An open letter to my daughter heading off to university.

Alan Smithson
5 min readSep 6, 2022


Some life lessons I had to learn the hard way, I hope they help.

Dear Abi,

I am so proud of you. I have already started crying while writing this.

For the past 18 years, you have always been there, bringing laughter, joy, excitement and spirit to our family. It is going to be quiet without you my sweet, I miss you already.

Today you move out of our house and into residence at the same university I became an adult at. When I was your age, I was much less mature, and I spent the first years at school learning who I am, what music I like, which friends truly make me happy to be with and which areas of study interested me.

You have grown up in a house with access to every technology on earth and sometimes I wonder if u fettered access to the internet and social media was a good thing…I guess we will see.

My sincere wish for you is that you will use all the tools at your disposal to be the best in the world at whatever you decide is a worthy cause to spend your very valuable time on this earth.

You have an immense opportunity and responsibility to build something that makes this planet and the people on it happier, healthier and if you are lucky, just a little better than today.

The next four years of your life will be the greatest challenge you have experienced in your short time as an adult. You will take courses that make you cry they are so hard, and others you seem to breeze through because the content is just so compelling. Both are valuable indicators of what you love and what skills you can home and master.

One of the courses I loved so much and couldn’t get enough of was ‘Music & Popular Culture’. Turns out I became a DJ for over 20 years, a skill I mastered during my time at Guelph at the Bullring and Keg. I hope you have nights you can’t remember with friends you can’t forget (Pitbull reference)

During your time at Guelph, you will; go to class, walk across campus on Johnson Green, fall asleep in lectures, party in res, run through dorms, scream at concerts, cheer at games, rage at parties, study in the library, get lost on campus (more than once), drink an enormous amount of coffee ☕, write exams and essays, ride the bus, go to a keg party, line dance at an Aggie Pub, Throw up downtown (it’s a right of passage), join a few recreational sports teams, get lost in south (for real, it’s a maze), meet some of the best professors in the world, and some of the worst, ace courses, almost fail others (DO NOT FAIL — despite that is the way people learn best, the university system doesn’t like this theory so play by their rules).

I am 100% certain that you are going to LOVE school and I cannot wait to hear the stories. Make sure you take photos (we didn’t have the luxury of phones with cameras when I went there, I literally had a pager lol)

Speaking of technology, when I went to Guelph in 1995, we only had 2 computer labs and the content on the internet was limited to only text, my how far we’ve come.

I’m rambling now, so let me leave you with this advice for the next four years of your life.

  • Laugh Every Day.
  • Study Hard.
  • Party Harder.
  • Choose your friends wisely (your life becomes the same as the 5 people you spend time with).
  • DO NOT waste your time with TV and social media, the real world is WAY more fun!
  • Be Kind to everyone, your smile is one of your super powers, use it often.
  • Try everything! Now is the time for you to truly discover who you are.
  • Take 100% responsibility for your actions and your life. EVERY decision you make is yours and you must live with the consequences
  • Keep track of your friends, people will come in and out of your life, but 30 years from now, you will all still be on this earth.
  • Take Photos. LOTS! — Save them to the cloud because you will probably lose your phone at some point.
  • Eat Healthy — frosh 15 is real
  • Exercise Daily — sweat every day!!
  • Sleep (ah who am I to tell you this, you sleep more than anyone I know)
  • Explore beyond the campus, there really is a world out there.
  • Join a bunch of clubs and see what you love and what you don’t.
  • Go to poetry readings, plays, art fairs and music performances. Get some culture in you.
  • Always get boys to buy you drinks. Learn this skill, you have the power. — don’t abuse it. Watch your drinks in public events.
  • With drugs, you can always take more, you can NEVER take less, be responsible and you can always say no.
  • Treat everyone you meet with the utmost respect. Professors and Janitors are both people and they each have a role to play in your wonderful experience at school, along with everyone else you meet.
  • Be grateful for the opportunity you have, Billions of other students around the world will never have the chance you have now.
  • Read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ once a year for the rest of your life.
  • Pay off your credit card every month.
  • Update your net worth statement when you pay your credit card.
  • Trust me, if you do these two things every month, you will leave school in the best position to succeed.
  • When you need a break from the crazy go walk around the Arboretum, it’s a hidden gem.

I am sure I could write an entire book on the above, but I won’t. Instead I will leave you with this…

Abi, you are amazing and you will leave a ripple in this universe, stay humble, stay crazy and know that I love you with all my heart.

Proud Daddy Moment — University of Guelph Edition

Good Luck and God Speed my love.


Your Father, Alan



Alan Smithson

Alan’s purpose in life is to inspire and educate future leaders to think and act in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.