm MWF class really should be dropped. Don't be ridiculous. It's not worth the C. Also, Astronomy? Who are you, Galileo? Don't waste time in courses that aren't going to help you on your degree plan. ...Wait? You aren't sure what a degree plan is? Quit acting like you've got this all by yourself and go visit your adviser! They are paid for this.  (P.S. While it's super overwhelming right now, you will later LOVE helping people figure out their lives based on their degree plan, so be patient!)  
About the skipping. You know Brooke (of course you do, she's your roommate)? She actually goes to class and miraculously makes a 4.0 every semester. Try it. It's worth it. You will thank me later. 

Oh! And, try to get as many certifications as you might think middle school sounds great, but honestly, elementary is more your jam. And get ESL certified! honest, you know you have a passion for gifted education. Ask your professors why you don't learn more about differentiating higher! 

2. Money. Apply for scholarships, and then apply for more. I know you're blessed to have parents that pay for your school. But consider this: they are also paying for your rent, car, insurance, cell phone, books, supplies, groceries, spending money and your life. Help them out, a little...if you can't get a job, at least apply for scholarships! You probably also want to pay attention to the types of financial aid you are applying for/accepting. After you graduate, take initiative and look into refinancing your student loans to save even more money. There are tons of options like Earnest, that even allow you to customize your monthly payment! Just because you've heard of the "teach 5 years in a Title 1 district and have $5,000 in loans forgiven" thing, doesn't mean the loan you took out applies. So definitely check on that. 

And also, it is not essential that you drink Starbucks everyday or eat out every meal during the weekend. You'll get it in a few years when you're on your own.

3. Food. You are not an athlete anymore. And intramurals totally doesn't count. Listen, your skinny little volleyball-playing self can't handle the snacks and Dr. Pepper anymore, now that you're not working out 20+ hours a week. It's so much harder to stay thin as you get older, so please, for the love of God, do not let the others persuade you to eat chimichangas and chicken sandwiches at the Kerr Hall 11pm snack hour! 

4. Time. Despite what you think, you have so much of it...use it wisely. Sure, do the studying and class time and all that jazz. But in your free time, don't stay glued to the TV and do not nap it all away.. (I mean, an hour nap is fine but do stuff.) Never again, will you have so much flexibility with your time. Hang out with people, go for walks, cook, play sand volleyball, read as much as possible...if you're going to binge watch Friends, at least do it with people! 

5. Friends. Enjoy the time you have. People say that your college friends are your friends for life. It's true..but you still won't see each other as much. You won't have as many "family dinners" won't just be able to pop in on the guys at Windsor Castle, you won't get to go watch flag football, you won't have the weekly Chipotle meals before or after church at Denton Bible. You will all be there for the big stuff (weddings, babies), but you won't live as close together. You may not even live in the same state (prepare yourself now...Sean and Allison move to Cali). You will always be friends, but you may not always be around the people you thought you would. And it's okay. Friends kind of define your season of life. And the college friends, they are such a huge chunk. They are your wedding party, your travel friends, the people who remember the middle of the night sand volleyball sessions, Spring Break mission trips, and everything else. It's a great season. It's fine that you will have other friends (from work or other places), but your college friends know you best. They help define who you are 10 years down the road. 

6. Boys. You got a good one. Not many people meet their future husband the 2nd month of their freshman year. You're lucky...hold on to that one. He'll make a good Daddy to the most adorably little boy one day. 

7. Career. Choose one you love. Teaching is really hard. Like, it's so much harder than anyone can ever explain and the only ones who will really "get it" are other teachers. People think teaching is arts and crafts, and summers off and all the "fun" stuff...and it totally is...but it's hard. You are the parent to so many kids..some with great parents and some that never see another adult. It's a huge are raising the next generation. You will never be compensated for all you are required to do and that doesn't even touch on the stuff you do because you know it's right for kids.  Test scores are great for data, but they do not, and will not ever, define a student. Always do what's right for kids.

You've got this, College Caitlin. One day you'll be reminiscing and think about the fun you had and miss it terribly. But you'll also live the most amazing life, with your own little family and a community of friends who also get it. (Plus, you'll get to visit Denton lots when your younger brother goes there for undergrad and grad school, so you won't be too far away!) 
Lots of love, 
Current Caitlin 

PS. And just for fun, here are some pics from the glory days
Meet the ABAC. The only girls I ever lived with. Anna, Brooke, Allison and Caitlin (me!)

Remember when jumping pictures were the coolest thing?
ABAC @ my rehearsal dinner 

Love this picture. This, honestly, is what we mostly looked like. Piled on top of each other cracking up. Most likely watching She's the Man or some Disney movie. Or Celine Dion live, on DVD

December 2006 @ Brooke's NYE party 

Look at those handsome guys (and check out Russell's hair!!)...This was our "brother" group for Bible Study, but since we married some of them, let's call them our male counterparts: Chris Muse's boys.

And here we are: Emily (bring the) Paine's small group. Also known as the best Bible study of all time. 

It's a shame we didn't like hanging out together :) 

The nights spent at this apartment (Stew's and then Russell moved in) are some of my favorite. We would cook, watch movies and take endless amounts of pictures. 
This guy. Bradley Tucker was my partner in crime for all things teaching related. We did every partner project together and took every single class together except maybe 3 from our 2nd semester until graduation (I'm not even exaggerating). I cannot think of a single college class that I had fun in, without thinking of this one's shenanigans.
....And my son and his daughter are probs going to get married in like 20 years, so there's that.

College friends...all married and grown up!

Graduation in Dec. 2009. My friend Allison's hubby, Sean graduate at the same time as me and Brad...who he actually lived with. (We're a tangled web of connections) 

One of our first pictures together. NYE 2006
Check out Russell's hair! I LOVED his long hair back then :)  
Best part of college: meeting this guy. 

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