Dear friends,

It’s August 12, and I officially leave for college in 19 days.  Against my nature, I have very few qualms about leaving Memphis for Princeton.  It became clear to me in the past year that I’ve outgrown this place, as it typical for grrls my age.  Perhaps, I am merely bored running the same trails I’ve run for the past 3 years, but now I crave newness and exploration.  However, this isn’t about me.  I know who I am and where I’m going.  This is about you: my friends.

The only thing I fear leaving is my friends.  I feel a unique sense of pride when I think of who you have become.  I’ve tried my best to support you, not always with great success, but I’m always happy to be there when you get through whatever it is you were going through.  It’s going to be much harder to do that from New Jersey, so I write this as support for you over the next year.

First of all, we are going to college.  That is no small thing.  However, as cliché as it sounds, college is what you make of it.  Go to class!  Study!  Read the book!  Whenever you are debating to be social or to be studious, think, “What would Abby Baskind do?”  Chances are, if this is your conundrum, you actually need to study, and you know what I would do—study.  If you still aren’t convinced, ask me what I’m doing.  You know how to find me.  My phone is glued to my body, and I check my email compulsively.  Ask, “Abby, what are you doing?”  If I’m not doing a physics problem set or writing an essay, you are free to be social!  But if I have the strength to code on a Friday night, you definitely have the strength to study just a little longer and get your tuition’s worth.

Next, without me, you definitely won’t have someone to tell you to “buckle you f*****g seatbelt.”  So I stress this now: SAFETY FIRST.  Buckle up.  Wrap it up.  Lock it up.  Do all of the “ups.”  Never try new things with new (and untrusted) people.  Do the new things with old people and the old things with new people.  Don’t run at night.  Don’t put your drink down.  Don’t fall asleep when you have a  concussion.  Essentially, do dumb things wisely, and watch out for others while you do it.  When in doubt, trust no one but yourself.  This is all super obvious, but it bears the most meaning when someone (like me) is screaming it at you.  Well, I am basically screaming it at you now.

With safety in mind, try new things.  Find what you love and become an expert.  You have the capacity to be amazing but only if you are willing to clueless for a minute.  Never tell yourself you can’t do something because you can do anything with hard work.  And if that is not enough to convince you, this may: no one ever justly ridiculed a person who worked hard but still kind of sucked because that person always finds her amazing.

Finally, I need you to look in the mirror.  Don’t think about all of the flaws you see.  Look into your eyes and see the glimmer of intelligence and compassion.  That is where your true beauty lies. And even if you remain unsatisfied by your reflection, intelligence and compassion can always be cultivated and improved.  Therefore, your beauty can only grow.  And on those especially hard days when you just can’t look into your eyes and see the beauty, know that physical beauty is an opinion, and your opinion can be that you’re perfect the way you are.  If someone tells you otherwise, you don’t have to believe it.  Believe me: you don’t have to change your beauty and what you are for anyone.

Be good.

Abby Baskind