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  • Posted 7 years ago


Dear Freshman Eleanor

I love you.

By Eleanor Collier

Dear Freshman Eleanor,

I love you.

You are weak and flawed in many ways, but you are beautiful—wildly beautiful, incomprehensibly beautiful, beautiful in dimensions even you don’t realize. I love you for the ways in which you are beautiful. I love you just as much for the ways in which you are weak and flawed.

I know you.

You are filled with questions. Exploding with questions. Sometimes they propel you forward. Sometimes they tear you apart. You want answers.

I know your questions. And I know a few of your answers. But I cannot give you the answers, because you wouldn’t understand them. The only path to understanding is experience I’m afraid. I can’t spare you from the ways in which you will suffer on the journey of learning, any more than I can explain to you future joys that you could not now imagine. Right now, you must live the questions.

All the same, here are a few things you’ll pick up along the way—mostly for your amusement when you get to those parts and finally understand. Don’t stress over them. Just take them as assurance that you’ll outgrow the confusions you’re wearing now.

1) Social interactions feel a lot comfier when you’re focused on the OTHER PERSON’S experience, when you delight in their joys, hurt for their sufferings, and allow yourself to feel moved by what moves them. You also get a lot more out of them.

2) YOU ARE ALIVE. If you let the ecstatic wonder of that mystery structure your life, rather than trying to structure it yourself, your days and years will go in beautiful directions you otherwise might have missed. This does not mean don’t plan; it means pay attention to what’s motivating your plans.

3) THAT ONE GUY (you’ll know who I mean soon)—don’t waste so much of your freshman experience pining over him. Except you will, and that’s okay, because you’ll get so much wisdom out of it and about ten really quality poems. And then you’ll repeat with another guy or two. Each time it will hurt less, and each cycle you’ll move closer toward self-love, authenticity, good communication, less-selfish love for others, and wholeness of being.

4) POSITIVITY is powerful. Your daily happiness will skyrocket when you learn to frame negative experiences in terms of how they help you grow, and to see beauty and meaning in even the most mundane.

5) But at the same time, don’t let positivity eclipse REALNESS. The negative sometimes needs to be acknowledged, felt, cried. You can’t skyrocket above your struggles; they’re still down there on solid Earth, hurting. When you learn to pull back the screen and let others see your full, honest picture, you’ll be able to move forward constructively on issues too deep for a quick fix by positive reframing. You’ll also be able to connect better with other’s struggles.

6) KINDNESS is the deepest source of meaning and happiness. Not the type done for the sake of meaning or happiness—that’s just going through the motions—but the kind fueled by genuine selfless love. Of course, that takes developing genuine selfless love...which takes some time and tears. In the meantime, keep being kind anyway; you’ll still get much more out of it than you would from a life of selfishness.

Remember, these aren’t the answers, but a shadow of the answers. They’ll remain a shadow until you bump into the real thing itself. OUCH!!! And then: Ohhhhh...

But it’s not all painful. In fact, most of it’s been wonderful. I’m excited for you to be me, when you can feel just how wonderful it is. But I’m just as excited for you to be you, discovering it, experiencing it.

Now stash this letter away and go live those questions.

Junior Eleanor

Eleanor Collier

Eleanor officially studies chemistry and creative writing at Stanford, but the most important thing she’s learning is how to love people. Other favorite pastimes include talking with people, ballroom dance, piano improv, talking with people, binge-reading psychology papers, baking, running, and talking with people.

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