Dear College Me...
By Jennifer M. Latzke
…If by some miracle this letter actually crossed through time and landed in your mailbox at Kansas State University in the spring of 2000, here are a few things the 35-year-old me in 2013 would like you to remember.
First, see that wacky girl you’re living with right now? The one who can’t drive a standard transmission and makes you laugh like a hyena with just a phrase? Yeah, she’s going to be one of your dearest friends even all these years later. And, your pledge mom standing there? You wind up singing at her wedding, and holding and singing to her three babies. And you can’t imagine how much fun you will have getting together twice a year to swap stories and laughs.
Cherish those friendships and the others you make in college. But don’t forget to leave room in your heart for new friends you meet on your path, because you are going to have some doozies.
Second, go to class and learn all you can. But, when you are in your 30s and can’t remember that specific lesson on plant genetics from the one agronomy class you had to take to graduate, don’t worry. There’s this great thing called Google on the Internet. You’ll be able to look the answer up in seconds. And you’ll be able to look it up on a device that fits in your palm. No kidding.
What’s most important is the contacts you make in those classes. The guy sitting there in your news and feature writing class will wind up working at Kansas Farm Bureau and will be a great friend and source. The guy who’s helping you through farm and ranch management will wind up working with you on a yearly wheat field tour. The girls you study biology and chemistry with today will wind up working on public relations accounts you’ll cover tomorrow. They aren’t classmates, they’re colleagues.
Oh, and I know he intimidates you, but for crying out loud take Barry Flinchbaugh’s class already! He’s not as scary as he seems and he’s a treasure. And, while we’re talking classes, I know it bores you to tears but could you please figure out a way to pay attention in the science classes you have to take? Trust me. The future ag journalist we become will appreciate it when it comes to explaining biotechnology concepts.
Third, I know you’re worried now about finding a job in your field, and whether or not you really want to be an ag journalist. Don’t be. You do. And you are tremendously happy. You land in Dodge City, writing stories about farmers and ranchers doing amazing things. You get your own column just like your heroes Erma Bombeck and Baxter Black. Yes, you’ll get awards. But somewhere in your 30s you realize that even better than a plaque is a simple letter from a reader who appreciated what you wrote. (And, because of that job, you get to go to Nashville one day and during a tour of the Grand Ole Opry you get to sing on the stage in the circle just like we’ve dreamed.)
In some ways I envy you, because you have so much living to do in the coming years. You get to hold two nephews and hear, “I love you Aunt Jenni.” You climb a mountain in Vietnam and don’t die. You see the sun rise and set in nearly all 50 states and four foreign countries. You buy a house and put down roots on your own.
I won’t lie, you’ll have some heartache and stumbling blocks, too. I wish I could spare you it, but looking back, it’s those times that make us who we are today. I’m sorry, but know that God has a plan. At 35 I’m still not sure what it is, but it’s that faith that gets us through all the valleys we have to travel to get here.
But do me a favor. Hug Grandma Clark as much as you can right now and don’t pass up the opportunity to drop in on her in Junction City as you drive home for the weekends.
Now, I know that you, at 20-something, may feel a little invincible, but you aren’t. So, go to the Rec and get into the exercise habit now, please? Drink more water, less caffeine and wear sunscreen. Maybe put away the credit card and start putting some money into savings. Quit worrying so much. The 35-year-old me would appreciate it.
We have a lot of dreams—some come true, some don’t. Some will require sacrifice. And some dreams will wind up being bigger than even you could imagine. Telling you which is which would take the fun out of it. But the ones that are meant to be do come true.
So, kiddo, for just this afternoon, put down the book you’re studying and pack up the girls and take a trip out to Pillsbury Crossing. Maybe walk around campus and enjoy those redbud trees in bloom. Go dancing and quit caring who’s watching.
We have a lot of living to do and a lot of memories to make. Get to it!
Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or firstname.lastname@example.org.