In an earlier post, I started talking about a painful memory with classmates I had been friends with in high school. Now, I am going to actually delve into the story and tell you how I went through some serious loss, but through that experience of loss, I found things.
Like I had talked about in my earlier post, I was very close with six classmates and we did almost everything together. I was excited to have such a tight knit group and was feeling pretty optimistic about my high school experience. Every high school freshman walks into their first day half wondering if it is going to be at all like the movies. You know those movies, where you make your best friends for life and find your future husband, the man you marry and then tell your kids how you were high school sweethearts. I blame Hollywood for skewing all sense of reality about high school. Those movies are not true.
I found out this harsh fact the hard way. My sophomore year started off well. My six friends at the time and I would celebrate birthdays together, hang out at lunch, and go into New York City for shopping trips. It was wonderful. Somehow, everything took a turn for the worst in February. I don’t know which hurt more, the fact that they felt done with me or that they decided this just before my 16th birthday. Needless to say, being friendless and lonely on what is considered a milestone birthday feels pretty rotten. This was when I found out the harsh reality that people who you expect to be your close friends might not be.
A disclaimer as I talk about this: I don’t want to scare kids starting high school. Not every experience is equally horrible. For a large majority of my grade I graduated with, they are still very close. When I look back on the experience as a whole, I am thankful to the six “friends” for helping me open my eyes and move out of my comfort zone. When you end up without a solid group of people to hang out with, you need to become more social. Thanks to the incident, I became more comfortable in my own skin, was more outgoing to people in the grade and by my senior year I had one or two very good friends but was friendly with everyone.
My sophomore year helped me find out a little bit of myself and I started to become the person I am today that I really like. As I break the story here, the rest will be in a third post, my hope and message I want to get across to anyone who had or is experiencing a similar situation is to keep your head up and learn from it. I am a strong believer in taking every life experience, finding the silver lining or the teaching moment and go with it. I don’t view these instances as things that hold me back anymore, I view them as ways for me to grow as a person.
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The worst thing a teenage girl can experience in high school, or any social setting is losing a friend or significant other. I one-upped that experience by losing five in one fell swoop. First, some background information about myself: I was never the best at reaching out to people in elementary school. I am, at first introduction, very shy and withdrawn. I like to observe and a lot of people don’t really understand that right away. There is a reason I am such a good writer: when I sit in coffee shops and look out the window, am flying on a plane, watching other drivers on the highway or watch people walk around campus I make up stories about their lives. I love people watching and I am good at it because I am shy.
Once I was preparing for high school I told myself I would have to be more open to meeting people and become more social with kids in my grade. I was successful in the sense that I became friends with new people and eventually had a nice little group of friends going. It was the first time in a while I felt confident in these relationships I built up and enjoyed my freshman year, which I had anticipated to be socially challenging for me.
My group of friends and I were in a lot of the same classes and eventually it became known that we were attached to each other. It was nice to be recognized as someone having a lot of friends. Now, looking back as a rising college senior, I think about my earlier post where I talked about what “friend” means and how it’s overused. I wish I had known this when I was 14 years old, but honestly, who knows everything they need to when they are that young?
I still think about my experiences freshman year and how naïve I was about practically everything that happens in high school. This is just the start to a long-winded story of high school immaturity, naiveté, and growing up. Throughout three posts I will talk about the things you don’t know going into high school but need to remember. I want to find a way for rising high school freshman to avoid the hurt I went through.
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Now that my final year at Brandeis is looming in the near future, I would like to think I have matured and learned a thing or two about being a college student and life at Brandeis. There is this weird learning curve that happens at Brandeis. You enter a school that is so passionate about social justice and a majority of the population is Jewish, even someone who comes from a Jewish Modern Orthodox background can find it slightly overwhelming at first.
Brandeis also tends to be cliquey. It isn’t like high school cliques where there is clearly a group that is more popular or they think they are the only stars in the sky. It’s subtler. The different members in the clubs spend a lot of time with each other and it is hard to enter those groups in the middle of your four years. That is one of the hardest things I experienced. If I didn’t get involved in a club my freshman year, I was stopped or it became harder to get involved my junior year. This was almost impossible to wrap my head around.
I think I found ways to overcome these learning curves and learned something about Brandeis I probably wish I had known when it was my first year. Three years later, here are some things I have learned and wish 18 year-old me had already understood.
- Try everything – I did the first step by signing up for a lot of clubs, but I didn’t follow through with most or all of them.
- You can balance school and clubs – this is the reason I wasn’t as involved – I felt like I needed to focus on adapting to college courses – you can definitely do both, so don’t let this stop you from joining them and getting involved.
- Don’t take life so seriously, it’s college: enjoy it – I took everything so seriously when I was a freshman. I wish I had been looser with how I lived life and taken more risks, both socially with meeting people and going to club meetings and academically. Getting a bad grade on one paper is not the end of everything.
- Teachers are not scary monsters – professors in college want you to succeed. They want to help and are actually very nice and most or all of them have fascinating stories. Get to know them, go to office hours and don’t hesitate to email them with a question. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
- If a relationship ends, the world is not also going to end – The fact that I got so torn up when a relationship ended seems silly now. I am just thankful I learned from the whole experience, but the months of sulking seem unnecessary.
- Don’t do something you’ll regret – in college, especially freshman year, people make a lot of bad decisions. The key is to make sure you don’t make a decision you’ll regret but if you do it, don’t regret it. Chances are, if you tell yourself that you will regret something in the morning, then you will, which makes it totally not worth it.
- Fraternity parties are not the only way to have fun – they are in fact very creepy, loud, and hot. I wish I had made more of an effort to go to the casual hangouts my friends had in their rooms. Getting all dressed up to go out is fun, but frat basements are not worth pulling out your new mini skirt and tank top. Wait until you are old enough to go out to a bar or a club.
- Apply to everything, and don’t get hurt by rejection – the only way to get involved is to actively try. Apply for the position you think you won’t get. Audition for the group you think might be a long shot. Applying for a position or auditioning for a group will always be worth your effort because they are learning experiences, each and every one of them. When you do get it, it feels wicked good.
In freshman year, I was definitely less knowledgeable, but I am thankful I was able to learn from these moments. Learning from them is the most valuable thing you can do. I think if I had known these things I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did.
Getting up on stage in front of 450 students clad only in latex paint is a huge step for me. I have never been one who has loved performing. It wasn’t until eight grade graduation with three other girls that I welcomed it. This is totally out of my comfort zone. This is also something I know I need to do.
If I back out now, I would be screwing a lot of people over, and worse, I’d be letting myself down. Getting up on stage in 21 days, performing a choreographed dance, all while wearing Liquid Latex paint and a thong will help me overcome at least three different fears in one fell swoop.
I have always been terrible at performing; there is something that freezes inside of me once I get up on stage. I know if I am able to go through with this, chances are, that fear will be gone. As the show date gets closer and closer, I worry I am not in good enough shape, and every part of me knows it doesn’t matter. The whole mentality is that performers are so confident and proud about their bodies. I want to be like them. I don’t want to feel self-conscious.
For as long as I can remember, memorizing anything leaves with me anxiety after anxiety. Rote memory tests always confused me in high school and still do. Remembering a dance that is over five minutes long then getting the guts to perform it will be huge. If that doesn’t help me realize my fear of forgetting things I memorize is irrational, I don’t know what will.
Overcoming all these things makes me want to participate in the show even more. It’s a once in a lifetime experience, and it’s totally outside of my comfort zone. I have slowly been learning to try things that push me outside of what I know, and this feels like a giant leap. At this point, I know I am going to go through with it, but the anxieties won’t stop running through my head. The only thing I can do now is to practice so I know the dance like it’s muscle memory and ignore those other irrational anxieties.
There has always been a stigma around being in therapy. People say you’re broken, you’re depressed, something is wrong with you, or you are weird; I can list more. My mom is a psychologist and after a rough time in my life, she suggested I start seeing my own therapist. She understood, appreciated, and really wanted me to understand for myself that it did not say anything negative about me as a person. My senior year I tried it and that’s when I learned that finding a good therapist is equally as hard as finding THE one.
The travel time to Manhattan combined with the eventual lack of benefit from the sessions resulted in me stopping altogether. With the start of my freshman year of college fast approaching, my mom suggested I inquire about people in the Boston area. Being me, it took until my sophomore year to do that. This time, I understood the first person I met might not be the right fit. Either out of sheer luck or good timing, I found someone I was comfortable with right away.
I have been seeing her for over a year and half and I am in such a better place. At first, only one or two of my friends knew exactly where I was going once a week. When I got a medical pass sophomore year to keep my car on campus I told people I had to see a doctor. I knew there was still a harsh stigma about being in therapy and that scared me. Now, I am more comfortable with the idea of seeing a therapist. I understand that it doesn’t reflect negatively onto me as a person, but rather, helps me improve myself.
Having someone listen to me and talk to about anything frees my mind. I can get things off my chest and reduce my stress level drastically. It’s getting to the point that a lot of the burning issues I had been dealing with over this past year are resolved so there is less to talk about. Being able to go and vent still fuels me to keep seeing her. It is part of my “me” day. It’s the one day in my week I devote to my mental health and occasionally will make time to shop or get my nails done.
Being in therapy has taught me that it doesn’t mean you are broken or weird. In my eyes, it makes you a stronger person who acknowledges they have issues to work through and are doing it in a safe and healthy manner. I’ve become a believer.
I’ve always enjoyed trying new things and challenging myself. Recently, I have been enthusiastic about activities that double as a fantastic workout. This is how I came upon Aerial Arts classes. My roommate teaches at Esh Aerial Arts, located in Somerville, MA. When I found out he spots in his level one silks class open, I signed up.
It’s funny, I’ve watched the videos he has posted of himself or other people doing silks but I had no clue how hard it was until I tried it. The premise behind silks is using your body weight, with some help from the material to lift you up and move into all sorts of different positions in the air. Either it is my serious lack of flexibility or the sudden awareness of how weak the left side of my body is, even with workouts and tennis, but I am seriously struggling.
There are seven weeks to this class and we’ve already finished two. I figured out that there are positions that are much easier and some I just can’t do at all. I’m hoping I get the basic premise for most of them in the next five weeks because I want to be able to walk away from this doing some of the moves he’s been teaching. I refuse to give up. I give it 100% each time and I can feel some of it getting easier. I don’t know if this is something I will be heavily pursuing after this class ends. Tennis and my workouts seem like a more realistic exercise program to continue. It is a fun experience and when I can manage to get up in the air and hang there, it’s pretty cool.
I don’t regret doing it, I think it’s important to experiment and get out of your comfort zone. My Aerial classes have definitely covered that. I am definitely being challenged, but I love it. I know once I succeed and can do some of the moves correctly, I will be very proud of myself. That is all that matters to me. I can say I tried this. I talk a lot about doing different activities and often don’t. Now I can cross this one off my mile long list of things I want to try.
With the start of next semester starting much faster than I am prepared for, I can’t help but start to rack my brain for everything that needs to get done before then. I know I need to get textbooks, get new notebooks, hand in forms to the registrar and grocery shop. All of these things need to happen in the first two days, starting day three my lists get longer.
There is something I love about making lists. I actively started making lists on a regular basis this past year and it has been a game changer. It might be the visualization of seeing everything I have to do with a check box next to it, or the satisfying feeling of checking something off once it’s done. Sometimes, I will write something down even if I have already finished it just to check it off.
This is the way I have functioned my entire life: I ask what do I need to do, what can I get ahead on, what classes do I need to finish in the next year? Next two years? I have heard on more than one occasion that I am “insane”. My friends who function the same way understand me though; they understand the insanity I go through making list after list. Making my lists has to consume at least ten minutes of my time once a day. In college world, ten minutes is enough time to throw laundry into the machines, grab coffee or start a reading. In other words, it is valuable time. I have tried to find ways to shorten the time it takes, but have not succeeded. I’ve accepted it though because lists keep me functioning. My lists allow me to be in as many leadership roles in clubs as I am and get my schoolwork done ahead of time.
I am already mentally starting lists in my head of things that need to get done the day I get back to school, the next week, and everything in between. I know these lists need to happen so I can relax on vacation. I think in a way, making these lists helps me relax. I know people don’t like to think about school over break but I have to; I have to list what needs to happen when. I guess my desire to have everything done and written down might mean I’m a bit of a control freak, but honestly, if this method helps me succeed, I’m okay with that.