By Hayeon Lee ‘23
Recently, as a senior at Pomona College, there have been moments when I pause and recognize that my college adventures are already and slowly coming to an end. Whether it be my walks between classes, a warm dinner together with friends at the Hoch, or a discussion of post-grad plans with professors, I realize that 18-year-old Hayeon, who walked onto the Pomona College campus, is an entirely different person from 21-year-old Hayeon and 22-year-old Hayeon who will walk across the graduation stage.
Inspired by fellow Voices blogger, Serena Lin, I wanted to write a short letter to my first-year self. (Their article is much more informative, so go check it out.) Here’s a short rambling on my thoughts— maybe you will resonate with it someday or in the present!
Dear Hayeon (who went by Kayla at that time because she was afraid to tell people her preferred/actual name because they would butcher the pronunciation or forget her name [Advice 1: please tell people your name!]),
In the spring semester, you will suddenly be sent home because there will be an apocalyptic pandemic where people will tell you that you have to go home for two weeks when it’s more like two years. You won’t be able to touch things normally, you will have to stay indoors for the entire school year, all of your friends will be on the other side of the planet, WARN EVERYONE, WARN PEOPLE THAT IT IS COMING, WARN-
In all seriousness, your college life will be much different than what you pictured. You imagined your life would be like what you saw in those YouTube vlogs you watched to motivate yourself to write college applications: waking up at 5 in the morning, working out at 6 AM, grabbing a cup of iced coffee, heading to a lecture hall with a tote bag, having aesthetic outfits every single day, sitting in a Pinterest-board-esque café doing homework, and going out every night with 50 friends.
Regardless of the pandemic, your college experience will exceed your expectations. The people you meet will change your world views, and you will go through some of the most difficult times in your life and a whole lot of the best moments. You’ll make stupid course registration decisions and procrastinate over a 35-page essay until the last moment. You’ll take some of the best workshop classes and understand that your passion for creative writing and English isn’t just a hobby but a lifelong passion you want to pursue. You’ll grow more confident in your capabilities as a scholar, as a friend, and as a partner, and you’ll find that it isn’t the location that makes the experience but rather the people and the memories you create with one another. And suddenly, you’ll become a senior, and you’ll have a moment when you walk down the steps of Carnegie, notice the autumn leaves slowly falling to the ground, and realize that you only have a few months before you leap into the “adult world.” You’ll realize that, although you’ve changed in so many ways, in reality, you’re still just as lost as you were when you first stepped onto campus. You’ll accept that it’s okay, that uncertainty is a constant emotion when living life, and you’ll have to learn how to embrace it.
18-year-old Hayeon, I have no advice for you. I can make a list of unnecessary things like “Please, my god, take care of your liver,” or “Maybe try CompSci early; it makes people money.” However, ultimately, it was your decisions that got me here now, and I have no regrets. As I finish my college career, I close my eyes and imagine the faces of my friends and partner who support me. I know that it will be okay and that it was always okay, more than okay.
Someone who is procrastinating their graduate school applications.