20 Life Lessons You Only Learn In College

I’ve been missing college recently, which is what prompted me to submit this article to Unwritten.

Now that I’ve settled into post-grad life (I mean, kind of…), I came up with a list of things I actually learned in college during my time there. This list isn’t entirely complete, and probably never will be, but college was one hell of a learning experience. The lessons I learned in those four years will carry on with my for the rest of my life, and here are 20 of them…

10 Myths About The Second Semester Of Senior Year Debunked

Check out another repost of mine on Unwritten!

You’ve worked your butt off for almost four years, joined countless groups, clubs and teams, made some amazing friends, and had some great experiences. But it was hard – really hard. So, you got to senior year and you buried yourself in your thesis, and then second semester came around and you finally thought you’d get a chance to relax and have a blast. Not so much. In order to fully enjoy your last college hoorah, you should know what you are actually in store for.

An Open Letter To My Little Brother Before He Enters College

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If I told my brother the same things I was told before going into college, people would probably think I was giving him strange advice.

The first pre-college “gift” I received was a rape whistle (it was from my little brother). While it was a practical gift, I guess, it was also weird – it essentially told me that the first thing I should know about college was that it was a dangerous place for me to be. For the record, I never once used that rape whistle (or the variety of other anti-rape products I received during my years in college). I didn’t even take it out of the package. I went to a small liberal arts college and I never really felt unsafe. While I’m not by any means claiming that my college was perfectly safe (as the many sexual assault victims at my school could tell you), I myself never feared for my safety.

Thinking about it now, I may have never even opened the rape whistle, but I also didn’t get rid of it. Why? Because it seemed like something I could at some point need. It’s still sitting in my living room in my apartment in New York City, untouched, in one of the drawers of my coffee table. But if I had given my brother a rape whistle last Christmas, as I considered doing, it would probably also remain in the package – but it would probably also sit in his desk at home, or the back of some closet – he wouldn’t bring it with him to college and always know exactly where it was, despite not using it. He would probably forget about it. And that would be fine.

When my best friend, a guy, started college, his dad sent him a box of condoms. Again, a practical gift, but the message my friend received at the start of his college career was that college would be the time to have sex. We essentially received the exact opposite messages – I learned that I should be vigilant about unwanted sexual advances and he learned that society expected him to have sex. More basically put, men should seek sex, while women should fear it.

So I want to change the message. My brother, almost eighteen years old and a high school senior, is getting ready to embark on the “best four years of his life” (I would definitely say that description of college is up for debate). But as a feminist, a college graduate, and most importantly his sister, I have some advice of my own for my little bro.

Hey Buddy,

I can’t wait for you to go to college (hopefully on the east coast *cough cough* so we can be closer together). You’re going to have so much fun, learn so much, make so many friends, and become even more yourself. I truly can’t wait to see the person you become throughout your college years. But before you go, I want to give you some advice:

  1. Be yourself. When I got to college, I wanted to reinvent myself – I thought I could make myself into someone who was completely different than the person I was in high school (aka cooler, friends with more “popular” people, invited to the best parties, etc.) – that didn’t happen, and I’m so glad it didn’t. Just be you; don’t worry too much about what everyone else thinks.
  2. Be someone people can count on. Stick up for what you believe in, stand up for your friends, and stay strong.
  3. All that peer pressure stuff. Don’t give in to peer pressure and don’t pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Whether it’s drinking, drugs, or anything sexual, don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with (and don’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable).
  4. Listen to your friends. If your friends tell you something is wrong, listen to them. Don’t discount them. Especially your female friends – if they talk to you about being catcalled, or someone making them uncomfortable, or anyone taking advantage of them – listen. Believe them. Be there for them.
  5. Don’t rape. Not that I believe you ever would, but for the number of times I was told how to not get raped, I think it’s fair that I tell you once how not to rape: If someone says no (or does not say yes) to your sexual advances, stop.
  6. Don’t let your friends rape or be raped. If you see a friend taking advantage of someone else or being taken advantage of by someone else, step in. Don’t be a bystander. Do something – it’s always better to have a friend be mad at you for a day for “cock-blocking” than to have someone be traumatized for life by a sexual assault.
  7. Be the feminist I know you are. Don’t shy away from the term “feminist” because of the negative stigma that is still associated with it. Think about all the strong women you know – me, Mom, your teachers, your camp coworkers – and remember that we are only this strong because of other women and men who aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists.

Love you always,

Your big sister

Looking Back: The Time I Was “The Other Girl”

As promised, here is a follow-up post about my thoughts now on my week with Chris.

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After our week together in Florida and our few weeks of chatting about how things were going with his girlfriend, Chris and I texted on an almost daily basis, and I grew way more emotionally attached than he probably realized. We Skyped each other and talked about our families and our life goals. After a year of this, I truly thought I knew his soul. I was basically waiting around for him to break up with his girlfriend, which is when we would finally be able to pick up where we left off. Which was where? A few thousand miles apart and a year after one night of kissing. We were nowhere. My pseudo-relationship with Chris made me completely uninterested in everyone else; in our one week together, I fell head over heels for a guy I had no chance with.

Eventually, I realized that I was getting the short end of the stick in our “relationship”: he and his girlfriend were still in a happy relationship, and I had fallen for someone who was emotionally and physically unavailable. I cried in my best friend’s car on a vacation to visit her in her new city, and I finally knew I was wasting my time. So I broke up with him. I know that seems ridiculous – how can you break up with someone you’re not dating? Well, I did. I told him I needed a break from him – from texting, from SnapChatting, from sharing our life stories and our daily nonsense.

A few months later, when I thought I was fully over him, I began talking to him again. But before I knew it, I was back in the same hole I had been in before – hoping that he’d realize how compatible we were, how we were supposed to be together, and every other thought hopeless romantics have. Once again, I ended things.

I’m not sure if that was the last time I talked to Chris, or if we talked again casually after that, but eventually it truly ended. I can’t remember the last time I spoke to him, but I’m glad I finally got myself out of it. I remember being brokenhearted over Chris more than once, but that was my own fault, not his. I had made our relationship out to be so much more than it was. In the end, we were just flirty friends who made out one time. 

Now, three years later, I still think about Chris once in a while, when he shows up on my Facebook feed or someone talks about Florida or spring break, but I’m happy to say I did eventually get over him. In the past year, I’ve considered reaching out to Chris a few times, but ultimately decided against it. Even though we had a truly wonderful friendship, it wasn’t worth the pain I caused myself crushing on him over and over again. Chris was a really flirty guy and for all I knew, he had the same relationship with me as he had with a million other girls. For a while, he meant the world to me, but I could have just been a blip on his radar.

Despite everything – the tears, the classes I didn’t pay attention in because I was texting Chris, and the missed chances I had with other guys – I still don’t regret any of it.

The Time I Was “The Other Girl”

(I wrote this post almost three years ago, before I even had a blog, and I wasn’t ready to share it with people until now. For the most part, I haven’t updated anything I wrote, aside from a few grammatical and syntactical errors. I hope you enjoy this peek back into my life – and my writing – three years ago. I’ll be writing a follow-up piece soon about my take on this pseudo-relationship now, so stay tuned for some “everything is clearer in hindsight” shit coming your way soon.)

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Original Title: I Should Probably Feel Worse Than I Do

Let me just preface this by saying that I do actually have morals, I promise. But I went on vacation for a week, and apparently so did my morals. The story begins spring break  my sophomore year of college. I had been planning a Habitat for Humanity trip for almost an entire year with another girl, and we were finally on our way to Florida. There were seven kids from my school and eight kids from another school staying in the same house.

Upon entering the house, I locked eyes with Chris (*name has been changed). I immediately thought he was cute, in a rugged kind of tall, dark, and handsome way. We flirted for a few days,  cuddling and watching movies all squished on the couch with our new friends, but I knew something was up. He was a total flirt, but for some reason he was holding back. Everyone could tell there was something going on between us, but for some reason Chris wasn’t making a move. Half way through the week I was totally invested in making something happen between us – I knew we were both attracted to one another, and it felt comfortable (for the first time ever). He didn’t make me feel awkward or self-conscious, and I could look into his eyes when we talked without feeling out of place. It just felt right, and it was the first time ever that something felt like that for me. Of course, once I had fully committed myself to the idea of putting myself out there, the truth came out.

He had a girlfriend at home. I was disappointed, but it didn’t make me want him any less. I decided at that point, all morals aside, that if I couldn’t have him, I would just tease him – after all, he had waited until we were in way too deep to tell me he was otherwise engaged. So, I dressed nicely, I flirted up a storm, and, needless to say, it didn’t make me feel any better. Teasing him didn’t help me feel any less teased to begin with. Shocker. The night after he told me about his girlfriend, we watched a movie with everyone. We cuddled, per usual, and if the sexual tension was butter-knife-ready before, it now could have been cut with a shoe, or something equally as dull. I had a hard time sitting next to him without jumping him. This was when I decided to pull the “is this as hard for you as it is for me?” card, figuring I was still just teasing him. His aggressive kiss on the cheek told me my teasing had gone a bit too far. We were screwed. It was all down-hill from there. Later that night we decided it was time to talk, and after admitting that he wanted to kiss me, we chose not to do anything – neither of us wanted to mess up his relationship with his girlfriend. I told him I thought we made the right decision; he told me he didn’t. I knew we were in over our heads.

Fast forward 24 hours to us making out on the couch. Clearly we lost our resolve. It wasn’t very strong to begin with. Our morals, along with our decision to “just be friends” went out the window. You’re probably thinking I’m a terrible person, or that he’s a terrible person. We are both better than our actions that week, and yet we still did what we did. Do I feel bad? Without a doubt. Do I think it was the wrong thing to do? Absolutely. Do I regret it? Not even a little bit.

Before you judge me too harshly, give me a chance to explain myself. Actually, feel free to judge me all you want, I deserve it, just don’t hold it against me, and don’t let it define your opinion of me. If you had asked me before that vacation if I would ever do something like this, my answer would have been no. Ask me now if I’d ever do it again, my answer is still no. Here’s the thing, though, when you’re a lonely college sophomore who has never been told you’re beautiful by a boy, and has never kissed someone you actually want to kiss, your morality line might become a bit blurry when these options present themselves to you. Chris made me feel wanted, and special, and important. He made me feel like I mattered. For someone who has never been told they’re wanted before, that feeling is intoxicating. Chris was charming and sweet and he cared about me. I needed that. I don’t regret doing what I did because it was an experience I’ll never forget. I don’t regret it because both Chris and I can learn from it. I don’t regret it because I won’t ever forgive myself for hurting not only his girlfriend, but also the two of us. And I don’t regret it because I learned a lot about myself.

(Follow-up: In case you’re wondering, Chris and I kept in contact after our time in Florida, and talked a lot about what to do in the following days. My friends disapproved of me talking to him, and they had a point – we couldn’t really keep the flirting to a minimum as we should have been able to. He decided to tell his girlfriend what happened. She forgave him. So while it might be easy to say, “well, I dodged that bullet” to becoming a home-wrecker, finding out her reaction really didn’t change my opinion of the event. It was still wrong what we did. I don’t know her motivation for letting Chris get away with cheating on her, but it doesn’t really make a difference. Whatever her reason, it doesn’t just let us off the hook – Chris and I have both agreed to never do this again. Hopefully we’ll both stick to our decision this time.)

Breathe In, Breathe Out: What It’s Like To Live Life With An Anxiety Disorder

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(This was originally a post on here, but I’ve republished it with Unwritten, so I’m sharing it again.)

For an hour and a half, I stared at the floor. My knee bounced up and down. When my eyes weren’t fixed on the carpet in front of me, they darted back and forth to the door, measuring my distance from it. My notebook was open in front of me, scribbled notes covering the page and intricately drawn lines in the border. “You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay,” coursed through my head. I was sweaty and clammy, my blood rushing to my extremities. It took all my power to not run from that room. I flipped absently through the pages we were discussing, feigning like I was paying attention. I wasn’t very convincing though, as my professor looked at me across the room, subtly asking if I needed to leave. I shook my head. I knew if I left the room, I wouldn’t come back. My hands shook and I felt like I was going to throw up. This was the first time I had a full-blown panic attack in college .

For a week all I ate was rice, saltines, and dry Life cereal. I lost 7 pounds. My phobia of throwing up was worse than it had ever been, and sitting down to meals in the dining hall was harder than every test I’ve ever taken. I spent hours lying in bed, trying not to panic. By ten o’clock every night I was exhausted.

I went to a counselor once a week, if not more. I made emergency appointments. I called my parents four or five times a day and I texted them nonstop. They dropped everything anytime I called – sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for an hour. I cried a lot. I depended on my friends more than ever before and I couldn’t give them anything in return.

For over a month, my heartbeat was faster than normal. My thoughts raced uncontrollably. I woke up in a panic every morning, unable to function properly. I went on a lot of walks around campus. I couldn’t be alone. I considered taking a leave of absence from school, but I knew if I left, I’d never come back. Sometime during that month I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

20 Things I learned in College

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Now that I’ve settled into post-grad life (I mean, kind of… I still think it won’t entirely hit me until fall rolls around and I’m not at school), I came up with a list of things I actually learned in college. This list isn’t entirely complete, and probably never will be, but college taught me a lot of things, and most of them I didn’t learn in the classroom.

1. There will always be another party to go to.
2. Eating healthy and exercising regularly is hard.
3. It’s not worth it to worry about what other people think of you – they’re too worried about what you think of them to think bad things about you anyways.
4. A strong work ethic will get you farther than being smart or talented (okay, I kind of learned this from my mom, but I learned it in practice in college).
5. Mental health days are sometimes necessary. In high school and the beginning of college, I thought that attending every single class was the most important thing; more recently I learned that mental health days can make the rest of your week more successful.
6. When you don’t understand, ask questions.
7. One test or paper will not make or break your college career.
8. Having a job and relying on yourself for money teaches you a lot.
9. You can learn just as much, if not more, from a class you do poorly in as a class you do well in.
10. Your friend group will change, and that’s okay.
11. Time management is an essential skill.
12. It seems like everyone is having sex. They’re not.
13. You can bullshit your way through a lot of things; learning which things you CAN bullshit and which things you CAN’T bullshit might be the most applicable skill you’ll learn in college.
14. Lowering your standards to take part in the hookup culture won’t make you feel better.
15. Explore! Friends, interests, classes, clubs, etc.
16. There can be a lot of peer pressure; be true to yourself, don’t do things you don’t want to.
17. It’s okay to need your parents once in a while.
18. Immunity to coffee occurs really fast.
19. Always be confident.
20. You won’t remember the assignments, you may not remember the classes or the professors, but you will always remember the days spent laying outside in the sun with your friends. Don’t get so caught up in the “school” aspect that you forget to live.

Sometimes I Wear Tiaras, Even During My Own Graduation (What Tiaras Mean to Me)

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As you can see from the photo, my graduation cap bore my signature tiara, complete with sparkles and the color pink. Maintaining this blog for the past two years has dramatically changed my outlook on life – probably more than any college class, this blog taught me what I wanted to do with my life. That is why, for my final moments of my undergraduate career, I decided I couldn’t be complete without a tiara.

It wasn’t about the tiara itself, in fact, for those of you who don’t know, “princess” is not how I would ever describe myself. I like pink and sparkles and glitter and all things girly, but I still don’t think of myself as a princess. I was never a princess-obsessed little girl, and I am not a princess-obsessed grown woman. Tiaras, to me, mean confidence. They mean self-assurance and strength. Tiaras are a blatant symbol of womanhood, and womanhood is a beautiful thing. Tiaras mean beauty, elegance, and smiling even when you’re upset. Tiaras mean being strong when all eyes are on you and being strong when you’re alone. Tiaras are about mothers, daughters, sisters, and feminists.

For everyone who thinks “Sometimes I Wear Tiaras” is just a silly blog title, you’re wrong – for me, it’s so much more. This post was originally going to be about me wearing a tiara on graduation, but it’s turned into more than that; just as my blog has turned into more than a place for me to put rantings and personal stories. “Sometimes I Wear Tiaras” has opened so many doors for me and shown me where I might want to go in life. And tiaras aren’t just accessories, they are a way of life.

Senior Year: Myths and Realities

It’s the end of senior year, and I’m finally kind of coming to terms with the fact that I’m graduating from this wonderful place (at the same time, I’m also totally devastated). Anyways, I thought now would be a great time to share my wisdom on this past year in the form of myths and realities about senior year:

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Myth: You’ll take a really easy class schedule and have lots of free time to hang out with friends.
Reality: You’ll realize you actually have a bunch of classes to take to finish your major/minor/graduate on time, so you’ll be completely swamped with work and only ever see the people you live with.

Myth: You’ll go to bars with your friends on weeknights, since you’re all legal.
Reality: You’ll drink wine alone on your couch, watching Netflix and pretending to do homework.

Myth: Your professors will understand your senioritis and respect the fact that you don’t want to do work ever.
Reality: They’ll say things like “This is a 300 level class, you knew what you were getting yourself into.” UGH.

Myth: You’ll be great at time management, now that you’ve had four years of practice.
Reality: You’ll tell yourself, “It’s okay if this assignment is late, I turned in the last one on time.”

Myth: Your sex life will flourish.
Reality: You spend most weekends in bed with your teddy bear.

Myth: Freshman 15.
Reality: Senior 15.

Myth: You’ll have a job by graduation.
Reality: You won’t.

Myth: On the off chance, you don’t get a job, you’ll be totally okay with it.
Reality: You’ll cry to your mom, your boyfriend, your professors – basically anyone who will listen.

Myth: You’ll be really excited about graduation and finally being done with college.
Reality: Well, you will be, but you’ll also cry about it regularly.

Myth: You’ll realize that despite the hardships, the work, and the fights with friends and parents, these were four incredible years.
Reality: Nope, this myth is true.

“Why is Your Millennial Crying?” Comic Hits Close to Home

Earlier, I found this post on Bustle, and it really hit the nail on the head about how I feel as a millennial. I hear people complain about millennials and our apparently non-existent work ethic, obsession with technology and social media, and love of expensive “hipster” things all the time, but a lot of people don’t consider the fact that we do actually have a lot on our plates. On a side note, while some millennials do display the characteristics above, I know a lot of millennials who work their asses off, take on multiple unpaid internships just to hope for a minimum wage entry level job out of college, and are humble about their accomplishments.

That being said, take a look Gemma Correll’s comic below and see if it fits your life:

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Summer Camp Taught Me More Than Any Internship Ever Could

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been incessantly applying to jobs. Every job I apply to wants to hear about my experience – what internships have I had, what relevant places have I worked, etc. Ugh. I’ve found myself getting frustrated that I never spent a summer working a paid internship at a magazine – why couldn’t I have done that? I’ve spent the last three summers working at summer camp, but apparently my summer camp experience isn’t relevant to “real life jobs.” For this reason, I’ve recently edged on regretting spending my summers working with adolescents and teens at the University of Oregon’s Summer Enrichment Program (SEP). But why? Why doesn’t summer camp count as relevant job experience? What makes summer camp not a legitimate job? In my time as a junior counselor, counselor, and administrator (Junior Counselor Supervisor), I learned more about professionalism, confidence, and life than I have at any “professional,” “relevant” job I’ve had.

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My JC group: the group that started it all.

My summer camp is an incredible place – it’s a two-week session that consists of classes taught by grad students and professors, counselor-led activities, counselor skits, camp-wide dances, all-nighters, field trips, and happiness. But it isn’t the events that define the experience – it’s the atmosphere and the people. Somehow, SEP is a place that brings together athletes, musicians, weirdos, princesses, dorks, (“a brain, an athlete, a basket case, and a criminal,” as The Breakfast Club would explain), under one word: nerd. We lovingly call it nerd camp; it’s a place where people can be truly themselves and let out their inner nerd.

The girl who taught me what SEP was all about - Love you, Em.

The girl who taught me what SEP was all about – Love you, Em.

Summer camp changed my life. In high school, I was insecure, I was dorky, and entirely not cool. At camp, people didn’t judge me, they didn’t care about my popularity, and they got to know me on a deeper level than any group ever had. I finally felt like I totally fit in – that people cared about me even though they knew everything about me.

Counselors 2012

Counselors 2012

Summer camp gave me confidence. I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and be myself around other people.

Summer camp was the first place I felt confident amongst my peers and amongst my superiors.

Summer camp taught me to dance with no reservations.

Summer camp taught me how to professionally deal with a student calling me “a f*cking c*nt” and how to relay the inappropriateness of her actions to her.

Summer camp showed me that gummy bears can be the best way to bond.

Double Chins 2013

Double Chins 2013

At summer camp, I learned that having a common enemy can be incredibly powerful for a group.

At summer camp, I cried and I saw people cry tears of happiness, sadness, anguish, joy, and love.

At summer camp, a boy told me I was beautiful for the first time.

At summer camp, I stood up to a grown man with the strongest women I’ve ever met and told him that “boys will be boys” is not an acceptable excuse for sexual harassment.

Run the World (Girls)

Run the World (Girls)

Summer camp taught me how to be an employer and an employee. It taught me to be a teacher, a learner, an authority figure, and a team member. It taught me how to be a friend and a lover. Summer camp taught me to be me.

I don’t know of a single internship that could have taught me what I learned at summer camp. For the first time in years, I am not going back to that square brick building with the courtyard, and I can only hope that SEP’s incredible legacy will continue. SEP changed me forever – each individual altered the course of my life – and I know that SEP will keep impacting me through my memories forever.

Camp selfie 2014

Camp selfie 2014

Virginity Doesn’t Define You

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Tonight I was walking home from work, texting my friend Lisa,* and I realized I didn’t know whether or not she was a virgin. Until about 3 years ago, I had tabs on all my friends’ sexual activity – I knew that Kate had been only ever had sex with her boyfriend, that Caroline lost her virginity at sixteen, but hadn’t slept with anyone in a while, and that Rebecca liked sleeping with anyone who made her feel special. I kept tabs because I truly thought it mattered. Somehow, virginity and sexual experience seemed to define people. Which meant that I was naive, inexperienced, and unknowledgeable.

What I realized today was that none of it matters. I don’t know whether Lisa is still a virgin or not, and I don’t care. She might be, she might not be, but who gives a damn? Virginity does not define you – it doesn’t make you a good or bad person, it doesn’t make you smart or stupid, it doesn’t make you beautiful or ugly. Your participation in a specific sexual encounter says nothing about who you are. Nothing.

For a long time I thought losing my virginity would be a big deal – that it would somehow change me. News flash: it didn’t. I woke up the next day feeling exactly the same as I had the day before (maybe just a tiny bit more sore). The world didn’t stop spinning, I didn’t get invited to join some special club, and I didn’t feel “mature” all of a sudden. Want to know why? Because I was already the person that I am, with or without the intangible concept of “virginity.” Sex is a big step for a couple and you need to trust, respect, and be comfortable with the people you sleep with – but sex doesn’t need to be a big deal. It’s just another step in a sexual relationship. And it doesn’t need to involve anyone outside of the people who are participating in it. Because honestly? It’s just sex.

*All names have been changed.