Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Big Sister Advice... a message to a younger me

Growing up is hard.

I've always been pretty sensible, and can usually see life in the context of the Big Picture, but the days and weeks and months that make up my evolution are still challenging.

In middle school I could feel like my world was ending over friend drama, but still recognize that those moments would likely mean very little to me when I was dancing the night away with new friends in college or walking down the aisle towards the love of my life.

That didn't stop me from feeling everything, but it did keep me from taking myself too seriously. Still, there are a lot of things I would tell the middle school version of me if I could.

Often I wish I could go back and pass on the messages I've learned since, but since I can't get that message to myself, I thought I'd pass on a few bits to everyone else.

In Life -

1. Don't put too much pressure on your relationships, romantic or platonic. I spent a long time being disappointed by people before I realized they had no idea they were doing anything wrong. People aren't mind readers, and won't know what you want if you don't tell them.

And along those lines, everyone has their own way of seeing things. I used to think a friend bailing on plans was a huge slap in the face, but my best friend would do it without batting an eye, because she didn't think there was anything wrong with it. People have their own commitments and experiences and preoccupations, and it's not fair to assume they can shape their lives around you.

Sometimes you meet someone who is amazing and hilarious and you think you'll be inseparable best friend soulmates, but they can't be that kind of friend for you. Sometimes they just have to be a monthly coffee date friend who sends you great playlists. And maybe your roommate is great and you have big plans to travel together, but you quickly learn you can't go on road trips together because driving makes you both passive aggressive.

Not every friendship will look the same, and sometimes you just have to accept what they can give you. Oh, and people really can change if they're open to it.

Peep me & the besties in Israel. In the past, we have fought so intensely that I doubted we'd be able to recover. BUT. People learn. And change. And empathize. And we begin to understand each other and so the olive branch is extended and our friendship grows stronger than ever.

2.  You can do anything, but it won't always come out looking the way you thought it would. Things will not be handed to you, but if you're eager and willing to work, you can make just about anything happen.

For instance: if you don't get into your first pick college, you may get in by filing an appeal with the admissions board or by going somewhere else for two years and working your butt off before applying for a transfer. Not the way you thought it would go, but you can make it happen.

I know that can still be discouraging, but you have to believe in yourself. There are people who want to help you, want to root for you. Let them. But remember that it's okay to let go of old dreams, too. Maybe you go to a different school in hopes of transferring later, but... you actually like it there? And make great friends and enjoy your classes and have a lot of fun.

3. It is never too late for a fresh start. Fear can be paralyzing, Your past may make you shameful or nervous or anxious (side note: I honestly hope you bbs never feel this way because it's totally unwarranted 99% of the time). But those feelings and those parts of your life don't have to be permanent. It's not easy, of course, but be gentle with yourself, and patient.

It's okay to be afraid and let yourself stay in your comfort zone for a bit, but don't let your life fly by. Catch your breath, and then make the change. Agree to move halfway across the country with your bestie because you need to get out of your hometown, start working out because you care about your body and want to say thank you to it.

And most importantly: give yourself permission to fail. For those of you who are terrified of failing (I've been there!!): write yourself a back up plan, find ways to hold yourself accountable and then get to it. You're so much more capable than you give yourself credit for.

Choosing to study abroad was an absolute impulse decision on something I had dreamed about for years. It was a last minute leap that terrified me - I worried I'd make make no friends and be home sick the entire trip. But I wanted this dream to come true more than I held those fears. And I wound up bonding with a host of incredible girls that I danced and drank and talked and learned alongside of. I consider so many of them dear friends and am so glad that burst of confidence got me out of my self-inflicted rut. The trip wasn't perfect, and I spent a lot of time wishing I could share the experience with friends back home, but I left London so happy that I'd gone in the first place.

4. Put yourself out there. 
Stop obsessing over your acne or avoiding that boy you like because you are afraid he won't want to talk to you. Everyone is too concerned with themselves and their lives to worry about you. When other kids get up in front of class they're thinking about their outfit and worrying about messing up their speech, and frankly, everyone is too busy thinking the exact same things about themselves.

Join a couple of clubs, talk to the quiet kid sitting behind you in class, and go to a football game. This is the time to start learning about yourself and there's no way to do it without getting out there.

5. Work hard in school. High school is a rare situation. Befriending teachers in college can be easier or harder, depending on your major and your university. Professors are usually eager to meet with students, but in a class of 100+ you'll have to commit to office hours a few times before you really can connect with any of them. But don't worry, because they want you to!

I've heard plenty of professors express how nice it is to actually have someone show up during office hours, if only so they aren't so bored. The same applies to high school teachers: plenty of your teachers are more accessible than ever and want to see you succeed. Let them help you.

And on that note: pay attention, ask questions, and get help if you need it. But remember grades are not everything, and there will always be a school that will take you, if that's what you want.

6. Remember that college admissions are fickle, and highly dependent on who happened to review your application. Maybe you won't get in to your first pick school (I didn't), but chances are you'll find another place you enjoy and you'll have a great time there (I did).

There are a rare few jobs where your university matters, but usually where you go to school won't affect your employment choices. What matters is joining clubs and research groups, making connections, and becoming well rounded. Most jobs aren't going to require an impressive GPA. But again, don't beat yourself up if you don't! Life will go on! I just want you to get as much out of the experience as possible.

7. Friends will come and go and come again.  Try to be there for the people you care about and be understanding of their imperfections. You'll know if a flawed relationship turns toxic. Then it's time to let go. Otherwise, be open to meeting new people. You'll be surprised what you have in common with each other. This is the era of growth and transformation,  so not everyone will stick around. Maybe in a few years time when you both are back home over the summer, you'll reconnect. It's okay.

I did a lot of growing up with these girls, and I met them all at various stages of school. We taught each other about what matters in life, what is worth fighting for, how to compromise within a group so vastly different, and that it's okay to just let loose and ask for your friends to have your back. They will.

8. Bullying is always about them, never you. I'm serious. As the saying goes, hurt people hurt people. You can't take on someone else's demons, even if they're trying to take it out on you. Everyone has their own battle, whether it's at home or in their own head, but I swear to god if you are being bullied it has everything to do with that war they're waging in their own life, and nothing to do with you. For a lot of people, bullying is a mechanism for them to feel like they have some control or authority or value because they lack that feeling elsewhere in life.

9. Celebrate the life you have, even if it's not yet the one you want. This is especially true in high school and college. These moments are important and should be seized and celebrated, but they are only the beginning of your life. There is so, so much more to come. And you'll have a lot more control over how it plays out as the years go on.

I hope my scatterbrain put together some words that make sense.

Love you. x

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