Brad Paisley’s classic song, “If I could write a letter to me,” tells a story of a man listing everything he wish he would have told “his self at 17.” As a graduating senior of UT Austin, I listen to that song and think, “What would I want to tell myself at the beginning of college if I had the chance?” While we are deep in the trenches of college it is easy to become overwhelmed with the pressure to succeed, the inconceivable amount of course work, the constant battle to get a decent quantity of sleep each week to see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Every college needs a letter from their future self to know that, all that you’re going through in the moment is so worth it, whether you can conceive the thought or not. This list is compiled of country songs that can do the speaking for you. Check out the five things your 18 year-old self would have loved to have known as you struggled through freshmen year. The playlist progresses as the different struggles of each new year presents themselves, from freshmen year to that glorious final year, and beyond!
1) If You’re Going Through Hell (2006)- Rodney Atkins
Wise words to your younger self: ““If you’re going through hell. Keep on going, don’t slow down, if you’re scared, don’t show it. You might get out before the devil even knows you’re there.”
The Great Transition! This is the year that you are leaving the comfort of your high school network and your parent’s house to make it on your own in this big ol’ world. There are always hard times in life and it is easy to succumb to the challenges, but you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and get through it. This song is jammed packed with inspirational lyrics that can help anyone know that they can make it, and it’s the exact words your younger self would’ve love to hear their first semester of college (and every semester after that!) Think back to how you felt that dreadful first year at a new University; struggling emotionally, academically, financially, and if you pledged a fraternity, physically. You probably didn’t know a lot of people and you often felt at your lowest point. Looking back at those times now after you’ve graduated, made tons of friends, and found that dream job, it’s easier to encourage yourself. Keep pressing on during the hard times and soon enough you’ll find that you’ve made it through to the other side.
2). Find Out Who Your Friends Are (2007)- Tracy Lawrence
Wise words to your younger self: “You find out who your friends are, Somebody’s gonna drop everything.”
You’re a year in, and now that you have better footing on how to manage all that college throws at you, it’s easier to focus on your social life. Run out of gas, can’t pay your rent, lose your job, these are the events that help weed out the real from the fake. When the struggles of life hit you, a lot of people who you thought were your “friends” easily jump ship and somehow forget who you are when you ask for help, but these are the times when you find out who your true friends are. It’s a good reminder to your younger self that you’ll meet tons of people in college; some good, some bad, some who you will just speak to in passing, and then those who are going to be lifelong friends. A journal entry in Harvard Magazine read that college friends are special because, “showing someone a matured version of oneself is different from growing through those changes together,’’ meaning that as you experience life together the bonds you create now will stick with you because it’s helped you mature as a person. You’re younger self would appreciate to know that their true friends are out there, those one’s who will “never stop to think ‘what’s in it for me?”
3). It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere (2013)- Allen Jackson ft. Jimmy Buffet
Wise words to your younger self: “it’s five o’clock somewhere. It’s always on five in Margaritaville, come to think of it.”
Around this time you have finally reached 21 and can legal go out with friends for drinks whenever you want. The stress that comes with classes, your job, and extracurricular activities can really take a toll on you, and what’s the best way to deal with the stresses of life? Drowning them out at your favorite bar/lounge. It’s okay to go out and have a couple drinks to take your mind off of the hassles that are waiting for you when return home. I think we would have all loved to hear, “Yes, it’s okay for you to be drinking at noon, because remember, it’s five o’ clock somewhere! You are in college; it is basically a way of life. Don’t worry you’re going to be fine in the future… trust me!”
4). Wasted (2005)- Carrie Underwood
Wise words to your younger self: “I don’t wanna spend my life jaded, waiting to wake up one day and find that I let all these years go by wasted.”
Also during this time you are thinking more of your future plans, while at the same time reminiscing about the first half of your college life. No one wants to look back on their life and have to constantly say, “I wish I would have done…” Regrets are a terrible thing to live with, so why wouldn’t you want to live life to the fullest? To quote Ellie from the Pixar film “UP,” “Adventure is out there,” it’s just up to us to go out and explore. Your younger self should know this in college, because life could easily just pass us by as we try to earn a degree and we won’t experience all of what college has to offer. So, go on that study abroad trip to Spain, join that intermural team, rush that sorority or fraternity you always wanted to join, take that summer internship you’ve been dreaming about, go on spontaneous road trips on the weekends, fall in love with the cute guy/girl in your OChem class. According to New York Times Magazine, research says that the biggest regret that people have is a lost romantic opportunity, not that they didn’t go to class enough, or their study habits. We would have loved to have known that while being cooped up in the library for hours instead of enjoying some of the best years of our lives.
5). You’re Gonna Miss This (2008)- Trace Adkins
Wise words to your younger self: “You’re gonna miss this. You’re gonna want this back. You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast”
This is it! You’ve made it to the finish line! It’s so easy to only think of the future and how badly you want to be there. Especially in college, you want to hurry and graduate in four years to escape the course load, the stress of tests, the fact that you’re always broke, the haunting thought of how much debt you’re accumulating, but when they day comes, as happy as you’re going to be… you’re going to miss it. The all nighters that gave you so much hell, the late night talks about life with your roommate, all the amazingly fun events on campus, the parties, tailgating at sporting events, even your professors. I know that it seems like you’re always having to “go to this meeting,” or “finish this paper,” but you’re actually as free during this time than you will ever be. Samantha Matt, a writer for Huffington Post, wrote on her blog that one thing she missed about college was “having more free time,” because once you get in the real world with real life responsibilities there isn’t much room for messing around. It’s an amazing feeling to embark on a new journey in life, yet it’s a bittersweet farewell to the chapter that you’re closing. So please listen to Trace’s words and head his advice when he says, “These are some good times, so take a good look around. You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this.” Take in every moment, the bad along with the good; you’re going to need stories to tell your grandkids in the future.
6). Find Yourself (2006)-Brad Paisley
Wise words to your younger self: “When you go through life, So sure of where you’re headin’, And you wind up lost, And it’s the best thing that could have happened, ‘Cause sometimes when you lose your way, It’s really just as well, Because you find yourself, Yeah, that’s when you find yourself.”
You’re fresh out of college with a degree in something that you love. The world is at your fingertips right? You are on your way to living the life you’ve always dreamed of right? This isn’t true for everyone. Sometimes it’s hard to find a job that fits the degree you have. Sometimes what you thought you loved doing doesn’t give you fulfillment you assumed it would. Or maybe you didn’t get the job that you had been banking on and are left completely confused. This song is a reminder that life is a journey and whatever road you end up taking, it ultimately leads you to become the person you were always meant to be. Take some to travel, find a new hobby, take a job that you would have never considered in college. All of these things could bring out skills, passions, and characteristics out of you that were completely unnoticed earlier in life. As life progresses you will inevitably find out who you were created to be and fulfill the purpose that you are called too. So even if things aren’t looking the way you planned, doesn’t mean that you aren’t taking steps toward your destiny.
In her blog, “11 things I wish I knew before going to college,” Sarah Bourassa writes that one of those things was to “stay one step ahead.” Which is so good, because like many people who have already graduated, you would have loved someone who has gone ahead of you to guide you through the roller coaster ride you would be on for the next four or so years. I’m sure that there are plenty of other things that you would love to tell your younger self that is unique to you, but I believe these songs cover a lot of our sentiments, when it comes to doing college over again. Even though all these songs speak to different areas of our lives while in college, they all point to the same purpose; great advice that would make getting those treacherous four years with a little less scars and whole lot more joy. Even though, it may be too late for many of us to get insight from this post, you have the opportunity to send it someone you know who is just at the starting gate to give them a leg up, while also giving them some awe-inspiring country hits to listen to.