Going with My Gut

A few weeks shy of my 18th birthday, I made what I thought would be my last life changing decision for hopefully a few years. Choosing a college meant I was set until graduation, right? Nope. Of course, I was horribly wrong. By committing to go to the University of Central Florida, I had not guaranteed myself four years free of decisions… I’d actually just committed to a lifetime of them.

I did not come to that conclusion immediately. My first few months at school went by in a blur, an odd mishmash of freshmen events, late nights with new friends, and projects and essays not wholly unlike the ones I had in high school. It wasn’t until the semester started winding down that I realized something felt off. 

I fought that feeling for a long time. It was particularly easy when I was with my friends, and thoughts of education and post-college decisions were pushed to the very back of my mind. I was having new, exciting experiences with my closest friends in abundance, which happened to be the best antidote for the persistent feeling of wrongness I felt unable to shake. It was usually in the time I spent alone that I suddenly became overwhelmed, a feeling of not belonging bubbling up in my chest so intensely and so frequently that I eventually could not ignore it.

I loved my beautiful college campus, my school’s proximity to Orlando’s tourism district, and my friends. I still do. But no matter how happy those things made me, I could not shake the feeling that I was on track to graduate and be no better off than when I started.

I know that’s a bit of a strong statement. And to a degree, I was learning in all of my classes, and I was even lucky enough to interact with a couple of truly remarkable professors. But beyond that, I was drowning. Attending a school that was home to nearly 60,000 students, I felt like a tiny, nameless fish in a very, very big pond.

It wasn’t for lack of trying, of course. With a year under my belt and some AP credits pushing me quickly toward graduation, I did everything I could to get  assistance with finding internships, building a portfolio, and forging a path that would ultimately lead to a desirable career upon graduation. And all I got was slammed doors.

With each unanswered email or university misdirect, I grew more frustrated. My friends in other, smaller and more specialized programs were doing great, their departments and advisors more than happy to help them find jobs and take steps toward achieving their ultimate career aspirations. As happy as I was to watch them succeed, I knew I couldn’t stay stagnant, especially as their successes showed me how a college experience should be.

A year and a half after beginning my journey at UCF, I decided to transfer to Drake University, a much smaller university than I had grown accustomed to, with 4,991 students enrolled in 2015.

And it was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make. Even though I knew UCF wasn’t the right place for me, it was heartbreaking to leave. Sure, I knew I’d miss the weather, the pools, the day trips to Disney or the beaches. That I could live with. But leaving my friends, the people who had made UCF my home away from home, was what made leaving truly gut-wrenching.

Despite that, even before I officially decided to attend Drake in the spring, I knew it was the right decision. Even from hundreds of miles away, I was already having a warmer, more helpful experience with the faculty. I talked to advisors, admissions counselors, department heads and even the Assistant Dean of Student Affairs, all before even committing to the school. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I could go where I wanted post-graduation and have the career of my dreams. Even as I sat alone my first night at my new university, homesick for people and places that were too far away, I knew I would be okay and that I had made the right choice, regardless of how hard it felt in that moment.

Now, months later, I’m sure of it. I’m almost one semester in at Drake, and I’ve made wonderful friends and had opportunities I would never have even dreamed of having by my sophomore year at my last school. And, because of these results, I’ve never been more sure of a decision in my life.

But to get here, to this place where I’m flourishing and making amazing progress, I had to trust that tiny, undeniable gut feeling that persistently grew until I could no longer ignore it. Even as I was having the time of my life with my friends, I had to face up to the fact that life at UCF was not what I needed it to be.

I’m glad I did. While trusting my gut took me hundreds of miles out of my comfort zone, the decision has been worth it… because it’s what I was meant to do. And, in a way, I think I was meant to go to UCF as well. I gained friends I’ll keep for a lifetime, and learned a lot about what I want to get out of my college experience… and even more about following my instincts.

Positivity in Life and Lottery

When the jackpot for the Powerball hit one billion dollars, I took the opportunity to buy my first ever lottery tickets. Of course, it was all for fun; my friend and I had never taken advantage of our legal status and purchased lottery tickets; we figured a billion dollar jackpot was a good enough reason to finally bite the bullet and do it.

With the help of an experienced lotto player, we filled out our cards.

“Good luck! I hope a lot of people win,” she said as we walked up to the register. And it was really nice to hear, that rather than hoping to win a billion dollars for herself, she hoped many people got some of the winnings, and with it, the peace of mind that probably comes from having some financial worries wiped out.

The week leading up to the drawing was full of interesting conversation, everyone having different ideas of what they would do if they happened to win the money. Some people insisted they’d be on the next plane out of here, finally traveling to all the faraway places they’ve always dreamed of. Others had plans to follow the passion projects they’d always put off in favor of a stable income and traditional job.

And others stuck their nose up at the lotto all together.

“You’re wasting your time,” I heard many people sneer, on the radio, in line at the mall, at restaurants. “You’re never going to win.”

But the thing is… somebody won. A few somebodies, in fact. And, to my knowledge, every past lottery has also had a winner. So why couldn’t it be me? Or you? Or the woman who’s been buying lottery tickets religiously every week for fifty years? Despite what the cynics say, somebody has always won, and that somebody is not always a person of privilege.

I think this cynical mindset is rooted pretty deeply in our society nowadays. It becomes pretty apparent when people choose to believe that they are capable of something incredible, something that goes against the norm (like winning a billion dollars). It’s a conversation with a mix of realists, cynics, and dreamers all clamoring for their opinions to be heard. Cynics tend to tell the dreamers to sit down and shut up, while good meaning realists desperately try to keep their fantasizing friends’ feet on the ground, begging them to manage their expectations to avoid the pain that comes from failure and rejection.

And that isn’t a horrible philosophy to have. But the thing is, just like someone has to win the lottery… someone has to achieve their dreams. Someone has to have the tenacity and bravery to strive for something that feels impossibly out of reach. Because if nobody did, we wouldn’t have Harry Potter, Disney World, movies with sound, or even self-wringing mops!

I think if everyone had a little more faith in themselves and each other, we’d see some pretty amazing results. It’s hard to believe in yourself when people are telling you not to. Lucky for us, J.K. Rowling didn’t give up. But there’s plenty of other people with amazing ideas who probably did.

It takes all kinds of kinds to make the world go round. And aren’t we a little better off because of the people who tried to do something outside of the norm? So, go ahead. Buy a lottery ticket. Write a book. Try to invent a jetpack. The only people who are guaranteed failure are the people who don’t try.

We All Make the World Go Round

When I took psychology in high school, my classmates and I had to take a test to determine if we were right-brained or left-brained. Right-brains tended to be creative, visual, emotional, spontaneous and disorganized. Left brains were considered to be logical, skilled at mathematics, structured and level headed.

If you’ve ever seen my bedroom, you know exactly which category I fell into.

The results of the quiz were actually pretty spot on, give or take a few characteristics. At the time, my friends and I thought it was pretty cool how accurate it was, and how two different people could be wired so differently. My left-brained friend and I once compared our ACT scores and concluded that, if we combined my english skills with her mathematical abilities, we would be a certifiable genius.

Flash forward to university and things are a little bit different. STEM students are revered, and when anyone within the liberal arts college offers up their major their met with a polite smile and the dreaded, “Oh, wow. That’s nice. What exactly are you going to do with that?”

I might be a tiny bit biased here, but I don’t understand the condescension people face for their chosen career paths. I mean, we can’t all be engineers and doctors, though that would probably lead to a very healthy world and very crowded job market.

One of the best things about humanity is the variety within the human race. We have doctors who treat illnesses, comedians who make us laugh, scientists who cure diseases, teachers who educate generations of children, and entertainers and artists who enrich our lives with what they have to offer.

When I see one of my friends blasting through their physics homework and loving every second of it (well, maybe not every second), my mind is blown. And when they see me writing in my free time, they feel the same way. Only difference is, their career aspirations aren’t doubted every time they bring them up.

All the things we love about our world are a product of every different kind of person. Architects, writers, scientists, actors and engineers alike all contribute to making the world a better place in their own unique ways. The gifts science has given us cannot be denied, but it isn’t the scientists you have to thank for the book you’ve read a thousand times, or your favorite painting at the art museum.

It takes all different kinds of people to make the world go round. I think, instead of  questioning people’s career aspirations, we should just be happy someone else is willing to do the jobs we could never do ourselves. People who think differently than us contribute things to the world that we could have never thought of ourselves. And that on its own is worth celebrating.

In the Wake of Paris Attacks, Hope Transcends Terror

 

It’s hard to hear about the terrorist attacks in Paris and not feel like we are living in truly horrific times. 129 people are dead, killed in cold blood: There are no words to describe how extremely despicable that is. There is no excuse for the violence that has ripped mothers from their children, brothers from sisters, and friends from friends.

But from the ashes off terror and despair, comes hope. One of the best things about the human spirit is not only the resiliency of it, but also the astounding generosity and kindness it is capable of in times of crisis. As the smoke clears on the atrocities in Paris, we find hope in everyday people who, in the wake of tragedy, became heroes. Even in the midst of unspeakable violence and terror the people of Paris stepped up, from first responders working to save lives, to ordinary citizens opening their homes to strangers. Countries around the world are standing in solidarity with Paris, offering prayers and aid to those affected by the attacks. Fred Rogers once said that when he saw troubling things in the news as a child, his mother would say to him, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I believe that. And as long as we still have people willing to help and lift one another up in times of darkness, we can go on.

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In the face of terror, the spirit of humanity remains unbroken. The people behind these unspeakable acts sought to tear us apart, for the chaos and destruction they caused to put fear and grief in our hearts. And maybe we are afraid, and grieving the needless deaths of our fellow humans. But we will not let terror rule. We will stand as one with Paris, and Beirut, and Kenya, and all the other places plagued with violence and fear. Standing united, the world can get through this.

 

 

I Will Not Peak In College

In the weeks leading up to my high school graduation, the school was abuzz with excitement as people discussed their plans for the future and got ready to move on with their lives. Finally, we’d be doing something different from sitting in classrooms six hours a day, raising our hands to go to the bathroom and texting under our desks during particularly dry lectures. Whenever the topic of peaking in high school came up, people would alternatively laugh and shudder. The thought of the best years of our lives being behind us at the age of 18 was as horrifying as it was comical.

I don’t understand why viewing college as the best years of our lives is so much more acceptable. It’s only four years after the dreaded high school peak. Really, telling me that college is meant to be the best time of my life is just another way of telling me that, at 22 years old, my highest point is behind me, and life is but a steady decline from there on out.

Well, 22 isn’t too far off for me, and quite frankly, that’s depressing.

I get the thought process behind it. College is all the freedom of adulthood with only a fraction of the responsibility. As soon as we graduate, we’ll be thrown into the unforgiving real world, which means facing full-time jobs, long-term leases, and finding a way to deal with those student loans we’ve tried to ignore for so long. Our social life is no longer at the forefront of our existence, and man, after four straight years of living the high life, how could we be expected to happily thrive once we graduate?

Call me crazy, but that’s exactly what I plan to do.

I’m already a fairly atypical college student; I’d rather spend my weekends hanging out with friends and watching movies than drinking and partying, and generally, I look forward to my classes. They’re giving me a glimpse into my future, and so far, I like what I see. I’m having fun and enjoying the freedom college gives from both curfews and heavy responsibilities, but that doesn’t mean I want to stay here forever. The sudden and unprecedented freedom I got upon coming to college did not turn me into the insane, perpetually drunk student afraid of the future that is so often depicted in movies (hey, Zac Efron in The Neighbors). It’s actually only a small chunk of students who act like that, and they tend to say things like “this is the time of my life, I’m gonna enjoy it,” or “it’s all downhill from here, dammit.”

These things are often said while they’re standing outside of a bar in a puddle of their own vomit.

I am not aiming to live a mediocre life after I graduate, though that seems to be what people think I should be expecting. I plan on working in a field that I love, and working as hard as I can until I get the job of my dreams. I want to travel, do meaningful things, and get married and have kids one day. To put it simply, I want to live a life worth living.

I know in a lot of ways, college can’t prepare me for these things. Because compared to the real world, yeah, college is easy. Working every day of the week so I can pay the bills and do the things I love can probably be pretty exhausting in stressful.

My mom always tells me that the best things in life aren’t the easiest things to get. But they sure are worth it.

So please, don’t tell me my graduation is the beginning of the end. I have no doubt the real world is harder than college, but that’s okay. I’m up for the challenge.

The general idea seems to be that the years in college are the best of people’s lives because they spend it drunk out of their minds, with minimal responsibilities. If that’s your idea of a dream life, go right ahead and call college your peak. It won’t be mine.

 

 

You Are Not Average

In a world where social media seems to rule, it isn’t hard to find yourself slipping into a pit of despair, depressed by the thoughts of your own supposed mediocrity. How is it your old high school buddy already started his own business? Has your ex-teammate always been that good at lacrosse? And when did your old roommate get so pretty?

I’ve got my fair share of accomplished people flooding my news feed;  a cousin who I’m sure is on her way to playing professional soccer; a friend who, I swear, is president of every society on her college campus; and an old acquaintance who, at the ripe age of 20, is already interning at the engineering firm of his dreams.

And boy, am I happy for them. Every time I see what they’re up to, I feel the slightest flourish of pride, remembering where they started out and seeing where they are today.

But they also make me feel like a chicken running around with its head cut off while simultaneously trying to discover the meaning of life. Seriously, she’s doing what now? My socks don’t even match today.

With everyone’s accomplishments published for the world to see, it can be hard to hold on to your sanity as you struggle to keep your head above water. You’re drowning in essays, exams, and work responsibilities. Or maybe it’s something different; everyone around you is getting engaged, married, having kids… whatever it is, it has you feeling like you need to kick it into overdrive, pushing your already-exhausted mind and body to the brink in hopes of achieving something that just might be comparable to what you’re seeing all over the internet.

Unfortunately, you aren’t going to be able to compete.

Because their accomplishments belong to them, and yours to you. Sure, your best friend from high school might be president of her sorority, but look at your own accomplishments with the same positive zeal you always extend to your friends.

Because once you do that, you might realize just how amazing it is that you have straight A’s, or that your boss specifically praised you, the intern, for all the good work you do. Maybe you even just got accepted into the grad school of your dreams, or had a break through with one of the students you’ve been working with for months. Regardless of the flashiness or publicness of your accomplishment, you are crushing it in a way that nobody else is capable of.

Because nobody else is you.

Not another living soul on this planet is capable of doing what you do. Nobody else can bring it like you can, because you are unique, and special, and probably ten times more impressive than you’re aware of. While you’re busy being bummed that you aren’t as talented as  so-and-so, somebody else is looking at you and thinking the same thing.

Personally, I’m not the most athletically inclined. Math and science both make me feel like I’m going to break out in hives, and I can’t paint or draw to save my life. But you know what? I’m a pretty good writer. I can cook, while some of my friends don’t know how to turn on a stove. I exceed people’s expectations of me on a regular basis.

I am not, by any means, average. And neither are you. `

Why We Should Always Act Like It’s Our Anniversary

We tend to handle anniversaries like we handle most major holidays. It’s almost like when we were children, and the night before Mother’s Day our fathers would remind us we had to be extra nice to Mommy, just for one day (really, it should be all year round, right, Mom?). Or like Thanksgiving, when we all give thanks for our families, health and friends. Of course, immediately after these holidays end we’re back to asking Mom to do our laundry and complaining about traffic, cold coffee, and other things of relative insignificance.

And that’s much the same way we handle anniversaries. Most of the year, we’re welcome to nitpick our significant others, getting annoyed that they forget to put their shoes in the right place or that they want Chinese food for the third time that week. But, once a year, it’s an unspoken rule that we be gentler with one another; that, when an argument comes up, we approach each other from a place of love because, well, x amount of years ago we decided to stick with each other, and damn it, we’re going to make this a good day. On our anniversaries, we take every chance we can to remind each other how grateful we are to be in each other’s lives.

When I wake up on my anniversary, for just a moment, I’m transported back to the day my boyfriend and I first decided to be together. I remember the nerves and the exhilaration I felt on those first few dates, and I’m happy to look back and see how our relationship has blossomed and transformed. I’m incredibly grateful to have him in my life, and I know, especially on our anniversary, that he feels the same.

My question is, why can’t everyday be like that?

I’m not saying we should be lavishing each other with gifts and long love letters everyday. But imagine the arguments and hurt feelings that could be avoided if every argument was approached with the calm caution and love that we employ on our anniversaries? How great it would be if, instead of getting worked up that your S.O forgot to tell you he was going to be late for lunch, you gave him the benefit of the doubt because really, 9 times out of 10 he’s on time and you know he didn’t do it on purpose.

So try it for a week. Shrug off the little things and try to focus on the many wonderful things your significant other does for you. If you stick to it, you might just find that the all-consuming love you feel on your anniversary is easy to access year round.

Yes, Adulthood Has It’s Perks

As I get older and have to think about things like leases, car insurance, and– God forbid– graduating and officially entering the real world (the one with actual adults who drink black coffee and read the business section of the newspaper), I find myself painfully nostalgic for childhood, when my biggest concern was whether or not I knew my times tables and who had the highest double dutch record. Unfortunately, scientists have failed to invent time machines, so I’m stuck facing the reality that, like it or not, I’m getting older, and life is only going to get harder.

But as scary as taxes and full-time jobs can be, there are undeniably some pretty big perks that come with adulthood. Puberty is a thing of the past, for one. But, disregarding all the awkwardness and acne that was thankfully left behind, there is a sense of confidence that I’ve gained since I began college that I can only accredit to being older and (slightly) more mature.

High school is really pretty horrifying for all parties involved. The athletes feel it just as much as the theater kids, who feel it just as much as the band kids, etc. Everyone is awkward, and insecure, and hoping that nobody notices their butchered haircut, or their too-big glasses or the way they blush whenever the teacher calls on them. Of course, at the time, you’re sure everyone notices. You saw the way the girls in your math class snickered behind their hands whenever you spoke, or the way the guys in gym rolled their eyes at the kid with the taped up glasses. Everyone seemed to notice everything that set you apart, so you did anything you can to fit in.

But then you go to college, and like magic, nobody cares what you do. You see a girl with multi-colored dreadlocks at the gym, or guys playing Pokemon in the dining hall. Someone on your floor has an affinity for all things Madonna and boy, is he proud of it.

Suddenly, you realize that it’s okay to like what you like, and to be who you are. All that effort you put into fitting in seems silly, and, though that desire to be one with the crowd might not melt away overnight,  it’ll chip away slowly, until one night you’re at a party proudly admitting that you actually don’t mind Nickelback (surprise: You aren’t the only one). If you like reading, writing, building things or playing video games, you can be proud of it, and know you won’t be met eye rolls that are so intense you’re surprised the eyeballs didn’t roll right out of their sockets.

Really, one of the coolest things about college is finally focusing on your passion, and seeing all the people around you doing the same thing. They aren’t hung up on people thinking they’re strange or nerdy, and neither are you. Because everyone is taking a very important step toward growing up: Finding and accepting themselves for who they really are. Now if only getting a job happened so naturally.

Hello world!

I recently wrote an article that got quite a lot of shares and comments. The reason it was so successful, I think, is because it was true, and because it made thousands of people feel vindicated and understood. Some people even posted comments thanking me for putting their feelings into words, which I thought was amazing. I didn’t realize what I felt was a sentiment that would be echoed by thousands and thousands of people, and that somehow, the words I wrote would matter. Maybe not to the entire world, but to some people, they mattered. So here I am, starting a blog in hopes of connecting with more people,  of helping people with thoughts and feelings they haven’t been able to put into words realize that no, they actually aren’t the only ones who feel that way! No, you aren’t the only one who hasn’t seen The Game of Thrones. Yes, other (kind of) full-grown adults do prefer the SpongeBob mac and cheese. Breath easy. You aren’t alone.

Do you ever think something so crazy and ludicrous you’re sure nobody else has ever thought it? Drop it in the comment section and lets see! You might just see it in the next blog post!