People might know me as… the girl with the bright orange bag; that girl with the loud laugh that carries through quiet spaces; or this semester’s editor-in-chief of BlogDailyHerald.
I never thought the most interesting people I would meet in my senior year would be fresh through the Gates. Freshmen. People who were really just kids; who had never known Fish Co., Liquid, the old Blue Room, or life before pizza-in-a-cone. But they kept me from putting my foot out the door too soon, reminded me how far I had come and how far they had to go before leaving. I have tried to give first-years advice so they can find their own paths without getting discouraged, scared or close-minded. (I’m not a Meiklejohn, but I’ve indulged myself with the title of “Meikle-jen.”) Their outlooks, their fearlessness and their enormous hearts have awed me many times over. As I have tried to teach them what I know, they have taught me so much more. This is dedicated to my first-year biddies — always keep reaching higher and wider, but make sure that whatever your achievements are, they bring a smile to your face. If they don’t, you missed something.
I’ve been watching a lot of that show, Girls. It’s hard not to be a fan after four years of obsessing over texts from shitty guys who I know are wrong for me, being treated at times like I possess a Y-chromosome and translating infinitesimal signals like I’m the Rosetta Stone. I took a dip in the Lena Dunham pool and watched Tiny Furniture, then Googled it after for the deeper meaning. Yes, a bachelor’s degree to-be from Brown means Sparknoting indie flicks. As I came across a review, I realized that this movie, which I thought was so over my head, embodied some of my most recent musings on graduation, self-evaluation, and success. Dunham says, “It’s about a period when someone doesn’t know how to value yourself. She is no longer a student, but not defined by a career yet, she is not defined by relationships, or by being someone’s child.”
At the end of last semester, I grew out of grades. I got into law school, dropped my thesis, and decided to take a leap throwing myself into this thing, this Blog. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of laughs, weirdness, and punning. We had tank tops, stickers, rounds of dizzy bat and Cards Against Humanity, The Blog series (Note: the EIC is not based on me), debauchery, and Buddy Cianci. Last week, I burned out. Suddenly, the adrenaline had been sucked from me and my achievements seeped through my fingers like quicksand. I felt like a failure. I had no honors tassel to wear around my neck because I dropped my thesis. I realized my name would be erased from our virtual masthead and my record wiped. Suddenly that phrase I could never get right nor find a use for came flashing to the front of my brain: “If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Here’s what I found: If you are the tree (and you are), you need to know that you just fell the fuck over. No matter if anyone else heard, you need to recognize your own actions and find the inner strength to keep pushing forward, no matter whether you are prospering or struggling. You need to find ways to pat yourself on the back, because sometimes other people just won’t take the time to recognize what you’ve done. But you have to listen to yourself and know what is right for you. You need to get out of your own way and know when to take a step back. Achievements should not just be arbitrary words on a page – they should have a story attached. Stories that you want to tell because… and here are words we don’t say enough… because you are proud. Find a way to be proud while still being humble. Find a way to be humble while still recognizing your achievements. I am learning that this is the key to finding fulfillment. I haven’t found my way there just yet.
A few more words on individual achievement: Mark your distance. Four years is a long time to live in one place. You need to create ways to distinguish the semesters from each other. You don’t have to take a linear path to the top; quit if something just isn’t right anymore, but make conscious decisions — they are freeing. Whatever you do, don’t do nothing. TV is great, but that’s why they invented DVR and Hulu — so you can live your life and do TV in your down time. Very little happens to you, or around you, when you are sitting in your bed. When you look back on four years, you should be able to say, when I came here, I thought I was interested in _(Insert random extracurricular here: Ivy Film Festival)_, but I am leaving with this incredibly developed sense of _(Insert random skill here: Editing images via PowerPoint)_. Find ways to track your changes that don’t require relocating your residence. A great way to do that? Surprise yourself. Nothing is too insignificant. Find out if you like coffee. Try public speaking. Learn how to slackline. Be like me: Hump the ground, front row center, in front of 500 people for class credit without dying of embarrassment. Try to find risks that don’t involve substances. Make sobriety its own celebration. Own your risk-taking — they’re achievements, too.
You need to be good to yourself. Remember to always locate the sound of your own voice. It shouldn’t sound like your mother, your roommate, or your professor. It should be untainted by the outside world, and sometimes it’s going to be really hard to remember what that voice sounds like. Give yourself the space to find yourself, but also remember that you shouldn’t have to travel your road alone. Find a way to lean on your friends for big things. Sometimes being a friend is going to seem much harder than you want it to be. Learn this now: Your friends will make the same mistakes over and over again. You’re going to want to walk away, watching time fold in on itself as people do things they know they shouldn’t. Find a way to hold your judgment. If you haven’t been there already, you will be one day. For your true friends, you should never have to apologize for being who you are… or for using that cliché. They should build you up, bringing you closer to your goals and your dreams, not tear you down. However, you must create room for honesty without hurt feelings. Girls always try to dance around confrontation, fearing reactions or tears that will shower them in guilt. I’ve learned this year that guys are almost as emotional as girls because they have feelings that aren’t heard or honored but still need an outlet. People need to be better to each other. More complimentary and less jealous; more receptive and less complacent; more open to romance and less entitled to sex and, finally, more themselves, however complicated that may seem.
It doesn’t get easier, nor any simpler, but from Van Wickle to Van Wickle, find a way to always love yourself. Without apology.
All my love,