The Story Of Us: Just Another Transition

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While listening to Taylor Swift’s more recent single The Story of Us, I couldn’t help but think about how relationships (whether platonic or romantic) tend to come in stages. In the song, Swift sings about a once-iconic relationship that ended badly. She begins with the idea that the “story of us” is this effortless love story that she and her boyfriend will be telling their grandchildren, but then reveals that she and the former love of her life are no longer on good terms. Soon, that “story of us” becomes the story of how “I was losing my mind when I saw you here,” not about how sparks flew when they first met.

The lyrics and theme of The Story of Us reminded me that our relationships are constantly in a state of transition, and so are the stories we tell about the people in our lives. The guy you met in your bio class and instantly connected with might soon become the guy who took you on the perfect date, then the boyfriend everyone envies you for having, then the boyfriend who cheated on you with that girl down the hall, and finally the ex you run into on a plane and hardly speak to. All relationships begin and end differently, but most of them will have their beginnings and endings, and your perspective will certainly differ depending on the point you are at in that relationship.

It is important to accept that things are always going to change in some way. (Tweet this!) Even if you do find the love of your life, chances are your relationship will hit some bumps or adapt to the way you start to grow up. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everything in your life can become a learning experience, a story you share with your friends and your children in the years to come, even if the story manifests itself differently at different points in your life. One day, your life might feel like a bad teen soap opera; the next, like a page out of an introspective Sarah Dessen novel; and maybe even one day like a really poignant memoir that gets all the glowing reviews.

“The story of us” could be, as T. Swift puts it, a “tragedy.” It could also turn into a comedy a few months or years down the line, when we finally start to ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” Maybe the lessons learned in one relationship will help us recognize when we’ve actually found our perfect match in another, and will lead us to that happily ever after. Or maybe what we take away from a failed relationship will lead us to a greater understanding of ourselves.

Bottom line: Change can be good. Without it, we wouldn’t survive. The stories we tell about our life experiences will constantly be in a state of transition, because we ourselves are in that same state of transition, and we have to be prepared for the curveballs life will throw at us. Taylor Swift’s love story with so-and-so might be over, but that doesn’t mean that you have to look at your own ended relationships as tragedies. Look at them as transitions, and embrace the change as the catalyst that will lead to better things.

The Friday Five: Things To Do On April Fools Day

Your day may be nearly over, but you still have some time to do something fun for April Fools Day if you haven’t already. (Or you could follow these tips on any other day!) Here are five fun pranks and activities to enjoy this April Fool’s Day. (Tweet this!)

The Friday Five: Things To Do On April Fools Day

1. Watch “The Room.”
Deemed by many to be one of the best worst movies of all time, The Room (directed, starring, written by and produced by the eclectic and enigmatic Tommy Wiseau) has developed a cult following throughout the years. Every year, Adult Swim has screened this movie on April Fools Day around midnight, which is why I was a little late in posting last night’s Freshman 15. If you missed the on-air showing, you can always watch clips of the film online — trust me, it will be more than entertaining.

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2. Change your relationship status.
Okay, maybe a little juvenile, but always fun to shake things up a little. Join a civil union with your roommate or enter an open relationship with your best friend… or make a relationship seem real by talking to one of your platonic friends of the preferred gender. Note: If you are in an actual relationship, do not break up with your significant other as a joke. It is mean and will probably deem you permanently single.

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3. Tell your parents that your sibling is back together with the ex they hated.
… Because my sister did that to me!

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4. Let The Office inspire you!
Take a page out of the wonderful Jim Halpert’s book. Jim is constantly pranking his coworkers (Dwight in particular) and he never ceases to amaze us. Whether he dresses up as Dwight’s doppleganger for a day, creates a series of fake diseases or surrounds his coworkers’ staplers in jello, Jim is always thinking on his feet. See which of his pranks should be revisited in your own life, or just let them give you some rough ideas for fun and harmless tricks you might want to try.

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5. Do something outrageous.
By this, I am not implying a huge prank, but rather, a huge decision. Commit to something you have been considering on and off for a while, because it isn’t just April Fool’s Day — it’s also the start of a new month. Use this day to spark a new beginning.

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How did you spend your April Fools Day? What is the most epic prank you have ever pulled?

The Freshman 15: Life-Changing College Moments

pexels-photo-1454360.jpegAs a 20-year-old girl who is halfway through her sophomore year, I’ve got one thing on my mind: change. It’s something I blog about quite often — change in one’s perspective, change in one’s relationships, change in one’s life events — and part of my obsession with change has to do with the fact that I’m in college. After all, college itself presents a series of life changes, and we would all be lying if we said we didn’t allow our environments to change us.

January is an especially important time of year to recognize change. Because we have entered a new year, we are more likely to embrace the new experiences that we’re exposed to. Although it hasn’t even been two years since I first enrolled in college, I already feel like I have undergone some meaningful changes within that time, and that many of those experiences have become defining moments in my life.

For this month’s Freshman 15, I wanted to discuss some of those defining moments that many college students I know have experienced. Feel free to chime in with some of your own!

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The Freshman 15: Life-Changing College Moments

1. The first time you refer to your dorm room as “home.”
For some, this moment comes quickly — in my case, within my first week of summer as a college freshman. And it can be a slightly emotional experience, because you might feel like by feeling so comfortable away from your family, you are betraying the home you have always known. It’s the moment when you realize that your dorm room is not just a few cinderblocks and some interesting wood furniture that no one actually owns in a real house, but rather, it is the place you always return to… a place where you’ve already begun to make some memories.

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2. Establishing your core group of friends.
Chances are, you won’t remain friends with everyone you met at orientation. However, as the year progresses, the large group of freshmen you once clung to will begin to dwindle, and soon you’ll find yourself with the ones who you really click with. In college, you have a larger pool of potential friendships, and therefore you are more likely to find people you’re more compatible with than those you socialized with in high school. These friends will be the ones who help you through everything (and vice versa), and you will be thankful that you took the time to find them. If you’re the social butterfly, reach out to someone else — you can really make their (and your!) college experience all the more worthwhile.

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3. Attending your first college “party.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge partier and I never have been. However, regardless of how many house parties you went to in high school, there is something exciting about going to your first actual party in college. Whether you’re looking for a raging frat party or a fun but slightly uneventful evening, you will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, through trial and error, I was able to find out that I strongly preferred parties to awkward clubbing excursions anyway!

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4. Doing all of those household activities you never thought you’d do.
Before college, I had done laundry maybe twice, and only with parental supervision. Boiling water? Ha! Who needed to boil water when you could just stick a frozen dinner in the microwave? Of course, I quickly learned some of the vital life skills for self-sufficiency, and I transformed from Girl-Who-Couldn’t-Use-Oven to Girl-Who-Bakes-Cookies-For-Everyone. A year and a half later, I maintain a tidy apartment and am more than capable of taking care of those daily chores. Of course, it is difficult not to have someone around to help you all the time, but being completely tossed in a situation in which you have to fend for yourself can actually be beneficial once in a while.

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5. Discovering Hulu.
Okay… maybe this one isn’t exactly life-changing. But having access to all of your favorite shows whenever you want to watch them is an important skill indeed. Hulu taught me that it was okay to be busy — I could still have my down-time whenever I wanted.

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6. Finding an organization on campus where you belong.
Knowing where you fit in and feeling a strong connection to that entity is one of the best things you will ever get out of college. The more you try to get involved, the better chance you will have at finding the club that changes your life. To quote Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I don’t remember where and I don’t remember when. I don’t even remember the season. I just know that it was the first time I felt like I belonged someplace.” This is exactly how I felt when I first became involved in my honors college, and it is a feeling that I hope every college freshman will pursue.

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7. Realizing it’s okay to ask for help.
Whether you decide to visit your professor in office hours or you attend tutoring sessions to prepare for exams, you are doing exactly what is right for you. In high school, there was always that stigma against asking for help — if you went in with extra questions, people might have made judgments about your intelligence in order to feel better about themselves. Nowadays, going in for assistance is often the “smart” thing to do. Once I realized that not knowing didn’t make me any less of a student, college became a lot easier for me.

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8. Reuniting with old friends for the first time since college.
Let’s be honest for a minute… when I left for college, I did not want to look back. By the end of high school, I no longer considered myself particularly close with many people, and I was thrilled to move forward and meet new friends. However, I did maintain some close friendships, and occasionally I caught up with my high school acquaintances during vacation. Seeing people you haven’t spoken to in almost a year shows you how much you have changed since the last time you were both in the same place at the same time. You make for polite conversation, but at the same time you know that you have only drifted apart even farther.

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9. Taking an introductory course that ends up making all the difference.
I originally applied to college with every intention of becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Soon after I started freshman year, I realized that while I still loved writing, I did not want to work for newspapers and constantly focus on the negative. I changed my major to Advertising/Public Relations on a whim, mainly because a career aptitude test on the Internet suggested it to me, and then enrolled in the two prerequisite classes: Principles of Advertising and Introduction to Public Relations. Those classes not only made me fall madly in love with the integrated marketing field, but they also gave me exactly the inspiration I needed. Within the semester, I became involved in two clubs related to the major, started working on my resume and created my very first blog.

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10. Realizing that you like to learn and it doesn’t make you dorky.
College provides so many guest speakers, self improvement seminars and other educational events that you’d be crazy not to take advantage. Being at such a well-rounded university re-instilled in me a thirst for knowledge, one that I hope college freshmen will develop early on.

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11. Going home for the first time.
Being in your old room becomes an out-of-body experience. Your parents and family will begin to notice changes in you that you hadn’t even begun to notice in yourself. Even after I came home from my first month at school, I couldn’t get over how many relatives had commented on how much I’d grown up in that time. Many of my friends began to undergo those same changes in that short period of time as well.

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12. Volunteering with a group.
Everyone needs a cause to believe in and support. As a freshman, I went to a place called Give Kids The World with the honors college at my school, and immediately fell in love with the organization. GKTW is a place for families with children that have life-threatening illnesses to relax for a week and enjoy the theme parks as well as the organization’s own attractions. Going to this organization to volunteer gave me more of a purpose and a platform as I made my way through the first two years.

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13. Getting your heart broken.
To put it lightly… this one sucks. It’s one of those “character building” moments that you really don’t want to happen. But college teaches you to be careful about who you trust in or how much happiness you can place in another person, and by getting hurt, you are simply learning that lesson the hard way. At the same time, you learn to treasure those who really are there for you, and some relationships do grow stronger. You also begin to learn what you will and won’t accept from someone else.

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14. Recognizing that who you were in high school doesn’t matter.
Who cares if you were the jock or the nerd? Who cares what your GPA was or how you did on your SAT? You’re already in college at this point, so none of this matters. College gives you the chance to rebrand yourself, create a new identity and throw away the past if you so choose. At twenty years old, the petty memories of high school hardly mean anything to me anymore. People simply become characters and your former life becomes just another story.

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15. Realizing that you have a choice in your future.
Now that you’re in college, you are just beginning to gain some control in your life. You choose your major, your friends, your daily habits, your classes, your career path. The choices you make now will start to shape who you will become, and it can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. Be sure not to make any hasty decisions, and put yourself first. It’s your life.

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I hope you enjoyed! Here are some questions to consider:

  • What were some of the defining moments in your college experience?
  • If you aren’t in college yet, what are you most looking forward to?
  • What topics are you looking to learn more about in the Freshman 15 series? Post your answers below! 🙂

Getting Stuck in December

As I listen to my latest mix CD for the road (which perhaps breaks a few of these rules), I find myself listening to Track #4 quite often. It’s Taylor Swift’s latest single, Back to December, one of the first songs I’ve heard from her that really wasn’t all sunshine and “boy in the corner, please notice me.” (I’m not a hater, trust me… I have a soft spot for those songs too!) Of course, my friends make fun of me for this — “It’s the most depressing song on the album!” they laugh, insisting we play Better than Revenge or Mine instead — but I still love the song nonetheless.

For those of you who live under a rock and haven’t heard it on all the pop radio stations in the past few months, Back to December is a song about heartbreak and regret — probably, more specifically, about her ex-boyfriend Taylor Lautner. She sings about how she wishes she hadn’t treated him the way she had, and that if she could go back to December and change her actions, she would.

Anyone who has made a decision they regretted could easily find the appeal in this song. Swift expresses those feelings in such a relatable way, and it is easy to apply them to many situations one has been in. However, the more I think about this, the more I wonder how helpful this song really is.

On the one hand, careful consideration of the decisions we have made in the past allows us to make better choices in the future. On the other hand, the more we think about our mistakes, the harder it can be to move forward. Instead of simply changing our ways, we sit around and dwell on the fact that we didn’t change our ways when it really “mattered.” We find ourselves looking at the past as a black-and-white photograph, one without blemishes, and forget the beauty of where we are today.

While listening to this song, I realized that every time Swift and I went back to December, we both got stuck there. With a new year ahead of me, I don’t want that to ever let that happen again. Instead, I want to begin each month — each day! — anew.

How To Start Over When You’re Halfway Through

pexels-photo-1646981.jpegNext Monday, I will begin the spring semester of my sophomore year of college, but it feels like just yesterday I was packing my bags and getting ready for the beginning of summer classes. A lot has changed in the six or seven months since then, both personally and professionally, and while some aspects have been enjoyable and fulfilling, I’ve definitely had my share of crappy-life-lesson/”character-building” moments throughout these past two semesters as well. After experiencing the best freshman year I could have ever hoped for (minus, of course, constantly getting sick), I found sophomore year to be a bit of a letdown.

However, looking past all the obstacles, I realized that my year isn’t over. I can change its course if I want to — and I will — toward something much brighter. I don’t have to look at the aforementioned highs and lows and then call the entire year a failure; instead, I can work on making this spring even sunnier than the last.

So for those of you in a bit of a rut this year, looking to reinvent yourselves or improve your circumstances, here are just a few quick goals you may want to work toward in the coming months:

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♥ Do what you want to do; forget who’s watching you.
When we worry so much about what others think of our actions, we let their values dictate our own. Instead of constantly tiptoeing around others’ feelings, let’s remember to decide for ourselves what is best for us and how we should lead our lives.

Figure out your priorities.
You can only wind yourself so tightly with commitments before you begin to unravel. I’m not saying to quit the things you love or need, but learn how to manage it all so that you can still get full nights of sleep and not feel like you’re sacrificing something better.

Spend more time outside.
I don’t care how brightly decorated or well-lit your dorm is — it is no match for a cloudless, sunny day. Change your scenery by abandoning your room and heading outside into the fresh air. Do your homework by the pond, catch up on your reading on the benches near your building or take a long stroll with a friend during the limited down-time you both have.

Don’t neglect your health.
Eat the brain foods that will keep you going and throw out the junk food that makes you crash. Hit the gym for an hour or search for workout videos on YouTube. Don’t treat your health as a last priority; you have one body, and the better you treat it, the better it will treat you.

Avoid dramatic situations.
Easier said than done, of course, but try your best to stay away from those toxic relationships and untrustworthy “confidantes” who are mostly looking out for themselves. When you feel yourself being sucked into such situations, remind yourself that you have no time for those things, and steer clear. Had I followed my own advice in the past two semesters, I would have been much more productive.

Remember that nothing good happens after midnight.
Yes, it is extremely hypocritical of me to say that at this hour, but it’s something I plan to work on! What I mean by that phrase is that it’s important to get your beauty rest, especially during the week (because, let’s face it, we’re usually out till much later on the weekends – and rightfully so). Besides, nothing good can come of that late-night text or Facebook IM. Shut off your phone and computer and get some rest — trust me, it’s better for you.

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What are you looking to change in the upcoming semester?

Inspiration in the New Year

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art – write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” – Neil Gaiman

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Let’s face it: it’s easy to get caught up in the monotony of our every-day lives. When we aren’t on holiday, we tend to go through the same daily routines without really stopping to take a breath and soak in the beauty of the world around us. We forget about the things we love because we’re too busy “getting through” the things we’re supposed to do — assignments, work, chores, etc. Soon enough, we lose touch with the things we’re most passionate about, and begin to regard them as distant memories.

For me, reading and writing are the two great loves of my life, and as an overbooked college sophomore perfectionist extraordinaire, I often feel like I’ve lost the former of those. While I make writing a priority through my blog and other personal projects, I hardly get the chance to pick up a book these days, and I miss the feeling of becoming immersed in a world that is not my own.

In fact, books have often served as my inspiration. I’ve always been amazed by the idea that a story written centuries ago can still be experienced in a different context in today’s world — the idea that humans, while constantly pursuing new goals, never really do change. Regardless of the advances in technology over the years, we are still susceptible to the same things: love, envy, greed, competition, pride and the search for something better. It’s the very reason why I can read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was published in the 1950s, and be reminded of my own college dilemma. Reading, especially when it comes to some of the older works, allows me to make connections I might not otherwise make, and I hope that my own writings will one day have that same effect on someone else.

Anyway, in order to reignite this passion and not get completely sucked into the daily monotony, I decided to follow my friend Melissa’s lead and attempt to read 50 books in the new year. Even if I don’t accomplish this goal, at least I will have made reading a priority, and will gain plenty of knowledge and insight from the books I pick up!

I will keep track of these books on the “Book Challenge 2011” tab above throughout the next year (feel free to check it out from time to time!) and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me. I encourage you guys to try this out too — and if you aren’t a reader, make another goal that has to do with something you love to do (make time for music, art, sports, or anything else you enjoy). Take a few minutes each day to chase your dreams — you never know where 2011 will lead you!

The Freshman 15: Things I Wish I’d Done Differently

The Freshman 15: Things I Wish I'd Done Differently in CollegeWith the year of 2010 coming to a close, we compile our lists of resolutions — ways we would like to change in the upcoming year. In creating these lists, we often look back on the past year and reflect upon what we could have improved upon. Therefore, in the December edition of the Freshman 15, I will talk about the things I wish I had done in my freshman year of college that would have improved my college experience even more.

Although I enjoyed my freshman year and found it a successful one, I did make mistakes from time to time (as we all do!) and from them I learned how I would do things differently in the future. For all current freshmen and incoming college students, try and keep some of these in mind as you make your way through that first year! 🙂

Here are the 15 things I wish I’d done differently in college. Learn from them! — Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Things I Wish I’d Done Differently

1. Make health a priority.
Living on-campus meant that pizza and other dining hall food quickly became staples of my diet, which once included fruits, vegetables and vitamins. Combining this with the fact that I lived in close proximity to hundreds of other people and attended classes with tens of thousands of them, I was bound to get sick sooner or later. During my first fall semester of college alone, I ended up with the flu, two ear infections and ultimately mono. Although this may have just been bad luck and could have happened to anyone, I honestly think that by disregarding my health entirely, I made myself a lot more vulnerable to illness. Moral of the story: take your Vitamin C, eat junk foods in moderation and carry hand sanitizer everywhere you go!

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2. Pay attention to on-campus opportunities early on.
Yes, I managed to get involved in a few clubs by the end of my freshman year, but I also missed out on an entire semester during which I could have been meeting new people and becoming a greater part of my school. Although I spent a great deal of that semester in the Health Center and catching up on assignments, I avoided a lot of the socials until my spring semester. Having developed a group of friends early on, I was convinced that I didn’t need to get involved right away, and now, looking back, I wish I hadn’t taken that attitude. In the spring of my freshman year, I decided to try out some of the organizations, and quickly found my home in one of them. The earlier you get involved, the better — you’ll get to utilize some of the older students as mentors, and have a greater connection to the club when you’re an upperclassman and you want to obtain an officer position.

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3. Connect with faculty.
As you begin to apply for internships, scholarships and various jobs, you will need to compile a reference list — and no, these references shouldn’t be limited to the people who knew you in high school. Go to your professors’ office hours and talk to them about assistantships and research opportunities. Connect with the ones you like and ask for help when you need it. This year, I finally became acquainted with the faculty in my honors college — the people who had always offered help but whom I was afraid I would burden — and they really were willing to answer my questions and point me in the right direction. One of them even connected me to a professor who offered me a job! If I had pursued these relationships a year ago, I can’t even imagine where I’d be today. The sooner you get to know your professors and advisers, the better!

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4. Settle into a healthy sleep cycle.
No matter how old you are, sleep is the best way to let your mind and body recharge. However, because college presents so many new challenges and opportunities, you may start to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to really get the rest you need. The old joke goes that if your options are good grades, a social life and a healthy sleep cycle, it is only possible for you to obtain two of those. During my freshman year, I definitely sacrificed those hours of sleep in favor of other things, and my body did not thank me for it. The point is, if you develop good sleep habits now, they are more likely to stick with you in the years to come, leading to greater productivity and success!

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5. Attend more athletic events.
For a lot of college students, this one isn’t even remotely a problem — and tailgating on Saturday mornings is as routine as brushing one’s teeth. For someone like me, who doesn’t fully comprehend the rules of football and tends to get bored by halftime, athletic events aren’t quite as exciting. But while I’m not always enamored with every aspect of a game, I wish I did attend more of them, if only to show off my school spirit, cheer on my classmates and enjoy the overall atmosphere. Besides, they are a fun (and often free, depending on what school you attend) way to socialize with your friends and truly feel like a part of something.

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6. Focus less on relationships.
Okay, we’re in our late teens and twenties, so naturally one of our first priorities is dating. We think about it all the time: who’s hooking up with whom, who broke up, who got back together, what that text from that boy meant, etc. Although dating and relationships can be fun and worthwhile, however, they shouldn’t take over our lives. I found that I spent entirely too much of my first year of college worrying about relationships and non-relationships, regardless of what my status was with whomever I liked at the time. I also learned that you cannot let anyone be the sole cause of your happiness — and by putting too much stock in the whole world of dating, you are not giving yourself enough credit. There’s a time and place for everything, and I’m not suggesting that you ignore a connection with someone when you feel it, but please don’t let those connections control your emotions entirely.

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7. Find a way to present yourself well.
As a freshman, you may not have to apply for too many jobs or positions yet, but eventually you will want to become a leader on campus and you will need to know how to show people the very best you have to offer. Last year, I wanted to obtain a coveted position in one of the organizations on campus, and when the interview itself came around, I wasn’t prepared for the type of self-marketing I was expected to do, and I didn’t get the job. Over time, I’ve done a lot of self-discovery and reflected upon my strengths and weaknesses, and I think that really helped me in obtaining several internship offers for this upcoming semester. If only I had learned this sooner, I may have been another step ahead.

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8. Know your school’s limitations, especially on holiday weekends.
I began college in the middle of the summer, and wound up spending the 4th of July Weekend up at school. While most of my friends had gone home for the holiday, I was not about to chicken out on my first weekend of college. Instead, I stayed at school with two other friends and a ghost town for a campus. Without a car at the time (this was before I got my trusty car, Carlos), we were basically stranded — no restaurants at school were open, and our dorm rooms were not well-equipped for cooking our own food. Eventually we befriended someone who was willing to take us to Publix and the local sub shop, but the weekend was extremely boring and the school was not prepared for the students who had stayed behind. Although I wouldn’t suggest going home at every chance you get, I would strongly recommend finding out the school’s accommodations before sticking around on a holiday weekend, especially if you don’t have a convenient means of transportation.

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9. Utilize the resources on campus.
Chances are, your school has lots of these… and many of them will go unused. When I needed advice on a major after switching from Journalism, I visited Career Services, and later on, I returned for assistance with my resume. However, there were plenty of other places on campus I should have become acquainted with at one point or another: the Writing Center and the Math Lab, for example. Whether you need help with a paper or one-on-one tutoring, there’s usually some resource available to help you, and you’d be crazy not to take advantage of it!

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10. Don’t rush into relationships or trust too much too soon.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, college relationships (both romantic AND platonic) are notorious for moving quickly. Because you’re getting to know so many people in a much closer capacity in a shorter period of time than ever before, bonding with those people you meet is inevitable. The trouble is, not only does this put too much pressure on a friendship or relationship that is still very new, but it also causes us to trust people with our darkest secrets before they’ve proven themselves trustworthy. Although several of the people I met early on are some of my closest friends today, there have been some surprises over the past year and at times I wish I hadn’t rushed into certain friendships so quickly. Be open to meeting new people and sharing your experiences, but don’t share everything right away — some things should be reserved for the people who have earned them.

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11. Write down your goals.
Having an active list of what you want to accomplish throughout the year (much like New Year’s Resolutions) helps you to track your growth and progress over time. I came into college with a lot of expectations, and looking back, I wish I had kept track of those to see what I actually achieved and what values changed. Before I began my sophomore year, I posted my goals for the year to my Facebook Notes, and over the past several months, I have gone in and crossed off each goal as I’ve met it (and added the date next to it for added organization). Your list doesn’t have to be so public — I keep mine that way in order to share my dreams with others — but you should definitely make one and then refer back to it often.

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12. Find an outlet.
In just one week of college, you will find yourself juggling a full course load, club meetings and a social life — and sometimes it may feel like you don’t have time to breathe. To avoid total insanity, try finding a way to relax from it all. Go to the gym, take a walk outside, paint something… the world is yours. In April, I found one release that allowed me to relax while doing what I loved, and that release was blogging! Throughout my freshman year, I found that some of my passions had been ignored, especially writing and reading (more on how I plan to change the latter in my next blog post!). Don’t ignore what makes you happy – instead, make it a priority to do those things at least once each week.

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13. Make yourself a bigger priority in your own life.
This is YOUR life! It may be admirable to help your friends and neighbors out from time to time, but you do need to find ways to do things for yourself. For much of my first semester, I assumed it was my responsibility to take care of some of the others, even if that took away from time I could have spent studying or relaxing on my own. While I am still learning about becoming assertive and learning to do what is best for myself, I have begun making time for me. This is probably one of the most valuable lessons I could learn in college.

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14. Keep in touch with the people you want in your life.
Don’t feel obligated to maintain relationships with people you didn’t mesh well with in high school or college,but make sure you don’t ignore the ones you do want to remain friends with. I met so many people in the first two weeks of my fall semester of freshman year and was so busy with them that I was too exhausted to really keep up with a lot of them once things began to settle down. Although I wound up with a close-knit group of friends that I loved, I knew there were others I still wanted to see, and ultimately I learned to make those get-togethers happen for themselves. Don’t lose touch with someone you really like simply due to laziness!

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15. Don’t expect perfection.
As an eternal perfectionist, this is something I struggle with constantly, and it is both my strength and my downfall. At times I forget how much I have accomplished, even if I am not perfect, and have to remind myself that I am human. As you begin your college career, don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as smoothly as you think they should. You are in a brand new environment that is constantly changing, and you are adjusting to a completely different way of life. Allow yourself to be the best you can be, and don’t expect yourself to be a superhero every single day.

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I hope these tips are helpful as you make your way into the new year! Some questions to consider:

– For my older readers, what do you wish you could have changed about your freshman year/college experience as a whole?

– How did college help you grow as a person?

– What topics are you hoping to learn more about in The Freshman 15 series? Anything you would like me to address in the upcoming months?

From Zero to Sixty: College Relationships

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You’re waiting to take the elevator to your dorm room when suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you notice a guy standing outside the building, fumbling around for his keys. Recognizing him right away, you grab the door and smile shyly — he’s that cute guy you’ve bumped into in the laundry room/dining hall/lobby, the one you’ve been dying to talk to but haven’t had the proper chance to do so. And now, here’s that moment you’ve been waiting for.

After riding the elevator together for six floors (which goes by so much quicker with him than it does when you’re alone or with awkward strangers), you realize you have more than just your location in common, and you decide to exchange numbers. Several chance encounters and a few planned ones later, he finally asks you out on a real date, and you couldn’t be happier. Not only does he seem to have every trait you could possibly want in a boyfriend, but he also lives in your building. How lucky, right?!

Unfortunately, the extreme proximity that dorm rooms provide can be a detriment to some college relationships. My friend Jen has blogged about the dangers of U-hauling before — that is, the phenomenon of the relationship moving too quickly. Although her blog entry focuses specifically on GLBT couples, I’ve found U-hauling to be very real among heterosexual couples as well, especially those in college.

College relationships are extremely accelerated compared to relationships in high school or post-college.Tweet this!

Now more than ever, I find that many of my friends in relationships tend to spend half of their nights in their significant others’ apartments, and they spend the other nights with their significant others at their own apartments. They study together, they do laundry together, they shop for groceries together. Certain milestones one might expect from a relationship, such as Meeting the Parents, don’t occur at their own pace anymore; instead, you end up meeting your boyfriend’s parents whenever they come up to visit, even if you’ve only been dating for a few weeks.

Suddenly, people fall into predictable patterns and start to act like they have been dating for years. Twenty-year-olds begin to resemble middle-aged couples who are bored but comfortable with the same daily mundane tasks. Even though you don’t live together, it certainly feels like you do — and any illusion of romance or mystery is gone.

I know this might seem like a bleak outlook on relationships, but things can certainly turn out this way if you aren’t careful. Don’t disregard dating someone just because they live close by, but make sure you maintain some distance in the beginning so you don’t get sick of each other too quickly.

The Truth About Trust

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Every day, life presents us with a new series of challenges. As students, we must find the perfect balance between school, work and our social lives, and sometimes this can be difficult to manage. We will have our ups and downs, our highs and lows, but we recognize that everything in our lives is subject to change.

As someone who adjusted very well to college life in the first year, I can honestly say that I didn’t run into many problems until recently. With a successful freshman year behind me, my love affair with school remained strong until early in the fall semester of sophomore year, when reality began to kick in. Suddenly I was forced to question many of the personal decisions I had made, including several regarding trust, and I realized that life really isn’t all roses.

In fact, the issue of trust has been an important one for me. As someone who tries to see the good in everyone, I hate to think that people would ever take advantage of that optimism, or that seemingly strong friendships could dissolve quickly because of that. But as I’ve begun to face some more difficult situations at school, I’ve realized that trust isn’t something you can give away so quickly, even if you want to.

It’s a trickier situation in college than in high school because relationships have to accelerate much faster here than anywhere else. As a university student on your own, it makes sense that you’d want to find your group of friends early on — it gets lonely without a support network! Because of this, you get to know the people you’ve befriended much faster than you would typically get to know someone you met on the street. People dive into best-friendships, bromances and relationships all too suddenly because of this need to avoid loneliness.

However, when forming those bonds, it’s important to slow down the process as much as you can. You can’t tell a stranger your innermost thoughts and dreams; you have to let the friendship develop further before you can even begin to tell your life story. People aren’t always who they say they are, and it may take you months to figure that out.

I’m not saying that you need to be completely paranoid and skeptical, but just be aware that not everyone will prove to be the great friend or significant other you hoped they might become, and don’t start to really confide in those people until you’ve taken the time to get to know their personalities and tendencies.

Trust is only valuable when deserved.Tweet this!

Why Everything Looks Better in Black and White

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“We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.” – Lynn Hall

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As I sit at my desk wearing my old middle school cheerleading shirt and listening to K-Ci & Jojo, I feel like I’ve been transported to a time that has since become a series of distant memories. Maybe there’s a reason I’ve let these memories gather so much dust; any time someone mentions sixth through eighth grade, I dismiss them with a quick “Those were the worst years of my life,” and then move on to the next topic.

And yet, there are certain aspects of those three years that give me that warm fuzzy feeling. Ask me about my favorite Halloween nights and you will learn that two of them took place when I was a tween (which wasn’t what we called ourselves back in the day, but I digress). Play I’d Do Anything by Simple Plan for me and I will go on and on about the concert I almost attended just to hear that song live, then tell you about the boy that sixth-grade-Val used to associate the song with. Mention the band Something Corporate to me, and I’ll tell you all about the friend who overheard me proclaiming my love for Andrew McMahon in eighth grade and then gave me his copy of Leaving through the Window.

The point is, as horrible as I made those years out to be, I still have been able to look back on a lot of it with a smile. When someone brings up an interest or hobby I had when I was younger, even if it’s something I have since grown out of, I’m reminded mostly of the good feelings those elements gave me. Even when something led to a not-so-fond memory, the nostalgia itself can be just enough.

It all reminds me of something my Advertising professor told us last spring: we tend to react well to the things that remind us of our past. It’s the very reason why my old mentor brought us Gushers and gummy worms as snacks during my freshman year of college, and the same reason why twenty-something-year-old girls still occasionally listen to the Spice Girls. Regardless of what was going on in our lives ten or fifteen years ago, we generally conclude that it was a much simpler time than the one we are currently in.

Therefore, everything looks better in black and white (and sometimes sepia) because those colors give everything a vintage feel. We like to romanticize the past, even if it had its darker moments. — Tweet this!

However, sometimes I don’t think we cherish the present enough. Regardless of how artistic a black-and-white photograph may look, just think of the beautiful splash of colors in any given “present” picture, and remember that while nostalgia is great, too much focus on the past will leave you stuck there.