By Diana Romeo
How can you be a college freshman already when only a minute ago, you were in kindergarten and spinning around the house in circles with your hula hoop? Where has the time gone? Still, I’m excited about your embarking on this new adventure. I know you love your brother, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy having some quiet and, frankly, some normalcy that you don’t have at home living with an autistic person who has demanding needs. Living away from home will give you freedom as you’ve never had before.
I’ll miss you when you go to college.
I know this time away from us will be good for you. Still, I can’t help but wonder what it will be like around here when you’re gone. Yes, you spent a lot of time in your room at home with the door closed, but I still heard the hum of the TV and the buzz of you talking on the phone. You emerged to show me cute animal pictures, and you shared funny and random stories. You’ll text when you’re away at college, but it won’t be the same. I won’t get to give you a quick kiss on the head or see your pretty smile. I think I might even miss the piles and piles of “organized” chaos in your room.
Advice For College Students
Make good decisions when you’re away at school.
I think Dad and I have prepared you pretty well for this. I’ve already seen you weigh alternatives and decide to do the right thing. Please continue to make wise choices when you’re away from our influence. Take a moment to consider how you’ll feel if you make one decision versus another. Which decision will make you feel proud of yourself? Your opinion of yourself matters.
Find college friends who recognize and appreciate your worth.
When you were younger, sometimes it seemed like you had to pretend to be something or someone you’re not just to fit in. I want you to know that there’s no reason to do that anymore. You are enough just the way you are. If you find yourself among people who don’t think so, they are not your people. Move on. Drama attracts more drama. Stay away from it, don’t create it, and don’t get sucked into it. There are plenty of potential friends at college. Surround yourself with people who recognize and appreciate your worth.
Take good care of yourself.
I love that you’re compassionate and so good at taking care of friends. Remember to show yourself the same care and compassion. Keep stocked on meds and things you need when you’re sick, such as Gatorade, crackers, Tylenol, etc. Your body can’t run well if you don’t feed it well. I know you love your carbs and they’re easy to grab, but make sure to add some protein and fruits and veggies, at least sometimes.
Stay safe on and off campus.
It’s been my job for a long time to look out for you, and so I offer these reminders to stay safe. Some things are never things. Never walk around on campus alone at night. If a friend isn’t available, contact campus security—know how to contact them ahead of time. Never let anyone drive your car. Never get in the car with someone who has been drinking, or that you don’t know. People aren’t always who they seem, and Uber is a safer option. Stay in a group; don’t wander off alone. I’m glad that you will have a longtime friend as a roommate. I know you’ll look out for each other.
When you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, or lonely, try moving to help the feelings pass.
You’ll be around lots of people at college—even so, sometimes you may feel lonely or down or even overwhelmed. The best advice I can give you is to do something with those feelings. Call someone, take a shower, take a walk, listen to music, or exercise in any form. Any step ahead is a step forward, no matter how small.
Have faith in yourself.
You’re a beautiful person who is genuine and kind. You’re smart and funny and a joy to be around (except in the morning). I hope this time away will help you realize you’re way more capable than you give yourself credit for.
And remember, mom and dad are always here when you need us.
Dad and I will ALWAYS be here for you. We are very proud of the young lady you’ve become. You’ve worked hard to get here. Everything that you do from here on out is for yourself. It’s for your success and happiness in life. We want the absolute best for you, my beautiful girl.
I love you more than I could ever express in words.