Fourth-Year Athletes Write to their First-Year Selves

Dear first-year Alex, 

Looking back on my time as a student-athlete, here are five pieces of advice I would give to you as you enter college. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Live in the moment. As I look back on my collegiate, academic, and athletic career, I always felt the need to stress about my future. I believe that part of that stress stemmed from the fact that I am a first-generation Asian and Latino student. I continuously asked myself: What am I doing right now that will contribute to my career post grad? While it’s important to take the necessary steps to achieve the goals you set for yourself, it’s okay to take a walk and enjoy the scenery. It’s okay to take a break and listen to some music. It’s okay to play a game of cards with your friends. Looking back on my experience, I wish I listened to my desire to live in the moment and enjoy the subtleties of college life instead of stressing solely about my future. 

As a student-athlete, I became accustomed to a certain way of life. I would encourage you to attend events outside of athletics and continue to push your boundaries. I recently went to Porchella, where I met so many students from corners of campus I never usually engage with. I loved seeing students dance as they enjoyed the music and one another.

Express yourself in ways you have not tried. Dress differently — no one but you can decide what is fashionable. Listen to music you don’t normally listen to. Read articles that cover a topic you don’t quite understand. The possibilities are endless. Continue to push the boundaries that society sets on you, and the ones you set on yourself. 

Throughout my life, I have felt a huge lack of self-worth and self-belief. You need to speak to yourself as you would like to be spoken to. I know that everyone struggles with this at some point in their lives. You have to speak to yourself with sincerity, kindness, and compassion. Rather than “I can’t,” say, “I can,” “I am able,” and “I am capable.” This small change in language will really help you, especially in moments where you feel lost and unworthy. Try not to be so hard on yourself and recognize that you are here for a reason. You are worthy and you can and will find yourself. Utilize this power in language!

Comparing ourselves to others is extremely toxic; understand that everyone is on a different path, and that is okay. Getting caught up in the accomplishments of others, hindered me from recognizing my own. Each and every one of your friends is on a different path in life. You’ll learn different life lessons at different times, understand material in different ways, and find different professional paths at different rates. Spend less time comparing yourself to others, because you are unique and so is your path. Give yourself grace and, most importantly, understand that when one door closes, another one opens. 

There are moments when you will feel overwhelmed, anxious, and on the verge of tears. It is good to cry. These emotions are normal and healthy. So often you’ll try to repress your emotions, but it is extremely important to let it all out rather than bottling it up. If you need a shoulder to cry on, call a friend, family member, or even your coach. Go to the coaches’ office to let them know what you’re struggling with — building that type of relationship with your coach will really help you. Express every emotion in a healthy manner, and trust that you will feel a lot better afterward. 

As I look back on my college years, I’m extremely grateful for the people I have met, the moments of euphoria in sport, and the pride in being the first person in my family to graduate from college. I look forward to continuing this journey of life and further understanding myself so that I can share valuable lessons with others. I hope that these points spoke to you and that you truly enjoy your career as a student-athlete. You will continue to get stronger, and influence others for the better. 

– AC10

Dear first-year Francesca,

I know a lot of people have told you what to expect in the next four years. Many people have talked about how college will be the best time of your life, where freedom will bring countless opportunities and new avenues of exploration. People have also warned you to be prepared for academic and athletic challenges, as the hardest obstacles are soon ahead as a college student and athlete. While many aspects of these things are true, I want you to remember how far you have come. 

Although it is hard to reflect on the adversity you have experienced, remember what you have learned. You have the tools to push forward, to find drive and motivation no matter how hard life hits. In these moments, take time and give yourself the attention and care. You deserve to heal and rest. Believe and trust that you can and will continue to thrive, even when the road seems too long and you feel as if life is wearing you down. You’re not a quitter and, believe me, that doesn’t change in the future.

With both athletics and academics, I want you to challenge yourself. Use your curiosity and passion to find what you love, and that is how you will find joy in your pursuits. Listen to others with patience and an open mind, and always engage with a goal to understand. Don’t be afraid to fail. If you get lost, lean on the people that bring you peace and comfort in every sector of your Oberlin life. You love helping people, and you will find the same love all around you in your community. Remember that trust is earned, so seek out those who have earned it for support and you will find strength. 

I want you to remember who you are, and what you value. Know what you are worth and how you should be treated, and you will gain the confidence and positive energy that will provide uplift. College is the best time of your life, but there are still ups and downs. While exploring and pushing yourself, remember that change is inevitable and sometimes you have to ride the wave and take life as it comes. Enjoy the time you have at Oberlin, whether it’s a doubleheader match, going to an amazing jazz performance, or learning something that is exciting and/or confusing. You have so many beautiful people and things to experience moving forward, but don’t forget to seek out the unknown. 

The unknown can be intimidating, but so rewarding all at the same time, and you will learn that soon enough. You are going to do great things and accomplish so much on internal and external levels that will lead you to new, exciting opportunities beyond Oberlin. Sometimes, it is easy to feel discouraged. When you feel this way, take a step back and remember all of this, and never sell yourself short. When you are afraid of the future, consider how you have grown, and know that you will continue to grow and realize more about yourself and the world around you.