A Letter to Myself (To My College Self)

college-1

Impromptu college photo shoots were the best.

Dear college me,

Remember high school freshman orientation when your principal said, “These are the best four years of your life”? He was clearly wrong. The best four years of your life are your college years.

I speak from a place far, far away—I come from the future. Great Scott!

part high quality future great back

Go figure, I just had to throw in a Back to the Future reference.). But since future me has been in the “real world” for a few years now, I can say from experience that so far, the college years were some of the best years of my life.

Sure, I know right now you’re probably reading this while procrastinating on a paper you should be writing for Honors, or Spanish, or Creative Nonfiction…or maybe all three. Right now you’re probably panicking about how busy you are, how there never seems like there’s enough time in the day to get all these papers done. You wish that the coffee shop on campus was open 24 hours (and just an FYI: you will miss those delicious coffees more than you can even imagine).

I’m probably being a bad influence right now, but keep procrastinating for a little longer and let me school you with some knowledge. Just kidding. But I do want to fill you in on what I wish I would have known during college:

1. It’s okay to stress out. What you’re doing right now? It’s normal. You’re a college student. You are an Honors student. You’re double-majoring. You’re writing for the college newspaper. You have a lot on your mind, and that’s perfectly okay. Taking steps to reduce stress, as long as it’s healthy, is always a good idea. It’ll be a few years before you heed my advice, but let me just tell you now: Yoga does wonders. Honestly. You’ll thank me later.

2. Enjoy the adventures. Throughout your college years, you will have opportunities to travel to new places around the country, and for the first time, you’ll finally set foot outside the United States, traveling to Greece.

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Ending college with a bang at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Trust me: Right now, that will be the opportunity of a lifetime, and it will forever be one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever seen. Take it all in, take tons of photos, breathe, close your eyes, and appreciate the beauty of the world around you. You’ll remember these moments for years to come.

3. Life post-college is just as confusing/stressful/complicated/weird as college life is. No, even in your mid-20s, you still won’t have life “figured out.” Will we ever have it figured out? Who knows. But what I do know is that life will take you to places you never thought you’d end up (like New Jersey and New York City).

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Sunset at the most beautiful beach in Ocean City, New Jersey.

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Walking along the Brooklyn Bridge to catch the New York City Marathon.

Your life will probably always be unpredictable, but isn’t that what makes life thrilling?

4. As a millennial, you and millions of other college grads around the country will deal with paying back student loans. 20-somethings everywhere are in the same boat as you are, so you don’t need to feel alone. Even though the idea of student debt is daunting, places like Earnest exist to help students refinance your loans. They also help students understand finances better, which is obviously important for all of us. Adulting outside of college is tricky, but finding the right resources to help you will only help you out in the long run, so no worries.

5. There is no timeline for chasing after your dreams. You may compare yourself to others around you, and in case you were wondering, you’ll compare yourself even more once you’re out of college, unfortunately. Social media plays into it because we only post what we want others to see. You’ll see people living lives that you’re slightly jealous of. You’ll wonder what you’re doing wrong. The answer: Nothing. You’re walking along the path that’s right for you. You’re taking steps towards where you want to be physically, mentally, and emotionally. Just know that comparing yourself to others is natural, but the path you are on is uniquely yours.

6. You are capable. I know you, and I know that voice of insecurity. Even if you don’t believe me right now, just know that you are capable of success, in whichever way that may be. You are capable of finding peace. You are capable of finding day-to-day happiness. You are capable of finding security—security in your identity, in your present life, in your future. Just know that right now where I am in life, I am on that journey towards achieving all of those things. Yes, there will be dark times that you may feel you won’t emotionally survive. But somehow, you will. The journey only continues, and you will walk on.

7. It’s okay to love yourself. Your college years will be the most inspiring years of your life (at least they have been so far), so please take advantage of these years. Relish in those moments of confidence, inspiration, and self love. Loving yourself isn’t vain—loving yourself is crucial to living with yourself. After some rocky years post-college, I know that. I live that. So I just want you to love yourself and be proud of it.

I’m sure right now it’s nearly midnight, so you should probably get back to the papers you’re procrastinating on. I know you might be a little bundle of nerves, but honestly, I think that’s just a part of the college experience. To be honest, I’m slightly jealous of you. Life outside of college is another world entirely, and even though I don’t miss the stress of college, I miss the atmosphere. So breathe it in, write in one of those fancy journals until your hand cramps up, drink too much coffee, and always say yes to movie nights with your friends down the hall. You’ll never, ever regret it. Just know that I love you. I always have, and I always will.

Love,

Future Me

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All we can do sometimes is laugh our way through life.

Who cares about beauty? (Advertisers make girls feel ugly)

Source: lisapetrilli.com Are girls vain just because they feel pretty?

Source: lisapetrilli.com
Are girls vain just because they feel pretty?

I wrote a post a while ago about beauty and why I think society’s obsession with women achieving unrealistic standards of beauty is dangerous. This topic is fascinating to me, and I’ve realized that I could write more posts about the topic of beauty. It’s complex, subjective, and broad. Since I can’t write just one blog post on the topic of beauty, I’ve decided to break the topic into a series of blog posts.

I’ve created a new category on my blog, called Who Cares About Beauty. I’ll be covering topics that I’m interested in at the moment. The topic for this post was inspired by blogger Grace Curly and her post Pretty.

For this post, I wanted to focus on the problem with beauty in advertising.

Grace Curly’s post got me thinking: “Why are women told to be pretty by advertisers who make us feel ugly?”

First of all, let’s find a working definition for the rest of this post. According to dictionary.com‘s first definition, pretty means:

“Pleasing or attractive to the eye, as by delicacy or gracefulness.”

Throughout this post, I’m referring to this definition of pretty. I’m also mainly referring to America’s definitions of beauty, because beauty is subjective according to country we are studying.

After reading Grace Curly’s post, I realized that in our society, pretty girls hear mixed messages. Women in general are told by the media that we should be striving to be pretty, but advertisements widely highlight women’s “flaws” in hopes that women will buy their products to fix these “flaws.”

Source: galleryhip.com Problem with this ad: Perfection is unachievable. It sets us up for failure.

Source: galleryhip.com
Problem with this ad: Perfection is unachievable. It sets us up for failure.

However, what happens when a woman truly feels that she’s pretty?

Source: pinterest.com Women are called "vain" if they seem confident in their looks.

Source: pinterest.com
Women are called “vain” if they seem confident in their looks.

Mean Girls is the perfect example that highlights women verbalizing their insecurities and shaming girls who display confidence and contentment in their looks. I’ve noticed that even in real life, it’s become the norm for girls to tear themselves down, and girls do this in daily conversations with one another:

Source: buzzfeed.com Oh you know, just girl bonding time.

Source: buzzfeed.com
Oh you know, just girl bonding time.

In my opinion, discussing my insecurities in depth with friends is a waste of time. Sure, it’s healthy to admit to others that we’re not perfect (no one is), but what’s the point of complaining about what we dislike in ourselves? It solves nothing. We can’t change most of our features unless we go to drastic measures like plastic surgery, so why bother complaining?

Where did this vocal self-hatred in women even come from?

My belief? Advertising.

Think about it: Advertisers want to sell products. Companies want consumers to feel like they “lack” something because this will tell the consumers to go out and buy the product to “give” them something they don’t have. All companies use this technique.

With clothing, makeup, and other advertisements with women as the target audience, this technique is taken to a dangerous level. Women are told that they “lack” pretty hair, and so they need this shampoo:

Source: pixshark.com

Source: pixshark.com

Or that they need to buy all sorts of makeup to hide their “flaws”:

Source: nola.com

Source: nola.com

With advertisers everywhere telling women that they are not good enough and that they need their products in order to improve their looks, they are setting them up to feel insecure.

Keeping that in mind, it makes sense that women are labeled “vain” if they feel pretty. But is that fair?

Source: mrmen.wikia.com

Source: mrmen.wikia.com

First of all, what is the definition of “vain”? According to dictionary.com‘s definition, the term means:

“Excessively proud of or concerned about one’s own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited.”

While having an obsession with one’s appearance is unhealthy, and it’s frustrating to deal with a person who’s conceited, I believe that pretty girls are labeled “vain” not because they are actually showing signs of vanity, but simply because they are pretty.

Advertisers try to keep women feeling insecure because that is the way they are able to gain consumers. If all women were completely secure with themselves, they may not need the advertisers’ products to the excess that they buy them now.

Today, advertisers seem to have picked up on the fact that their tactics are often unhealthy and cause negative thoughts for some consumers. Some companies, like Dove, for example, have begun to use more positive messages in their ads.

Source: chippersengl.wordpress.com

Source: chippersengl.wordpress.com

Advertisers are finally starting to come around to the idea that women cannot all look the same. But more companies need to begin promoting more positive messages like this. Women are still widely being told by society that they are not “enough,” and so women are still made to believe that if they feel pretty, they are “vain.”

Source: southlemon.com

Source: southlemon.com

I believe that not only do advertisers have to continue to promote healthy self-esteem in women, but women also have to start becoming allies. Not just with each other, but with ourselves. Tearing ourselves down with negativity does nothing but make us feel worse. Why not celebrate what we love about ourselves? I believe that does a lot more good for ourselves, and for other women in the world.

We are enough. You are enough. Who cares what advertisers say? You should feel pretty without being ashamed of it. We are all pretty, and we shouldn’t listen to those who tell us otherwise.

Who cares about beauty? (We’re so much more than that)

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Source: huffingtonpost.com

While discussing women’s education and why it’s significant, a third grade student said, “Girls need to learn, too. It’s not just about our looks. We’re so much more that.”

Smart kid. This is the type of thinking I wish the media would adopt.

From birth, little girls are dressed in frilly pink dresses. The first compliment we hear in life is that we are pretty, cute, precious, sweet, or angelic.

We are taught how to apply makeup, and the media pushes their definitions of “beauty” in our faces throughout our entire lives. As girls, and later as women, we are taught that our beauty comes first.

Photography student Hannah Altman, currently attending Point Park University in Pittsburgh, recently did a photo series depicting the dangerous and impossible standards of female beauty. Through photographs of women splattered with glitter to represent blood, tears, and vomit, Altman shows how negatively “beauty” affects women if the fascination with it becomes an obsession.

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Source: huffingtonpost.com

From birth, our outward appearance is obsessed over so much that many of us internalize these values. We must be pretty first, and that is more significant than being smart. Our appearances win dates, not our brains.

The first comments we usually hear from peers relate to our looks.

“You’re pretty!”

“I love your makeup!”

“You have beautiful hair!”

“Your teeth are so white!”

The leading phrase regurgitated during those breakup pep talks our friends give is almost always the well-meaning “You’re a pretty girl. Guys will be lining up for you.”

Our bodies are what most guys notice first, and are the subject of the first comments they whisper in our ears (or send in random Facebook messages).

Compliments are usually meant to bring us up. But when the first things we hear are related to beauty, we are expected to believe that looks are the most significant part of us.

According to the media and society, it’s about WHAT we are, not WHO we are.

If you want to argue that men struggle with this pressure too, I beg to differ.

Most of us don’t ever hear men meet and say things like this to each other:

“Your hair is so hot!”

“Your muscles look great!”

“You’re so tall!”

“I wish I had your chest!”

When men go through breakups, they don’t usually hear from their friends, “You’re a hot guy, bro. Girls are gonna be lining up for you.” More often, they tell each other to just get laid. It comes back to women being beautiful objects.

As we age, we strive to look as if we AREN’T aging. Diets, lotions, makeup, even surgeries, all marketed almost 100% for women to stay “beautiful.”

Why does it matter?

Seriously, think about it. The compliments, the pep talks, the ideas men have about us, the consumption in which we partake for society’s perception of beauty.

Beauty: who cares?

No matter what dresses we are paraded in as kids, no matter how many compliments we are fed, no matter how many pep talks we hear, no matter how many products we purchase, none of that makes us any less empty.

Beauty means nothing when we break it down. Sure, it means trillions of dollars to companies all over the world marketing their narrow idea of “beauty” to female consumers.

But to us?

In terms of substance to our lives, it means nothing.

The idea that we are THINGS could mean eating disorders, depression, anxiety, body dysmorphia, and other dangerous obsessions with our bodies.

That’s what obsession with beauty gives us. Impossible standards, unhealthy and neurotic obsessions, and the false belief that our beauty matters.

No amount of foundation will assist me in publishing a novel I haven’t yet written.

No amount of starvation for the perfect weight could erase painful memories.

I would risk seven, 14, 21, even 28 years’ bad luck to smash every mirror I own. To prove to myself that what I see means nothing.

Source: tvtropes.org

Source: tvtropes.org

Who cares what I look like? As long as my clothes are appropriate for the occasion, nothing else should matter.

Yet to this society, it does.

I am what people see. The first compliment out of anyone’s mouth is, while well-meaning, related to looks.

“You are pretty.”

So what?

Beauty doesn’t hire me. Beauty doesn’t erase the last train wreck relationship. Hell, beauty can’t keep a guy faithful to me.

However, my definition of beauty has nothing to do with a human’s physical appearance.

By my definition, beauty is art. Nature. Poetry. Music. Film. Books. Mediums of inspiration.

Physical beauty is shallow, and for many women, only leads to dark journeys from which they don’t always escape alive.

Generation after generation has been devoted to defining what is “beautiful,” and it’s an easy way to rip women apart. Women haven’t been able to decide for themselves what is beautiful; it has been dictated to them.

My reflection in the mirror is not WHAT I am. I am not a what. I am more than what I see. That is not who I am.

Source: nairaland.com

Source: nairaland.com

I am more than my looks. I am so much more than that.