Another One Down

So pumped to say that today I’m going home for the winter break and am DONE with this fall semester!

Let me tell you, what a whirlwind it has been. One I wasn’t expecting. But now as I look back at how quickly it has flown by, I can say I’m grateful that it happened…but far more grateful it’s over.

Yes, I’m a senior graduating in three years. Yes, I took 18 credits’ worth of classes. Yes, I wanted to get involved in new ways and beef up my resume with a final hoo-rah.

You’d think all of these things would have hinted at me that maybe I was going to be stressed. I’ve had heavier course loads in past years, and handling the Canadian grading system last year felt like preparation enough.

Boy, was I wrong. Which I think a lot of factors came into play in making this semester one of the most challenging I’ve ever faced.

You don’t think there’ll be much of difference or added pressure just saying you’re a senior, but there certainly is. Not only are you making sure all ducks are in a row to graduate on time, but that looming question mark of what happens after the diploma is always there. Waiting. Luckily I’ve figured out the last part, but there still feels like hurdles to jump over to even see an end.

My living situation hasn’t been…ideal, and a solid half of the semester I was literally in a constant state of tension and anxiety that I’ve never felt before, at least to that degree. It’s still there, too, but somewhat better. Couple that with newly surfacing problems with my digestion and random killer headaches, and my health has been fighting back, big time.

My ambitions to make an impact on my campus through various roles have taken the backseat to simply going to class and taking care of myself. Sure, I would’ve loved to be more active in building up a club and spreading awareness about causes I admire, but at the end of the day, if I’m already running on a half tank, there won’t be much left for anything else.

When there are so many different influences trying to pin you down, squirming and helpless, it’s easy to just throw in the towel and let it all ovetake you. Even if you aren’t trying to, all the stress can sneak up on you and all at once smack you in the face.

I started the year already uneasy about where I stood and what to expect of my last months, so I wasn’t ready to carry an even heavier burden. So many days were hard to just get out of bed. I still have notifications on certain apps I haven’t touched in weeks because it feels like too much. I already discussed my complete breakdown over all the assignments and projects I had to complete within a three-week span.

So now I’m feeling a weird sense of relief and emptiness. I used so much will power and energy to get through, especially when my “getting through” is still doing my best in everything I do. I guess now I can just focus on recharging, writing the thesis project I’ve been putting off, and allowing myself to just breathe.

Hey, we survived! We made it through! Look at us go! If you’re in a difficult phase of life right now, hold on. Keep moving forward. It will seem impossible until you look back and see that you indeed made it.

And I still can’t believe my next semester will be my last as an undergrad. That has yet to sink in, probably because I feel like an 8th grader compared to other college seniors here. I’m almost completely done with this stage of life, a terrifying and exciting thought. Who knows what each day might bring?

I also hope over this month and beyond to devote some time to this site as well. I’ve been bouncing around the idea (as I have for awhile now) to take this blog into its own domain, perhaps venture into making more and different content. Let me know what you think in a comment or message. Either way, expect some more words from yours truly.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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Day 4: Age #GIG2017

 

age-is-just-a-number-false-age-is-a-word-4
I mean….that’s true. (Have to throw in an Office meme wherever you can.)

Perhaps this is an odd subject for a month of expressing gratitude. I completely understand that. But bear with me. At least the idea made sense in my head…

I generally find the concept of age very interesting, mostly because we tend to throw such a fit over it. The first assumption is the obsession so many have to prevent aging, to deny the years they’ve spent in this world like it’s a scab to try and cover up. Or, more appropriately, a wrinkle.

Or there’s young people longing to grow up as fast as possible. I’m still appalled by the stark difference between middle schoolers when I was one myself, to what that demographic is now, essentially a social media savvy group that knows how to apply makeup perfectly, wear clothes meant for those twice their age, posing on Instagram like full-time models.

We have a pressure to want to move forward to what comes next, when we can vote, when we can legally drink, until we get to the point where we want it all to stop. We regret wanting to rush through life until we’re left only with our nostalgia and efforts to revert back to the “glory days.”

I feel very awkward about this concept, mostly because I’ve never felt I resonated with the age attached to my existence. I’ve always had difficulties relating to peers in their priorities and interests. Even now, when I take the time to realize I’m only twenty years old, I’m outright appalled. Only my slow (very slow) transition to looking less awkward (as a disguise for always being awkward) would prove I’ve changed much. Most people who meet me even comment on the fact they wouldn’t guess I’m only twenty.

Although we don’t consider it, there are many different ages we possess: our physiological and emotional ages can be very separate from one another. Just because you’re young doesn’t mean you aren’t mentally mature, and vice versa.

We will all face many struggles in our lives, but when those actually transpire and how we react to those experiences dictate how we grow and “age.” So maybe you’ve had a rough time but you hold grudges, you assume victimhood, and you keep falling into the same mistakes time and time again. You didn’t necessarily learn the lesson you needed to from that. Maybe it will take more time for you to reach a conclusion and move forward.

I do find a sense of comfort in calling myself an “old soul,” but I also see my mental age originating in my tumultuous personal journey I continue to walk every day. The emotional toil I’ve taken has aged me. Some might see that as a travesty that I never really got to experience the sense of feeling young and wild, but here is where my gratitude comes in.

I am grateful for every aspect measuring my existence. I’m grateful for the times that has passed in my short life and the promise that brings to what might come tomorrow and every day I’m granted. I’m also grateful for maturing emotionally, that I can view the world from a perspective that tends to see beyond the momentary circumstances, to find gratitude in unlikely places, to seek and understand like-minded souls that resonate with and support me.

My gratitude doesn’t overlook the challenges. The times I’ve felt isolated in a crowd of people who I should in all rights be able to connect with and enjoy exceed any digits. Or the existential crisis we all face trying to figure where the heck we’re supposed to be, what direction to go, a traveler whose map just blew away in a harsh breeze.

But I’m grateful for every bit of existence I can grasp. Rather than fearing the physical effects of aging, I want to celebrate every year that may pass, every moment that comes my way. Much easier said than done, but time has a way of rushing past the second we start thinking we’re stuck, that things are taking forever, that we’ll never move on from one stage and go onto the next. I’ve done that enough already.

My gratitude now will hopefully become a motivation to realize the simplicity of this exact moment, never being any younger, currently being the oldest you’ve ever been. What a strange illusion time is. Anxious tendencies have me worrying about fictional scenarios years in advance, but this age, this moment, is beautiful. I am grateful for the past and all it has taught me. I am grateful for the promise of the future and all the lessons it will continue teaching me.

But today, right now, I’m grateful for this moment. Typing on my computer. Listening to Regina Spektor. Wearing orange pants. A student among others sitting in the library with headphones in their ears. Preparing for a class in ten minutes. And just doing my best. Wanting to make a positive impact.

How do you feel about age? What role, if any, does it play in your mindset?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

Smart Plans?

At first glance, it’s easy for others to judge us. How we interpret their judgment and reactions to our lives is another story.

A couple of weeks ago, I was walking between classes and work when I ran into one of my professors. I don’t have a class with him this semester, so I haven’t actually seen or talked to him in a year. We spent a few minutes chatting about my previous few months in Canada and how that was and what other people we know are up to.

Then, the classic question students hear far too often comes up. Need I say it without you probably guessing what it is?… “What are your plans after graduation?” 

As background information, I’m technically graduating a year earlier than originally planned. By age, I should be at a junior status, but I’ll be getting a diploma in May, or at least whenever they mail it to me. That fact alone is not widely known by peers and faculty, so that generally ends up with others giving me funny, confused looks. Don’t even get me started on trying to explain it when I’m in any interview setting.

But besides that obvious deterrence from the norm, I continue to confuse people by my answer to the tired old question we’re all curious to know. Obviously in a quick conversation, you’re not about to lay out your life plans and goals so everything sounds cohesive and well-thought-out. Instead, you have to somehow fit the next step on your journey into a short snippet and hope for the best.

Generally that isn’t too hard for a lot of students. The typical answers involve graduate school or having a job lined up after they graduate. I’m not one of those people though. My answer to the question sounds something like me saying I plan to take a year to volunteer abroad somewhere.

I think most of the reaction just comes from hearing a plan that isn’t the previous two I mentioned. You don’t hear a different answer every day. Not only that, but when I can only keep it vague as I figure out plans for myself, understandably people might have more questions than positive comments.

I overthink everything. These situations don’t help with that. That quick exchange with my professor was just another instance of me questioning every single word and nonverbal signal in what was probably not even five minutes. I automatically assume that what I’m doing isn’t right, that it isn’t smart, and that I’m letting people down by not living up to my fullest potential.

You don’t have to be in my shoes to empathize with this feeling. We can lives our lives however we choose, but if your decisions don’t follow society’s step-by-step guideline, you feel like an outcast, like you’re doing it all wrong. I can’t pinpoint, but I’d have to imagine this discrepancy has probably squandered plenty of people’s true passions and ambitions, just knowing that it might deviate from others’ expectations.

At the end of the day, you aren’t living your life for anybody else besides yourself. It’s not your job to please others. Don’t let outside opinions stifle your dreams, as cliche as that sounds. It’s not easy to live differently from others. Stand firm in your beliefs and gut feelings. You can certainly take others’ advice into consideration, but their role is mainly to provide support for the journey you wish to build.

If you’re spiritual like me, this deviation might be something you classify as a calling, a higher being directing your path down an unknown trail, but you have faith knowing God (or whoever) won’t steer you wrong. Even if you feel out-of-control, there’s always somebody who has your back.

Maybe you’re at a place in life where you feel plain lost and directionless. Maybe you had a very elaborate plan for yourself in mind, until an unexpected event flipped that plan on its head. Maybe you’re doubting yourself think everything is going wrong.

No matter what you’re feeling, there’s a reason you are in this exact place at this exact time. You’re meant to be here. You have a purpose, even if that isn’t clear to you right now. It will be, in its own time. Even if you feel unstable, you need to trust in yourself and in life’s grand plans that you’ll be okay. Without fully knowing it, you’re preparing for whatever will come next. And this next place bears no consideration into what is common, what others see you doing, and that’s okay. Believe in yourself. Believe in the loved ones that support you. Believe in God and the universe and life that everything flowing as it should.

Have you ever been in a place where you feel lost, or others question your decisions? How were you to overcome that uncertainty?

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie