A Letter to My Freshman “conch-shell-necklace-wearing-midriff-showing” Self

On my drive home last week, a wave of nostalgia overtook my car and I swung by my old Alma Mater. From the chaos, I knew it could only be freshman move-in day. Oh joy!

I remember my first day freshman year at Vanderbilt almost too vividly. My entire family –all six of us–made the trip up to Nashville – with two cars, because I insisted on bringing every possession I owned to college (thinking those prized books or candles or old shirts would end up belonging to one of my sisters).  I was off to become an adult! Translation: I could stay out as late as I wanted.

The morning the dorms opened, I jumped out of bed at 6am to shave my legs and make sure I looked perfect for my crucial first day. After all, I was supposed to meet my husband in college, right? I sliced open my leg –literally– with a cut that bled for the next 6 hours and soaked through 5 Finding Nemo Band-Aids (the only ones available at our hotel).  My dad was 2nd in the move in line (he’s a Marine) and as soon as we got the 7am call that the doors had opened my mom and siblings and I came zooming over to campus in order to “beat the rush” and the scorching august temperatures. Thankfully, I had my three younger siblings to assist in schlepping my tank tops, short skirts, toiletries for the next year, etc. up the chaotic stairs (I owe them big time).

My roommate was way cooler than me – which I only determined by our poster selection. While I stuck up my posters of Orangina (really?) and Usher (don’t ask) – she had a black and white poster of Bob Marley smoking a joint (I later asked her what exactly he was doing ) and a poster that read, “Marijuana- hey at least it’s not crack!” Being that my dad holds the US record for the largest cocaine bust  in his days as a Federal Prosecutor – and I cringe at conflict – I bit my fingernails off worrying about the tense dynamic in that small Branscomb dorm room.  After a full day of moving in and several trips to Target to get the perfect shoe organizer and right color plastic drawers, my family left and there I sat – on my twin bed, in my cut off Abercrombie skirt and tight purple tank top (that given my fashion at the time, undoubtedly showed my stomach) – and was officially a college freshman.  And that was 9 years ago.

If I could write a note to “freshman Ruthie”, it would go something like this…

Dear Ruthie,

First of all, breathe. You will have friends and make it into a “good” sorority. (Kappa Delta) Go to class, after all that is why your parents are spending an exorbitant amount of $$ to send you to a Top 20 school (i.e. starting the weekend on Wed  makes Thurs and Fri class difficult impossible). Guys only want one thing and you are better off ignoring them until after graduation. I know it sounds extreme, but you are attracted to the wrong kind of guys, so please don’t trust your judgment.  You won’t meet Mr. Right until 2009. It sounds like a long time, but you’ll be glad I told you. Keep waiting – even when __________and ____________and _________  and certainly when _____________ comes along and you think they’ve hung the moon. [They haven’t.]

And if I may add – might you consider wearing something other than a cut off jean skirt and a midriff bearing shirt? And…the tanning bed? For goodness sakes at this rate you’re going to look like a Florida retiree in a hot pink string bikini. And while I’m at it, I also must also implore you to throw that Billabong T-shirt and conch shell choker off the top of the tallest building on campus.  You will thank me later.

Yours truly,


I’m thankful for dear friends like Julianne, Betsy, and I must say Jesus who helped me find my way in college, indeed find myself. Sometimes we learn the hard way, don’t we? What do you wish you could go back and tell your “freshman self”?

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19 Responses to “A Letter to My Freshman “conch-shell-necklace-wearing-midriff-showing” Self”
  1. andrealucado says:

    I love this post, Ruthie! I need to see a picture of you with the conch shell choker.

    I would tell myself SO many things as a college freshman, it’s hard to pick. Here’s a couple:
    1) “Just because he’s a sophomore, does not mean he hangs the moon.”
    2) “You’re going to end up going to Africa this summer and be forever changed, so stop worrying about whether or not you belong to the ‘cool group’ on campus, those don’t really exist in college anyways.”

    • Ruthie D. says:

      I definitely have a picture of the conch shell choker and mid-drift — but was too embarrased to post it. I (might) show it to you sometime. Thank goodness for figuring out style, Jesus, and wise women in my life. This post makes me want to reach out to freshmen women at vandy!

  2. Kristy Maloy says:

    Ruthie I LOVED this post! It made me think of all the things I would tell myself. I am so glad that we were suite mates because I am so glad to know you now. I was so intimidated by all three of you so it is comforting to know that I wasn’t the only one feeling out of place. Miss you and hope to see you soon!

    • Ruthie D. says:

      Kristy-oh how thankful I am for you as a suitemate freshman year. You are wonderful and saved me on more than one occassion. Thanks for journeying through the self-concious/awkwardness with me!

  3. Melissa Harper says:

    Great post, Ruth!!

  4. Beth Randolph Fadelle says:

    Ruthie!!! This is so great! Wisdom from experience.

    Thanks for posting. I’ve been meeting dozens and dozens of new freshies this week and wish you were there to tell them this yourself. Well said.

    Blessings to you!

    • Ruthie D. says:

      Hi Beth! I’m glad you enjoyed it…how different I am from freshman year! So glad the freshies have wonderful women like you in their lives. What a blessing. Keep pursuing them even if they think they are too cool. [they’re not]. thanks for reading!

  5. Leann says:

    Ruthie, What a great topic! I believe I am going to have to write myself a letter as well. No telling what I am going to say her!

  6. Durlers says:

    Gosh I was a disaster! Right off the top of my head…

    Grow your hair – you look like a boy!
    Don’t eat bagels everyday – you will gain the freshmen 20 if you do!
    Find a church – and GO!
    Ignore all Soccer Boys – they are trouble and will cause you a lot of heartache.
    Stand up for yourself and what you believe in and learn to say NO and remember that NO does not mean you are not cool!

    That’s just the start… If only we could do this! The next best thing would be to write a letter to your daughter with this wisdom before you forget it and it becomes clouded with nostalgia.


    • Ruthie D. says:

      hahaha-your “grow your hair” made me laugh. Yes, my letter would be in-depth and lengthy to my daughter. We need to start praying for daughters who listen to us! Thanks for commenting:)

  7. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhahahahahahahahahaa. Usher.

  8. Danelle says:

    Ruthie!! I love your blog. This post had me smiling (laughing silently to myself in my work office…). I would have a book to write to 17 year old Danelle. I definitely owned a conch-shell necklace, Billabong shirt, short skirts and midriff bearing tops too. (my FL roots were not so cool at “Southern-belle” land Samford. haha. Thank you for making me nostalgic. I think I’ll have to post a letter to my self now.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey Ruthie, I really love here! I am so excited to read your writing and get to know your recent life through it. We haven’t met for more than 2 years but I never forget you. I really enjoyed your company back then. still remember you told me that you would write a book. i wish you stick to that dream and you have to send one to china when you accomplish it :) Really miss you. Julie Liu

    • Ruthie D. says:

      Hi Julie! So great to have you on here. I cannot believe it’s been so long! I will never forget all our classes in China-you were the best tutor and are a dear friend. I hope you will know Yesu Jidu one day… love you!

  10. excellent post! I hate commenting and i dont usually do it but since i enjoyed this, what the heck! Thanks alot!:)

  11. Sitara says:

    Hey Ruthie!

    I just happened to come across your blog last night and I have been reading it non stop this entire day-at the expense of 4 midterms I have to study for. You’re such a talented writer and I can relate to so much you mention. I myself am just a sophomore in college and all I wish is that I can fast forward right into my mid-twenties, and be away from the frustrations of being 19. I too feel like a complete freak because of my no-below-the-belt-action-before-the-wedding-bells stance, and sometimes I feel so invalidated looking at everyone else my age dating, while I’m over here thinking of the names I’m going to be giving my 14 cats that I’ll have when I’m older. But you’re such an inspiration! I know that my body is a temple, and waiting for marriage I’m glorifying God. I’m starting to see that everything I’m not experiencing now isn’t a societal rejection of who I am, but rather God’s protection of me. Reading all your blogs (and the comments!) lets me know I’m not alone :)

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