To the High School Senior Preparing to Graduate

No doubt, this is a scary time for you. Everything you have ever known is about to come to a close as you are prepared to enter an entire new world. This is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Some of you are so unbelievably excited to leave high school far behind you, and some of you are worried that these will be the best days of your life so you are clinging to it like it’s a lifeline. Some of you have a detailed plan laid out for your future, and some of you plan to just wing it. Some of you will be off to college and some of you will be entering the work force head on. Some of you are more than ready to move on, and some of you can’t seem to let go. Then of course, there are those of you trapped in the middle. This is what I wish I could go back and tell myself when I was in your shoes. This post is for those of you preparing to engage in a whole new adventure; college.

While many people are choosing a different route, I chose to start college right after high school. Whether that is the right decision depends on you. While it is expensive and stressful, it does have it’s benefits. The main one being that you are able to practice your “grown up” life, while being able to work out the kinks and make mistakes. My advice? Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Get a job if you must, but don’t work yourself to the point of exhaustion. The memories you make in college will be far more important than money in the long run; you have the rest of your life to work. Enjoy the time you spend you here, because you won’t get it back.

Your freshman comes with new experiences and more freedoms than you have ever had before. You will go through so many friends, it will make your head spin. This is normal. You start by clinging to anyone you can find, because the pressure to make new friends is hot and heavy. You will make a lot of friends your first week, but many of these don’t last very long. Don’t get too caught up in this; it’s normal. As a junior in college, many of the friends I made freshman did not make it to my junior year. You will find your people and will make several friends along the way. This past year, I have made more friends than any other; always be open to meeting new people, because it’s never too late to make new friends.

Many of you will find yourselves needing a job, which can be extremely stressful. The key is to find a balance between work, school, and fun. This can be harder than it sounds, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. First off, there are many jobs where you can do homework. Whether it’s a desk job, or a store that has a lot of down time, ask potential employers if you can work on things during dead periods. I got majority of my homework done while working at a desk answering the phone. Because the phone rarely rang, and when it did it was usually a short conversation, I had several hours of quiet time to do my homework. Plus, I got paid for it! Another way is to get a job you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel so stressful. If you get a job you can look forward to, it becomes a stress reducer rather than and added stressor. I absolutely love my current job, and look forward to the days I go in to work. The busy lifestyle is far more bearable when you have fun for a good portion of it.

It is perfectly okay to not know what you want to do. I switched my major four times throughout college before settling on one. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to do, but I’m glad that I decided to explore different options. This helped me to make sure I was majoring in something I really wanted. Explore different career paths until you find the one that speaks to you. I have one year of college left, and guess what; I still am not 100% sure of what I want to do when I grow up. That’s okay. This is the time to explore your options, do your research, and find what you love. Don’t take these years for granted, because they will be hard to come by again.

Your first semester is going to be so hard. There are so many adjustments to make and all these new freedoms that come with them. Many take different paths; some never go out and others never stay home. Both are fine; just make sure you have your priorities in order, whatever they may be. Just make sure you give yourself a chance to adjust; don’t get too overwhelmed with doing everything exactly right, because none of us know what we’re doing. Even the upperclassmen. Don’t think you’re the only one worried about how to use the dining hall or finding your classes; I guarantee every other freshman is feeling the exact same way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from others; that can be the best way to meet new people.

People aren’t paying nearly as much attention to you as you think they are. This isn’t high school anymore; no one is going to judge you for eating lunch alone. We have all sat by ourselves for some reason or another, we have all had to turn around because we were walking the wrong way, and we have all searched the wrong parking lot for our car. People aren’t going to make fun of you for every little thing anymore. If we happen to laugh, chances are it’s because we have been in the same situation at one point or another. Don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s not the end of your social life.

Nearly every class has that one person, who is late EVERY DAY. Don’t be that person. It’s distracting, disruptive, and rude. While we all oversleep or get stuck in traffic at some point, don’t be the person who is chronically late. If this starts to happen, set your alarm a little earlier or find ways to shorten your morning routine. Nothing is more frustrating than that one kid that is ten minutes late every single class period. Speaking of being late, save your questions about the beginning announcements until after class, because the rest of us don’t want to sit through them again. Either ask your professor after class, or ask someone around you. You’re classmates will appreciate much more than you think. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with your professors’ attendance policies, because most of them have developed their own. Make a note of this; it will come in handy later.

Be honest with your professors. I’m sure many of your teachers have been trying to scare you by telling you that college professors don’t care. That’s a lie. They want you to succeed and they want to help you. Just be honest with them; most of them are far more understanding than any high school teacher I’ve ever had. Miss class because you overslept? Tell them what happened. They’ll be far more forgiving. Too upset or anxious to make your afternoon class? Tell your professor that. You don’t have to give them details if you don’t want to; they understand that we all need personal days sometimes. Don’t listen to your high school teachers when they talk about college professors; they care far more than you are led to believe.

Cut yourself some slack. College can be a lot to take on, so give yourself a break once in a while. Don’t cut class every day, but you can give yourself a day. Don’t obsess over going to sleep on time every night; stay up late up with your friends on a Tuesday. The memories you make will be worth so much more than you think, especially the simple times.

Lastly, YOU DO NOT NEED TO ASK TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. It’s the unwritten rule that many freshmen go back and forth with the first time they need to leave during a class. Just get up and slip out of the room quietly. You don’t need permission. You’re an adult; you can pee when you want to. Enjoy yourself and have fun. It’s a wonderful part of your life that goes by far faster than you expect. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way and figure out who you want to be. Keep being your perfectly imperfect selves and cherish the time you spend in college. It’s a blast!

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Skin

If the hurtful things you said to people appeared on their skin, would you still stay them?

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In case you can’t read the words, from top to bottom:

Disgusting 

Burden

Your Fault

Dumb

Slut

Kill Yourself 

You’re a Waste of Time

Shut Your Annoying Ass Mouth

Belong in a Mental Hospital 

Crazy

Grow Up

I Hate You

Broken

Pain in the Ass 

Gross 

Whore

Exhausting

Pig

Bitch

Damaged 

Fat

Stupid 

Unlovable 

Pathetic 

Too Many Problems

I Wish You’d Die

Not Good Enough

Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words leave marks you’ll never see. If the hurtful things you said to people appeared on their skin, would you be more careful? Would you be kinder? Would you think before you spoke? Why not start now?

If This Were a Movie

I wonder what would happen if this were a movie. One of us would make the four hour drive, say how sorry we were, and the other would run with tears in their eyes, and fling themselves into the other’s arms. We would declare our love for each other, tell each other we were always meant to be together, and share a passionate kiss that makes all the viewers wish for a story like ours. A love song would play, the camera would zoom out as the screen fades to black, and as the credits roll there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that we lived happily ever after. All the pain wouldn’t matter, because it would only be a matter of time before the happy ending. But life isn’t like a movie. There are no songs in the background that warn you of what’s coming. There is no script to keep you from saying the wrong things. The person you love doesn’t always love you back. The silence doesn’t always end, the anger doesn’t always fade, and the gap between two people sometimes just keeps getting bigger. There is no paper that holds the words that would make everything better, because you aren’t following the same story they are. You have one ending in mind, and they have another. You play out a resolution and an end to the silence, and they see the end of your story line. They are a major character in your movie, but you are a minor character in theirs. To them, you are insignificant to the whole plot. There aren’t happy endings in life, because life isn’t a movie. We say the wrong things, we play our own music, we make our own choices, and we aren’t guaranteed a happy ending. The guy ends up with the wrong girl, rather than the one everyone is rooting for. The girl cries silently as the boy drives away, instead of dramatically sobbing. The boy keeps driving; he doesn’t stop to say goodbye one last time or turn around to tell her he loves her. The girl makes stupid mistakes and fights back, rather than becoming a blubbering mess. The boy moves on and the girl is left behind. Life would be easier if it played out the way the movies do, but life isn’t a movie. No one is watching. No one is rooting for the main character. No one cares about the ending, because it’s only a matter of time before the happily ever after turns dark again. Sometimes there is no closure. Sometimes the bridge just burns. Sometimes people don’t work out. Sometimes people don’t miss you. Sometimes they don’t come back. If this were a movie, you’d be back, things would work out, and that’d be the end. But this isn’t a movie, and I don’t expect a happy ending. This isn’t movie, so I know this can’t be fixed. This isn’t a movie, and yet our scene has faded to black.

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To My Friends Who are Moving On

   This spring, I had several friends graduate from college and who are preparing the next step in their lives. After three years here, I have made some of the greatest friends this world has to offer, but the thought of some of them not returning to join me for my senior year is a bittersweet feeling. This post is for them.

            I want you guys to know that I am so proud of you all. After years of accumulating thousands of dollars’ worth of debt, endless stress filled nights, and numerous setbacks, you managed to pull through and finish college. This is something not everyone has the courage to do. It takes an incredible amount of bravery and integrity to do what you did, and that fills me with pride. I am honored to have known you, to have made countless memories I wouldn’t give up for anything, and to have been a part of your college experience. You guys amaze me, each in your own ways. I hope that whatever comes next for you, it makes you happy. You all deserve everything you want in this world, and I hope you find whatever it is you are looking for. Congratulations for making it through this chapter in your life, and I can’t wait to see how you will continue your story.

            As happy as I am for all of you, I also want to be selfish. I want to tell you not to go. I want to beg you stay here for just a little longer. I know I will still see many of you, but it won’t be the same. As happy as I am, I am also so sad that you have to go. I wish you would stay here with me, so I can hold on just a little longer. This year has been great, but I never wanted it to end, because it meant I would have to say goodbye, and you all know I’m not good at those. I don’t want you to go, but I know you have to. I want to ask you to stay, but I know that the best thing for you is to move on. I want to be selfish, but I can’t. I want you to move on, but I dread that you’ll forget about me. I want you to make a life for yourself, but I hope that I still get to be a part of it. I want things to stay the same, but I also need to know what the future holds for us all. I hope yours is bright and full of life and happiness and whatever else you desire.

            You are beautiful people who are all capable of changing the world in your own way. No matter what else you end up doing, I just hope you are happy. That you can look back on life and smile. I will miss you all terribly. I won’t see you as much, but just know I will still be right here, cheering you on.

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Why We Should Watch 13 Reasons Why

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Many of us remember reading this book years ago, as it stuck with us over the years. It was the first time a book about a hard topic like suicide was in the spotlight, and those of us who read it never forgot it. Suicide has always been a hushed topic, but this book faced it head on. I never thought when I was reading it, I would be facing suicide later that year when my brother took his own life. Recently, that book has been made into a Netflix mini-series. Having binge watched all 13 episodes in 3 days, I can tell you that it sent me through an emotional rollercoaster and brought up a lot of old feelings I had buried years ago. It wasn’t easy to watch, but I’m glad I did. I have seen several articles from people talking about why watching this series is a bad idea. While I understand there is graphic content that is full of triggers, I feel that it is a show worth watching. Don’t get me wrong; if you think it will trigger a bad spell of depression or thoughts of suicide, take this post with a grain of salt. You know your own mind better than I do, but here’s why I think it is more than worth the watch for most.

As someone who has battled depression, I have never seen a more accurate representation of it than Hannah Baker. Media often portrays it as being sad all the time, staying up late crying- and it can be. But more often than not, it’s getting up every day and forcing yourself to smile and appear normal, but feeling empty inside. It’s not something that is easily recognized; it hides inside the person it infests. This is the first time I have ever seen depression accurately portrayed in all its entirety on the screen. Some may disagree, but that’s what my depression looked like to an outsider; like it didn’t exist. The show didn’t romanticize it as the TV world often does; it showed it for what it is, a disease.

The show also shows how much your words and actions have consequences. You know never know when something you do will start a chain reaction or what you say will push someone over the edge they have been desperately trying to back away from. Even the smallest thing can matter to someone. An example of this would be when my best friend told me she hated my laugh, and I never forgot it- it has made me self-conscious of my laugh even years after. Something so small and insignificant to her had a huge impact on me. It is time we teach each other to think before we speak and act, because we have power to hurt someone even when our words seem harmless. How different would Hannah’s fate have been if just one person hadn’t done or said whatever was mentioned on their tape? Anyone of them could have saved her, and it’s the same in the real world. One act of kindness can mean the world to someone.

It touches on how bad schools are at handling suicide. Hannah goes to her counselor for help, and he turns out to be utterly useless. This isn’t a far cry from what happens in schools across the country. When it comes to suicide, administrators do one of two things; they pretend it doesn’t exist or blow it out of proportion. The truth is that it happens and alerting the entire school doesn’t make it better. After my brother died, the school would not allow any kind of memorial because he didn’t die the right way. They didn’t want to encourage kids to commit suicide by making them believe they were glorifying it. This argument only makes sense to people who have never been affected by suicide. Did anyone say this when there was a memorial for the kid who ran a stop sign? No one said this would encourage students to run stop signs because the school was glorifying it. Many commit suicide because they feel invisible, and all this does is validate their feelings. Suicide exists. It’s time schools started recognizing that.

It forces us to think about suicide. Though it is the second leading cause of death in the United States, suicide is still swept under the rug. This show forces us to face it and address it as a real issue. It also helps raise awareness and shows the symptoms that go outside the stereotypical view. Talking about suicide doesn’t cause it; understanding it helps prevent it. Every time suicide is involved, it is shown as a shadow on a wall or a noise off camera. It is as brushed over as it is in the real world. Showing Hannah’s suicide as graphically as the show did has become quite the controversy, as did the violent rapes featured. Here’s the thing about those hard topics; they are graphic. Suicide isn’t heroic or peaceful; it’s painful and messy. Rape isn’t quiet and quick. It’s agonizing, terrifying, and stains you for the rest of your life. Life is graphic and disturbing and saddening and horrific. These topics should be hard to watch, because they are hard to live through. It shouldn’t be easy to watch these things happen, even if it is on a screen. It is time we face that instead of running from it. I’m glad they showed her suicide as graphic as they did, because that it how it looks in the real world. I am tired of it being swept under the rug, because in reality, it makes your stomach turn and your heart ache. I am tired of rape being romanticized rather than showing it for what it is; a violent crime. We need to stop sugarcoating these topics if we ever hope to put an end to them.

You can argue my points and refuse to watch the show, but one thing you can’t ignore is that this is the world we live in. People are raped daily, and many go unreported. People commit, attempt, or contemplate suicide every day. We need to open our eyes to these issues and stop pretending that they don’t exist. Hannah isn’t a hero because she killed herself, but she isn’t a villain either. She’s what every person who committed suicide and/or was raped- a victim. When we ignore shows like this or encourage people to avoid them, we are also encouraging victims of rape to stay quiet. We are encouraging people who are suicidal to be ashamed of their feelings. Stop softening up these topics, because they are not soft. They are hard and unforgiving. It’s time we start treating them as such.