AN EARLY GOODBYE TO SENIOR YEAR

I’m writing this with a heavy heart. I didn’t realize how important it was to cherish every moment in college until my senior year was cut in half. Due to the severity of the coronavirus, I’ll no longer get to walk across the stage and receive my diploma I worked so hard to attain. I’ll no longer get to say goodbye to the professors who encouraged me, supported me and challenged me. I’ll no longer get to say goodbye to my classmates, coworkers and supervisors.

It’s disappointing, to put it lightly, when you’ve spent years leading up to this one moment. I know I’m not the only one who had already scheduled their graduation photos, started looking for a dress and began planning celebrations with friends and families.

Experiences I thought I would treasure for the rest of my life were unexpectedly taken away from me.

It’s saddening, yes, but it’s not the end of the world. After reflecting on my past two years at the University of North Florida, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had, memories I made and lessons I learned for just a few more weeks. We may have lost what little time we have left, but what’s already happened can’t be taken away from us.

We are allowed to be sad. We are allowed to be mad (I know I’m definitely both at the moment). Don’t feel bad about feeling. But at the same time, remember that none of this changes the fact that we’re still graduating. Our hard work is paying off. Our accomplishments feel lessened because they won’t be celebrated in such a public way, but they don’t need to be. Have your closest friends and family over for a small, intimate graduation in your living room—it will probably be three times as special and memorable.

This semester took a turn none of us were expecting, but it’s up to us to make it count. Don’t look back at this last semester of your college career with regret, wishing things had been different. Look back at this semester and remember how you were able to change something so devastating and heartbreaking into a memorable, special and sweet semester.

Don’t give up yet. Give these last few weeks everything you have left. Get good grades and study hard. Make new memories, laugh with your friends, celebrate everything (even if it’s just that you changed out of sweats into jeans for the first time in five days). With your newfound free time, pick up a hobby, start a side hustle or catch up on all the sleep you’ve lost.

Regardless of how you decide to spend the last moments of your senior year, this won’t change: you have accomplished great things, pushed yourself to limits you didn’t know were possible and made your parents, professors and peers so proud.

And you should be proud of yourself, too.

THE TRUTH ABOUT SELF LOVE

Real talk: self love doesn’t mean loving everything about yourself.

The self love movement that is oh-so-popular right now has good intentions, but I think it only scratches the surface of what self love actually is. Pinterest-worthy quotes such as “you need to love yourself before you can expect anyone else to,” and “we’re all beautiful in our own way,” or “insecurities about flaws are more off-putting than the flaws themselves” rarely offer real comfort, and there are many problems with them.

Regardless of the good intentions these statements have, they remind us that our physical flaws are evident but not talked about because no one really knows how to talk about the aspects of our appearance that are imperfect, so we rarely acknowledge that they are. Conventional beauty standards are constantly evolving, but the very notion of conventional beauty itself is constant.

The truth about self love is that not all parts of ourselves fit into the framework of conventional beauty, so we should stop trying to pretend like we do and accept ourselves for who we are, flaws and all. Because the reality is that not every part of ourselves needs to be beautiful, and insisting that we’re all flawless only promotes a world in which flaws aren’t welcome.

The other issue with the self love movement lies in the idea that you must love yourself first before you can expect to receive love from anyone else. This philosophy results in the end-goal of self love being to make yourself more desirable to someone else. If this is true, who are we really loving ourselves for? For ourselves, or for a guy on Tinder with some serious boundary issues?

When we believe that self love must precede another’s love, we’re still enabling the societal narratives of insecurities and confidence – and also a very simplified version of what it even means to love yourself at all. For some of us, loving yourself is something that doesn’t come naturally and has to be learned. And sometimes that learning process is lifelong work, and that’s okay.

Self love and steadfast comfort in our own skin have become the new standards to adhere to. Admitting that you don’t love what you see in the mirror isn’t attractive because we act as if, in order to be a strong woman, you can’t feel shame or embarrassment or anything other than total self-acceptance. This results in feeling abnormal if you don’t fully love what you see in the mirror, because it appears as though everyone does. When in reality, the concept of loving every single part of yourself is so out of reach that it’s practically impossible – insecurities and flaws will always be present.

Self love doesn’t mean loving everything about yourself. It means accepting yourself despite what you don’t love. It’s loving yourself despite the fact that doing so doesn’t guarantee the love of others. And it’s learning how to live in a body you wouldn’t necessarily choose.

ON BEING A CREATOR

Creativity is experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes & having fun.

Often, people will associate “creativity” with artists, content creators, photographers, musicians and other industry professionals. Yes, these people are creating things. Yes, these fields involve a creative mind in order to succeed. But what we fail to realize is that everyone is creative in their own way.

Creativity is subjective. It means something different for everyone. It’s a myth that engineers, accountants, managers and others are not creative. You don’t need to have a degree in photography to be a creative – you just need to have a genuine passion for learning and growing, for taking risks and making mistakes.

Creativity is a human quality that exists in every single one of us. When you realize that you are a creative individual no matter who you are or what you do, you can start tapping into your explorer self, your artistic self and your student self. It is who we are that makes us creative. It is what we know that makes us creative. It is how we interact to our surroundings that makes us creative.

Finding your inner creative is not a difficult task. Typically, we find ourselves bursting with creativity at the oddest moments: while taking a shower, going for a walk or while driving. This is because your mind is relaxed and distracted enough to engage a different part of your brain. When creativity strikes unexpectedly, make sure to write your thoughts down, engage in relaxing activities and act on your ideas!

If you want to start brainstorming, here are some fun links on creativity!

How to be creative when you’re not naturally creative

6 ways to become a more creative person

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

The secret to being a creative? Let yourself make mistakes. Let yourself get frustrated, stuck and discouraged. Let yourself fail and try again. Creativity is messy and that’s just part of the process.

CONFESSIONS OF A PEOPLE PLEASER

I’m a very social person. I love people and I love making others happy. Sometimes, however, I place making people happy above my own needs, mental health and priorities – this is when it gets dangerous.

The deepest pain I ever felt was denying my own feelings to make everyone else comfortable.

People pleasing is a toxic, addicting habit that is difficult to overcome. The reality of it is, pleasing people still doesn’t please them. We can bend over backward and sacrifice everything to others and still, it won’t be enough. So why is it so easy to become obsessed with pleasing people, when it’s actually impossible and damaging to our mental health and overall well-being?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know the roots of my people pleasing tendencies come from a need to feel loved and appreciated. In my mind, if I can please and make others happy, they will show me love in return. This expectation of reciprocation has ended up hurting me more times than I can count. I’ve found it more often leads to being taken advantage of and taken for granted.

The damages of people pleasing are real and should not be taken lightly. If you care more about the opinions of others more than the priority of your mental health, you will likely break at the slightest pressure. Not to mention, chasing the approval of others who don’t benefit you will drain your energy.

Working to rid yourself of this toxic habit will allow you to focus on whose opinion should really matter in your life: your own.

If you are a victim to people pleasing like me, practice these steps to take back your power and make yourself a priority again!

  • SAY NO. The next time someone asks something of you, say no. You’ll notice that the world does not end after you deny assistance to someone! Learning to say no is a difficult, freeing experience.
  • DO SOMETHING FOR YOU. Instead of being so fixated on others, try focusing on yourself for a change! You are worthy of love, too. Do something that makes you genuinely happy and shower yourself with the same love you’ve been showering everyone else with.
  • ANALYZE YOUR FEARS. Spend some time self-reflecting to determine what the roots of your people-pleaser tendencies are. Is it low self esteem? A need for validation? Seeking love and approval? Understanding why you developed people-pleasing as a habit will help you to break it.
  • SET BOUNDARIES. Boundaries will keep you from getting manipulated and taken advantage of. Knowing ahead of time what you should and shouldn’t do is a good place to start. Determine what you’re willing to do for others, and what is asking too much of you.

Say it with me: people pleasing is no longer an option because I am adopting the radical belief that my ideas, thoughts and feelings matter too.

FROM BLACK THUMB TO GREEN THUMB

Keeping indoor plants alive: easier said than done!

I used to have a black thumb. I couldn’t even be trusted with a succulent, supposedly the easiest plant on the planet to take care of. If I even looked at a plant, its leaves turned brown and droopy.

If this resonates with you, don’t worry! A green thumb is acquired, not inherited. There was hope for me and there is definitely hope for you as well.

HOW I WENT FROM A BLACK THUMB TO A GREEN THUMB:

The biggest mistake I made early on was assuming all I needed to do was water my plants and make sure they got sunlight. While that is true, there’s a lot more thought that goes into caring for indoor plants! Here are some of the mistakes I made:

  • OVERWATERING. I assumed all my plants needed to be watered in the same way – wrong! Watering my cactus at the same frequency as my peperomia resulted in a very dead cactus. Make sure to research how much water your plants need before you accidentally commit murder!
  • SUNLIGHT. After I killed my cactus, I then killed my peperomia by not placing it in a sunny spot! It was on a table that got maybe a sliver of light but definitely not enough. After I moved it to the window, it got so much healthier. Look into your plant’s sunlight needs the same way you do for watering!
  • CHECKING THE ROOTS. It’s ironic I neglected to check the roots of my plants considering they’re the feeding organ of the plant. If your house plant is looking a little sad, check the roots! They may be outgrowing their pot and need to be repotted in a larger container.
  • REPOTTING. Repotting your plants is so important! It ensures their new pot is big enough for their roots, gives them fresh soil, allows for better watering and prevents diseases.

Here’s to keeping plants alive for longer than five seconds. You grow girl!