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Exploring, creating, & reflecting one day at a time

The picture above sort of makes me cringe when I look at it. It was taken almost exactly four years ago, when I was a senior in high school.Now, I’m a senior in college, exactly two weeks from graduation. Excuse my french, but holy shit four years went by quickly.

My point, though, in posting this photo is to show how much I’ve changed since then—how far I’ve come in four very short years.

Back then, I thought everything I did was great. I definitely thought my cookies tasted awesome and that my photos were unmatched. Clearly both those things were not necessarily the case, which means a couple of things. First, change is unavoidable, but often subtle. It’s the whole idea of not being able to see how much your little brother has grown while you’re living at home because you see him every day, but once you’re off to college it seems he turns into a full-fledged teenager overnight. Secondly, we are never as good as we think we are. This is a condition that I think is pretty unique to our culture/society (or maybe that’s just the Cultural Psychology class talking). Despite what the media often says about people having low self esteem, I think (and studies have shown) that people actually cut themselves a little bit too much slack. Be confident in your endeavors but take everything with a grain of salt. Realize that you could always be better. And finally, the last thing this picture represents is that maybe I’m still horrible at baking and photography hahahaha. While I optimistically don’t think this is the case, it’s something kind of weird to think about.

Anyway, as you may have figured out by now, this post is sort of intended to be filled with things I wish I could have told myself four years ago. While some things haven’t changed much (I think I posted about how I received an email from myself from four years ago and I mentioned then that I didn’t really want to be an engineer), there are some hurdles I came across in college that I wish I had a little more help getting past. Aside from those tidbits already mentioned, here are a few more words of wisdom for young Rachel, and probably anyone entering college, or a new phase of life:

– This is the most obvious and everyone is constantly saying this, but don’t take anything for granted. Four years really does fly by and one day you’ll be in my position, wishing you had savored everything a little bit more.
– School is priority #1 in college. Whether you’re an engineer or an English major, having your priorities in order from the get-go will make everything more enjoyable. That may sound weird, but if you really decide from the beginning that you will generally place school above partying and hanging out, it won’t be nearly as disappointing when you do have to make those sacrifices. Plus, reaping the benefits of hard work (getting good grades, etc) is really, really rewarding. I didn’t realize this until my junior year.
– Make time for what you love. School is incredibly important but you need to have those #2 and #3 priority spots filled as well. For some that may very well be friendship, but don’t blind yourself with what others are doing. If I hadn’t done my own thing with writing and cooking/baking, the college experience would have been much less enjoyable. Do what makes you happy in your spare time, not what makes others happy. (In the case of baking, you can often do both though.)
– Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Get over yourself. You’re not as important as you think you are. Because of this, people don’t care nearly as much as you probably think they do when you meet them or thereafter. Be yourself, be weird, be memorable. Caring about others’ opinions of you wastes time and energy.
– Don’t be afraid to stay in and reflect. As an introvert myself, there were a lot of nights in college that I just wanted to stay in and be alone. These times can be much more gratifying than they seem. Keeping a journal through college and actually having time to write in that journal was one of the smartest things I did and it has helped me grow as a person throughout the years.
– Try to give people a chance. This is probably more specific to myself than anyone else, but I feel I’ve progressed a long way in terms of being understanding toward others and giving first and second chances. Try not to hold grudges, but also…
– Realize that not everyone’s worth your time. Once you’ve assessed that a relationship is truly toxic and causes more harm than good in your relationship, ditch it. Seriously.
– Get a job. I knew this in high school, but for those who’ve never had to work, getting a job is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Making your own money is a life skill (duh), so just keep in mind that college isn’t only about academics. College is a time to pick up as many life skills as you can; think of it as training wheels for life. Take advantage of all the resources available to you while you can.

– Give without expectations.  Friendship is a two-way street, for sure, but I’ve found that the most rewarding relationships form when there are no expectations held.  If I gave out every cupcake, cookie, or pie in the past 4 years with any kind of expectation of some physical reciprocity, I’d be very, very disappointed.  However, I’ve realized that giving to my friends and helping others is enough to make me happy without expecting some kind of return-favor.  My mom’s self-proclaimed motto: “Always be gracious and generous with others and cheap with yourself.”

– Give in (sometimes). I have control issues. Big surprise. One thing that I’ve actively worked on through college is letting go. Sometimes you do have to take a spontaneous road trip to Santa Barbara. Or sometimes it’s okay to leave the studying until tomorrow night. I know this sounds like it contradicts some of my previous advice, but…
– It’s all about finding a balance. College is a time of trial and error, so despite what I may be telling you, you will only really understand when you get out there and try. The goal, though, in my opinion, should be to constantly seek a balance where you can achieve all of the things I’ve said. It definitely won’t happen overnight, but I think I’ve come pretty damn close in my last couple years here.
– Don’t be afraid of hard work. This applies to academics and everything else. If I had shied away from taking the courseload that I did and being general manager of SUPERB, I wouldn’t have been nearly as happy. Struggles and adversity push us toward self-realization (whoa…getting Buddhist on you). But really, everything seems a little bit worse at the onset than it actually is. Have faith in your balancing abilities.

And that’s all I can think of right now…

But anyway, it’s crazy to think that four years ago I was gearing up for graduation and preparing to go on my high school Europe trip with new and old friends. Now, I’m getting awfully close to a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia with some newer friends that I can’t wait for. In Europe, I became incredibly close with people I had never interacted with in high school, so I can only hope to form those kinds of bonds with my backpacking buds. I will detail the trip a bit more when it gets a little closer.

Now, it’s off to a brunch reunion at Clark Kerr with the people I met freshman year over waffles and scrambled eggs. Time really reaaaaaaaaally flies.

(ps, unfortunately this probably won’t be my last nostalgic graduation post, but I almost have it out of my system.)


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