Don’t be Afraid to Go There: A letter to my 18-year-old self

by Kelley Cunningham


As I slowly approach the end of my bachelors career, and reflect on what I’ve learned thus far, there are some things that I wish I could tell my 18 year old self. I am proud to say that I have no regrets, but if given the luxury of going back, there’s so much I’d wish I could tell myself. Golden nuggets of wisdom from experience that I could hold in my heart and mind for the duration of my undergraduate career.

Hello Self, 

This is you at 24, and even though she isn’t too far removed from you, she is a little wiser and more “seasoned” than you. Listen to her closely; she loves you and wouldn’t steer you in the wrong direction. Speaking of direction, it is very important that you talk to your academic advisor more frequently! Even though you think you know it all, and at the end of the day you just might, her job is to get you to graduation as quickly as possible. She’ll help you actualize your goals, and give you personalized access to the tools you need to get what you want academically. Of course the plan isn’t for you to work on your bachelors’ degree for 6 whole, long, painful years; if you don’t start using the resources available to you on campus, you will feel lost, and continue to change your major 1000 times before you go back to your first love, English. 

Cherish your relationships. The relationships that you form in college, and those at home that got you to this point, are going to be invaluable when all is said and done. The saying, “The friends you make in college, end up being your friends for life,” isn’t necessarily true. The friends that you meet your freshman year, the ones who value their drunken, hung-over recaps more than that “A” they got on their last paper, are amazing, yes, but if you let them influence you too much things won’t look too good. Eventually, the party-life will get old, and you will wish you could get a refund on all the time you wasted intoxicated for no good reason. Find people that have a clear vision of ‘The forest from the trees’. Friends who party like the rest of ‘em, but have mastered the art of balance, and take studying very seriously. Prioritize time for your parents. Your sister may be overseas but she loves you. Your mom spends countless nights praying for you and your safety, and your dad is your biggest fan. You only have a few more years with your father. At the young age of 23, you will have to unfortunately say goodbye to him forever. The 24 year old you is still struggling with this realization, but if you spend as much time as possible now, sharing and soaking up his very essence, the transition will be easier, and you will live for him. 

You’re amazing and your future is promising. Take everything in stride; one step at a time. Let the future motivate you, but don’t wish your life away always desperately trying to get to the next step. Enjoy the now. With your writing and your passion for children, put as much of “you” in everything you can! If you delve into every project, every assignment, every goal, you will experience a level of satisfaction and fulfillment otherwise unattainable. Don’t be self-conscious! No one has it all together, and the ones that you think do, weren’t afraid to make mistakes and push themselves to the limit. In all things, thank God. Sober up and realize that without Him you would be nowhere and nothing and acknowledge Him first in it all. Lastly, nothing is out of reach for you. Whatever you want you can have, if you work hard enough. Don’t be afraid to “Go There.”

Eastern Michigan University's English Department senior student literary journal