Dear Charlotte at age 18,
You are going to meet a girl named Bonnie Cathryn and one night, freshman year, she is going to ask you to go on a drive. You will get into her car and realize that you are walking in on what nineteen-year-olds like to call a “mid-life crisis,” but what we will later learn is a simple “quarterly meltdown.” You won’t realize then that her exclaiming, “I used to wear hot pink and I never do anymore,” will become a mantra and way of reminding each other throughout the seasons to think back to what makes you happy and what makes you “you” despite trends, fads and pressure. She will be your teacher in vulnerability.
You are going to meet a girl on your first day of college named Olivia. You will be ugly to her freshman year, but by the time you reach senior year, you will realize that she sticks and stands up for you like no other. There’s something about hurting one another’s feelings, and forgiving, that makes you feel a new level of comfort. She will become a comfort and a true confidant. She will be your teacher in loyalty.
You are going to sit at a table freshman year with a girl, named Mary Charles, and her parents at parents weekend and feel so awkward because it’s September, and you still do not know the girls in your pledge class. Y’all will both live on the hall sophomore year and go to Haiti together, and will later become close junior year. Mary Charles will show you what it means to be your full self. No matter how spunky, sassy or stupid you may be sometimes. She will be your teacher in being yourself.
You are going to stay friends with Mary Helen all four years and from major meltdowns together freshman year, to being roommates sophomore year, to weekly coffee dates on Fridays at 11 junior year, to finding rest and comfort in the women we have grown to become senior year, you will cherish her. She will teach you the power of a passive-aggressive Spotify playlist, but most of all she will teach you what selflessness looks like. She will be your teacher in passion.
You will meet Sidnie sophomore year and she will be unlike anyone you’ve ever known. She will show you that cheetah print is a neutral and y’all will eventually log more hours in classes and projects together than you would believe. She will teach you what it looks like to go all in with friends, holding nothing back, and showing up for each other, time and time again. She will be your teacher in steadfastness.
You will grow closer to Amanda and she will become your partner in crime, crying and comfort. You will realize that there is an irreplaceable feeling in knowing someone since you were in first grade. She knows who you once were and she sees who you are now, and she celebrates both of those people. She will teach you that people are complex and have more layers than your roommate’s famous buttercream vanilla cakes. She will make you want to pause and be still more because she experiences things slowly, surely and simply. She will be your teacher in thoughtfulness.
At the end of your four years, you will look back and realize that it wasn’t the involvements, sorority, clubs or date parties that made the difference or carved the course of your life here. It’s the times you disappointed her and she forgave you, the time you were there for her when she felt like her heart was physically breaking in two, and the time after time when you forgot who you were, what you wanted or where you were going and she held your hand, squeezed it tight and said “same, here.”
Charlotte at age 22, with a few wrinkles around her eyes from smiling and squinting to see the board in class.