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11 Things I Learned to Let Go of After High School

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I loved high school. I loved my classes and my friends and I loved getting older. But at the core of it all, I was a control freak. I was asleep by 10:00 every night, never procrastinated doing work, wrote eight-page prewrites to develop an essay's thesis, and my version of downtime was setting aside special time slots to do yoga and paint. If anything was remotely unsettling to me about my social life or my grades, I would obsess over it for days on end. Every piece of my life felt enormously consequential, and I carried around a way-too-heavy weight for things that didn't actually matter.

I maintained this unnecessary attitude until the beginning of my college career, before it finally hit me: If you're trying to control everything, do you really have a grasp on anything? While in high school it was hard for me to moderate what parts of my life needed to be regulated and what didn't, somehow in college it all got simpler. Being surrounded by people who share your goals and taking classes you're actually interested in makes it easy to focus on what matters and weed out the stuff that doesn't. Here's a list of some of things I used to stress about that you can (for the most part) feel free to completely let go of in college:

1. Acceptable clothing.
Getting up in the morning at college, it's a struggle to even put a bra on, let alone a reasonable/normal/dare-I-say-flattering outfit. This also applies to outfits that are weather appropriate; I can't count how many days there was snow on the ground and I was in shorts. This becomes a fact of life.

2. Conventional meal times.
Nope, those don't exist any more. Gone are the days of three square meals. Welcome the days of "it's 9 p.m... have you eaten dinner?" "Um... I ate a bag of chips like two hours ago?"

3. Essay outlines in advance.
In high school, I was the queen of essay outlines. I wanted my essay assignment at least a week in advance so that I could do a piece each day until the essay was due. Unless you have a magic schedule, there is absolutely no time for this in college, so you better come to terms with writing an essay in one or two sittings.

4. Fake friendships.
These end after high school. Pick the people who make you happy and stick with them. If you always leave an interaction with someone and find that you feel anxious or depleted, that person doesn't need to be in your life.

5. Your "weird" stage.
Everyone has had some kind of regrettable stage in their lives, whether it was a weird haircut, a bad relationship, or a year-long out of control obsession with knitting (yes, all three, me). While that may have held you back in high school, in college it just makes you a more layered and interesting person. Take what you've learned from it and move forward.

6. Your original area of academic interest.
My whole life I was a humanities student. I walked into college thinking I would double major in English and studio art, and a year later I'm now set on double majoring in psychology and neuroscience. The newness of college is addictive, so don't try to fight it if you find yourself reaching for newness in your course of studies, too.

7. Your physical appearance.
For better or for worse, you will go days on end without looking in the mirror -- and you won't even realize. This only becomes an issue when you also don't shower and then someone tells you you have food in your hair. Otherwise, it's liberating.

8. Judgments about things that have always seemed taboo.
After college, you don't really care if something you wanna do looks weird to other people. Whether that's getting a tattoo (check), or dying your hair pink (check), or getting your bartending license when you can't even legally drink (check, check), as long as it's all fun and harmless, you should feel free to try what you like.

9. FOMO
This one definitely depends on the person, but in my opinion, one of the great things about college is that there are so many awesome nights that it's not the end of the world if you miss one. You can just join the crew the next day and have another incredible time.

10. Making sure you go to bed early.
Okay, so maybe this wasn't as stressful to other people as it was to me in high school, but I used to worry every night about getting enough sleep for the next day since I had to wake up at 6:30 a.m. and had class all day. In college, either your classes start late in the day, or they're early, which gives you plenty of time to nap later (so needing eight hours of sleep isn't an excuse to stop writing your essay).

11. Fitting into a box.
There's something calming about unquestionably belonging to one group. In high school, if you're a "theatre kid" or a "jock," you'll probably aim to be an even more enthusiastic member of that group, rather than trying to branch out towards your other interests. But one of the best things about college is getting to pick and choose all the different boxes you fit in, and combining them until you have a set that feels the most true to you. I know that in my next three years I'll continue to discover more facets of myself, but since I've only got one year under my belt, I'm just your run-of-the-mill 5'2'' pink-haired, tattooed, bartending, neuroscience major who paints.