In Case I’m Gone

Dear friend,

Should you wake tomorrow without me, here are a few thoughts on beliefs, college, random roommates, money, and home.

*Beliefs. *Everybody has them. Don’t assume your beliefs mirror your parents’ or peers’. Know what yours are, then be true to them. Never compromise your morals. Don’t be ashamed of them. Welcome new ideas. Know which things change with the times. Learn how to ask questions—and persist for answers to hard questions. As others have told me, “If you have a question, others probably have the same one, so don’t be afraid to ask.” Learn how to argue. Stand up for your beliefs by backing them with sound logic and credible sources. Be concerned if you can’t.

College isn’t big and scary. Find some friends who share interests and talk to your classmates. Don’t study all the time. Find a part-time job or volunteer somewhere. Keep track of cash flow—there’s a lot of money going in and out so you don’t want to come up short. Don’t try to live on too little. Don’t eat unless you’re hungry. Find a church and get involved. Make a schedule and be willing to break it. Visit each of your professors and get to know them personally. It’s not hard. Explore the community, eat in the ghetto, walk the back alleys. Find those cool galleries and cafes and take your friends to them. Show up for class and be prepared. Take notes and sit in the T-zone. Choose smart seatmates. Don’t cheat; ask your professor to explain the answer instead. Don’t be a tattle-tale. Don’t brag. Recruiters are regular people, so treat regular people like you treat recruiters.

Random roommates are some of the greatest teachers of the pattern of life. The stories are all true and you’ll have to deal with it if you accept the challenge of random selection. You’ll come home to cooking that makes your eyes water from the stench, you’ll learn to roll with pounding music late into the night and tiptoe around the bodies the next day. At first you’ll be mad with a raging, blinding hate that will drive you into your room or out of the apartment to avoid hurting someone or something. You’ll lay all taut on your skinny mattress and feel your brain slowly melt. You won’t sleep all night. Take a long walk in the morning and take lots of deep breaths.

You’ll meet their friends and get along with some of them. It’s all part of the process. At this stage of the relationship, you’re much better than them so it’s okay to feel sorry for them. Eventually you’ll need to ask a favor of them or they’ll invite you to their parents’ home and you’ll realize you were all wrong; that you were the one who was not seeing the whole picture; that you are the short-sighted one; that you are really the one who needs some good friends. You’ll feel bad but that’s okay. Learning hurts.

If your random is a girl some things will be better and certain things will be trickier. If she cooks make sure you do your part, like text her when you’re at the store. She’ll rent movies, never watch them, and keep them past the due date but it’s not wise to point these facts out. A pause after a clothing question can have bad consequences. A prompt answer is sometimes better than an honest one. You’ll learn all kinds of really important things.

Money is one of the keys to happiness. Know what you have and figure out how you can be happy with it. Be realistic; admit how much you spend and how little you make. Know the worth of what you’re buying. Some things are priceless—make sure you know which. Have an emergency fund. Curb impulse spending by tying up funds in illiquid accounts. Don’t use installment plans. Cash your vehicles and household purchases. Insurance is not magic.

Home is important, too. Visit your parents. Make your room into a home no matter how small or temporary it may be. Girls are better at this so take cues from them. Designate space for your clothes, your books, your hobbies and your study area. Fold your clothes after they’re washed even if you plan on wearing them in the next week. Make your bed every day and wash those sheets. Hang meaningful cards, quotes, and pictures on the wall. Accept invitations into homes in the community and get to know other families. Have a move-out plan from the beginning. Moving is an art that takes practice to perfect. Don’t move junk from place to place. And, finally, don’t bother to buy groceries if you’re not going to cook.

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. ~Oscar Wilde

Love and best wishes,