When my mother dropped me off for my freshman year of college, she gave me a hug on Bigelow Boulevard and whispered in my ear, “If you become one of those kids who wears sweatpants all the time, I won’t let you come home.”
The four years since my mother’s stern advice have flown by faster than Heidi Montag’s disastrous plastic surgery transformation, but I can confidently say I’ve learned a lot during my stay at Pitt. So I present to you, for my final column, a list of lessons. Some of these things I’ve said before — others I’ve just realized recently. They are all of equal importance. (Except, perhaps, the bit about skirt lengths. That you can feel free to ignore.)
Generally speaking, when people offer advice, I assume they’re not talking to me. The bits and pieces I do absorb, I struggle to keep at the forefront of my mental repertoire and only consider from time to time.
So I offer you this advice, knowing quite well that you might not listen to it all. “Sam is talking to someone else,” you’re thinking. And that’s OK. Head for the Sudoku. If you’re willing to put off studying for finals a little longer, though, here is what I’ve learned and what I’d advise:
1. Always thank the people who matter. To my roommates who have patiently waited for me to pick out an outfit all these years, thank you. To the professors who didn’t say anything when I slipped in to class late because I couldn’t decide on said outfit, thank you. To H&M, which has provided me with an endless stream of closet additions, I thank you most of all.
2. College is a time of consumption. You eat when you’re bored, spend money when you’re stressed, drink when you’re celebrating (even if you’re just celebrating the fact that you made it to Thursday). I’m not going to tell you to stop drinking — I’m no hypocrite — but I will tell you to watch your spending. Buy what you can’t live without. It’s possible to have a closet of things that are absolutely extraordinary if you don’t waste money on things that are positively dreadful.
3. Don’t overwork yourself. Sometimes it’s better to let yourself relax before you dive into an important assignment. Fact: Facebook stalking is a perfectly acceptable form of procrastination when it is used to look through the pictures of friends who dress well. There’s a whole world of outfit ideas to absorb by clicking though recently added photos.
4. I should say that my biggest accomplishment of college was learning the appropriate usage of the em-dash and to differentiate between its and it’s. In actuality, my biggest accomplishment was learning to apply eyeliner on the inside of my eyelids. It’ll make your Friday nights so much better, I swear.
5. Laugh at your own mistakes, but really, try to look your best at all times — you never know when you’ll be on camera. There was this time I accidentally thought it would be a good idea to film a Dating on Demand profile (curse you, persuasive Comcast recruiters!) on a night I hadn’t washed my hair. Embarrassing doesn’t even begin to describe.
6. When buying a new dress, always double check the length. I have had some near-disasters with night wear that could have easily been avoided if I had bothered to walk out of the dressing room and look in a three-way mirror. On the other hand, if any of you ladies enjoy walking down Oakland Avenue as the object of loose-moral mishaps, then don’t double check at all. The shorter, the better.
7. I recently borrowed (OK, basically stole from the trunk of my friend Alex’s car) a collection of New Yorker writer Malcolm Gladwell’s essays. In the preface, he says the best people to interview for a story are the ones who don’t have a reputation to protect. “Self-consciousness,” he says, “is the enemy of ‘interestingness.’” It is true — both in story telling and fashion. Think about it: The people who have the most compelling style are the ones who aren’t worried about protecting their image or conforming to a certain socially acceptable “look.”
I spent a whole lot of my undergraduate career being self-conscious — worrying that I wasn’t smart enough, talented enough, well-dressed enough — and you know what? It all really doesn’t matter. The second you stop worrying, good things start happening. I promise, you’re interesting just the way you are.
I think I’ve enjoyed college more than should be legally allowed, so it’s terrifying that it all will end in less than a week.
I’ve met some remarkably talented people who I’m privileged to call my friends, and I became, roughly, the person I always wanted to be.
The next wave of my life is still up in the air but there is one thing I know for sure: It is very possible to get ahead by working hard, but it is so much easier when you’re dressed the part.
To my fellow breed of anti-pajamas-in-public types, I raise a pumped fist and say, “Solidarity.” To the rest of you, remember: Sweatpants are never the answer.