As a senior at UF, it hits me – yet again – how quickly time flies. Seriously, ask me how old I am, and it might take me a second to give you the right answer. It’s easy to picture myself at eighteen years old, smiling at my high school graduation as I threw my cap high in the air.

My final semester of high school sometimes felt like I was constantly being hammered with the questions, “Where are you going to go?” and “What are you planning to do?” If I could go back, I would spend less time worrying about how I would answer them. They don’t star in the memories that come to mind now.

Instead, I remember myself with my closest friends, laughing so hard my face hurt. At dinner with my family celebrating birthdays. Exploring my hometown to the fullest extent. When the world is demanding that I speed up and look forward, the moments that stand out to me are the ones where I made myself slow down and be present. I wish I had done it more. Looking back, here are some of the ways I’d have helped myself to do so.

1) Have faith in yourself and your abilities. It might be scary thinking about leaving home, family, and friends that you’re familiar with for something completely new. Maybe you’re excited to switch up locations but worried because you aren’t sure what you want to do yet. Trust yourself and the abilities that got you to this point. You are more than capable of overcoming any obstacles that might come your way.

2) Be gentle with yourself. Your journey is a work in progress, just like everyone else’s. If you waste time comparing yourself to others, you’ll get stuck in a rut. P.S. The acronyms SAT and ACT are going to become irrelevant before you know it.

3) Say yes & say no. Take this time to try new things outside of your comfort zone. You might find unexpected friendships and passions as a result. As you take on these new adventures, you may notice some of your opinions, values and ideals shifting. Embrace this – the gray areas of life – and acknowledge that learning goes beyond the classroom. (Honestly, that’s where most of your learning will happen.)

4) Think about what you want to leave behind. This is different for everyone. It might be giving back to a sports team, a church group or the places where you volunteer. It might be ensuring you make every moment count with your friends and family. Wherever you choose to invest your impact, whoever it’s with, remember the feeling that comes with it. This is something that you can keep with you wherever you go.

5) ENJOY this time. Finally – and I cannot emphasize this enough – don’t get too caught up in advancing to the next stage. Live in the present as much as you can. You deserve it!

Whoosh…hear that sound? That’s you – graduating college (WHAT!), getting your first job, or pursuing another degree. That’s you taking on chapters in your story you haven’t even imagined yet. Take advantage of the time you have left; it goes by so fast. So from one senior to another: embrace this fantastic season ahead of you. And good luck!

*Note- Pictures were taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic