Why becoming everything I swore I’d never be during my freshman year of college was the best thing that ever happened to me
What the hell? I’m a girl, not a butterfly.
When I think back on my freshman year of college, a weird, yet surprisingly relatable, childhood memory comes to mind.
When my sister Haley and I were younger, we were beyond obsessed with Barbie dolls. Weren’t most little girls? Maybe, but seriously, we were the real deal. We didn’t just love Barbie dolls: we lived them. The two of us would wake up at five in the morning just to fit more hours of imagination into our day, and were convinced that Barbie was our religion.
To be the coolest kids in elementary school, Haley and I just had to complete our Barbie dream house collection. To own this badass toy set, we had to convince mom to buy us about fifty panels. Each console was a room with endless opportunities for storylines: kitchens, offices, clubhouses, bathrooms and everything in between.
Because we only had a few of the rooms at first, Haley and I resorted to using furniture as our makeshift Barbie play space. We created a game called “Alligator.”
How to play:
Tie each doll’s limbs to the metal bars that held up the living room table. Pretend that the floor is an alligator-infested river. Every few minutes, cut a piece of yarn to suspend a beloved doll in the air, making them closer to falling to their death.
It’s sick and twisted, I know. But we would play the “Alligator” game for hours and spoiler alert: the endings usually involved Ken saving the entire family. I guess my eight-year-old self was not a feminist.
I remember the day we finally attached the last room of the Barbie dream house. As your token Jew, I’m not quite sure what Christmas morning feels like, but I’m sure this was pretty damn close. After all, our huge Barbie house stretched across the entire living room. Haley and I were both so excited as we moved from panel to panel, enacting the lives of “grown ups.”
But after a few days of play, the dream house wasn’t cutting it. It was just too predictable: the kitchen, the office, the bedrooms. It was all expected. And we all know that life isn’t exciting when it lacks danger. After months of waiting for what we thought would be the key to infinite happiness, the two Curran sisters were back under the living room table, playing with yarn and imaginary alligators.
So, what is the shitty metaphor? Like, what does this have to do with anything?
I got what I wanted. I bought myself the goddamn dream house. I set myself up for the freshman year of my dreams. I started college at my dream school with my dream major and my dream relationship in my dream city and in the end all I wanted to do was run home to play Alligator. And that’s exactly what I did. So what is it: Failure? Selling myself short? Running from my “dreams”? I thought that change meant all of these things. Naturally, I was wrong.
The obvious truth? I’m writing this for myself. This isn’t an informative piece about why you should care about feminine lesbians. This isn’t an inspiring story about my Judaism.
This is me waving my flag of surrender in the mirror. This is me making up for the fact that I haven’t written much in these past six months, simply because I wasn’t ready to.
This is kind of like a Comedy Central Roast, where instead of Justin Bieber being the target, it’s me poking fun at my own life and then making up for it by saying “hey, it’s okay, you’re awesome.”
This is everything.
This is the anthem.
This is by me, for me. So, if you’re still reading and decide to come along for the ride, I thank you.
Behold: here’s the list of everything I swore I’d never become during my freshman year of college, that I actually did become during my freshman year of college (that’s a mouthful, folks):
A transfer student.
If you didn’t think that this would come up, then you don’t know me at all. I attended my dream college just to realize it wasn’t for me.
Wait, didn’t I want to go to an art school in a city? And didn’t I spend my entire senior year talking about how I wanted to get out of Florida?
And haven’t you ever walked down the candy aisle in Publix, picked out something totally unique and cool, like those unwrapped mini Starbursts, just to open the bag in your bedroom and find that the first bite wasn’t anything compared to the original, wrapped Starbursts?
I went from being a high school student who was involved in countless extracurricular activities to a college freshman at an institution with little to no campus involvement. I had some incredible experiences in Chicago, but I realized that being eighteen years old and having to carry ten bags of groceries on the public transit was just mad stressful. I loved my classes, but couldn’t create art because I didn’t feel like art anymore. I was suffocating.
I was handed the life I wanted on a silver platter, just to say, “can I have the original, wrapped Starbursts, please?” Yes, even if there are some yellows and oranges.
I moved colleges faster than anticipated, but I wouldn’t trade my time in Chicago for anything. While my first institution didn’t have the college-y social scene that I desired, I was blessed to have had the greatest roommates and even met someone who I know will be a lifelong best friend. While a city scene may not have worked for me at this point in my life, who’s to say I won’t be back one day? I left a piece of myself in the streets of Chicago, because it was there that I became in touch with myself.
I learned to listen to my gut feeling. I learned to grow and accept that plans change.
I stopped fearing having to explain myself to former teachers, old classmates and family friends when they asked why I transferred.
I learned to give myself the gift of comfort.
An in-state college student.
I guess this life experience was split into two parts. I always thought that state institutions were boring and superficial. I honestly thought that everyone was going to be exactly the same and that all there was to do was go to frat parties and football games. I was close-minded and kind of an asshole. I wasn’t fair.
Okay, so I wasn’t wrong when I said that partying and sports teams are a huge part of student life, but I was wrong to judge something that is much more than what meets the eye.
If you make the effort to explore everything that a huge institution like Florida State has to offer, it’ll blow your mind. Getting involved with so many things on campus has not only made me proud to attend FSU, but it has molded me back into the busy, fulfilled and passionate person that I had lost sight of last semester. From tutoring elementary schoolers in creative writing to volunteering in the Tallahassee community to attending countless club meetings, I feel like I have a purpose.
And fine, you got me- I admit it. The nightlife here isn’t too shabby either. Like, why did I ever think that happy hour was lame?
I learned the truth about large universities, which also stands accurate for most things in life: you will get out of it, just as much as you put in.
I started expanding my horizons. It paid off.
I learned to give myself opportunity to pursue my interests. I learned to be open-minded. I learned how to start over.
Someone with new friends.
This happens to everyone when they attend a new school. All college freshman and transfer students have been forced out of their comfort zones and cast into new social settings. Of course, the beginning is always lonely, but everyday is a new opportunity to meet someone new. I was terrified to begin my spring semester at Florida State. While I know many familiar faces from south Florida, college is a busy time for everyone. I transferred in the middle of the year, when most people are already in the swing of things, busy with their sororities, classes and friend groups. I was afraid that I would be the weird new girl and that all of my friends would be too settled in their new lives to include me.
Okay, so I’m pretty damn dramatic, but transitions are scary. I didn’t want to fail again and I was afraid that I would experience similar feelings at yet another college.
This is less of a reflection and more of an ode. It’s a declaration of thanks to those people who welcomed me with open arms as a new Florida State student and who made me feel like I made the right choice. This is a heartfelt appreciation to individuals who were a part of this new chapter. This is to all of the people whose actions mended my melodramatic identity crisis. It sounds cheesy, but you have no idea how much a simple invite, text message, phone call or compliment can affect someone. To those who took me under their wing this semester, I am forever grateful.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by individuals that I genuinely look up to. We’ve all had toxic friendships, and just because someone isn’t completely compatible with you, doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends with them. It’s just that in the past we’ve all had “that one friend who I have so much fun with but am not comfortable trusting” or “that one friend who has a good heart but is extremely pessimistic which can be discouraging to be around” or “that one friend who is great when you two are alone but acts differently when they are with other people” and the list goes on. We’ve all had reservations about people as well as different kinds of friendships with all sorts of individuals. This is what makes us human.
Currently, I am so blessed be surrounded by people where a “but” never crosses my mind. I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it’s refreshing to be around people who inspire you. So much of growing up is eliminating individuals who aren’t a positive influence on your life.
I learned who I should make time for in my days. I chose individuals who respect and value me for who I am.
I surround myself with friends who just “get it.” The people in my life foster positivity and constantly remind me of what is important.
I learned to leave people who cross my mind with a “but”… in the past.
In a committed relationship…with myself!
That’s life. It’s the contrast that makes a shit show sickeningly beautiful. It’s disappointment that makes you realize lessons that you should’ve taken note of long ago. You can’t water a dead flower and expect it to grow the way it did when it was alive. You can’t force a creature to thrive in a place that doesn’t have it’s resources. You can’t untangle coiled wire and expect it not to be bent in all of the places that were once perfectly capable on conducting an electrical spark.
Sometimes, you have to remove things from your life that exhaust you or bring you negative energy. Sometimes, you have to say: I love you, but I love me more. And that doesn’t mean you don’t care, or that you’re a shitty person. It means that you value yourself enough to do what’s best for you. It won’t please everyone and it’s not fair to everyone. But you come first. Space is healthy. Renewal is healthy. Doin’ you is healthy.
I. learned. everything.
Nicholas Sparks’ heartbreak novels are such bullshit, because things can change overnight if you let them. And for ladies currently playing Jojo’s cover of Marvin’s Room, take that record off repeat. No matter how relevant that chorus is might be… preach it: “once you had the best, you can’t do better….”
I learned to change my perspective.
As the badass Elizabeth Taylor once said, probably wasted, “Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick and pull yourself together.”
Do you know what a blessing it is to truly be enough or yourself? To respect yourself enough to walk away from something that doesn’t serve you anymore?
I learned that I am whole.
I stopped feeling shitty and I started feeling sorry. Sorry for anyone who ever has to lose me, because I think I’m rad. (I warned you that this was a love letter to myself, right?) Beyonce put it best: “You can say what you want, I’m the shit.” And more lovingly: “I want everyone to feel like this!!!” After all, if you don’t think you’re worth it, then how can you expect anyone else to? Too many people think that being empowered and self-assured makes you bitchy or selfish, but it doesn’t. Confidence, not arrogance, makes you powerful and in control of your own happiness and ultimately, your future.
I learned that I still have game.
Current status: in a committed relationship with myself. I’m too alive for anything half assed. ***cue Nicki Minaj’s Beez in the Trap*** I am so blessed.
Someone who values spirituality.
Religion is the act of believing, while spirituality is the act of being. I love my religion and the values of Judaism, but recently, I’ve also become extremely interested in practicing things that make me feel a spiritual connection to both the surrounding world and myself. This can mean a variety of things because every individual finds something different to be fulfilling.
Since you obviously asked, here’s what makes me feel connected:
In short, find your own way to connect with the world around you. It’s nice to open your consciousness and not be the biggest thing in the universe.
~ ~ ~ ~
Some bitch on tumblr once said via meme, “You own everything that happens to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” My deductive reasoning tells me that she meant this as a threat because she’s probably an angst-y teenager. I only leave this here as a reminder that your perception is your reality. People can only shake up your world if you let them; don’t give up the throne of your own memoir.
You’re right... about everything. I’m an overdramatic hot mess (notice how I did say hot?) (please laugh, I’m sort of joking!!!) with a hyperactive mind and something to say about everything. But with a heart as full as mine has been lately, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what keeps me on my toes. It’s what keeps me learning. It’s what makes me better. It keeps me ugly-crying from laughing too damn hard.
I’m the girl who can successfully eat a Chipotle burrito bowl in the bathtub without spilling any rice. I’m the girl who takes forever to get ready to go out, not because I spend too long fixing my makeup, but because I’m too self-indulged to refrain from dancing in the mirror. I’m the girl walking into the library who holds up the line because she can’t swipe her student ID card the right way. I’m the girl who meditates and reads Harry Potter before going to bed. I’m the girl who always got lost on the Chicago public transit but was too stubborn to call an Uber. I’m the girl whose ex-lovers will tell you I’m insane, obviously. I’m the girl in the club who accidentally hits people in the face because she got too excited when the DJ played old school rap. I’m the girl who once drove up to the drive-thru window at Dunkin Donuts, forgetting to order first. I’m the girl who kills them with kindness. I’m the girl who wakes up every morning forgetting that she’s not Lena Dunham. I’m the girl who did a total 180 in six months.
I’m the girl who started over. We all will every now and then; this is how we grow.
Now, will the real Shelby Curran please stand up?
It’s nice to meet me, too.