Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Other Girls

"I'm not like other girls."
"I don't get along with girls very well. I prefer hanging out with guys; they're less dramatic."

These are probably statements you've heard before, or maybe you've even said them yourself. On the surface they're pretty harmless, right?
Look deeper. When we say we "aren't like other girls" and wear it as some sort of badge of honor, what exactly are we saying about those "other girls?" Demonizing other women doesn't make you any cooler, or smarter, or more fun to be around. It's exactly why phrases like these bother me so much. We can't group all women together into some big hub that all thinks and acts the same way, yet society does just that. We're constantly hearing about how men just can't understand women, as if we all have the same inscrutable thoughts. But what if we decided to scrap that notion altogether, and start viewing women as human beings, each with our own individual thoughts and beliefs?

Growing up, girls are bombarded with the notion of what they should be. Feminine, but still independent. But not too independent- you don't want to be intimidating. It's these contradictions that make it so hard growing up as a girl. You're constantly trying to switch between all of these different extremes, never knowing if you're reaching an acceptable balance.
We're told that if you're one thing, you can't be another, yet you still somehow have to be everything. To be the glowing example of an independent woman, you have to shed your girlishness. I consider myself to be incredibly independent- yet I still love partaking in traditionally feminine activities, and I'm sick of feeling like I have to apologize for that. Femininity and independence should not be mutually exclusive, and they don't have to be.
I don't want to be just one thing. I am a number of things all rolled into one: a sister, a friend, a writer, a sorority woman, a teacher, a reader, a pop culture junkie. And we need to stop assuming that all women are the same, singular type of person. It is not only possible to be a hodgepodge of traits, it is real. It is when we try to put people into boxes of "types" that we ruin the capacity to be well-rounded individuals.

Teaching girls that it's good to not be like "other girls" is harmful: you are teaching them that there is something inherently wrong with who they are. Calling a successful woman a bitch, or a girl you don't like a slut, perpetuates the idea that women can be backed into corners by unjust labels. It's often more comfortable to fit people into these labels than to get to know them and see their value. Women can be friends with whomever they want, participate in any activities they want, have sex with whomever they want, and they still deserve the same basic respect as anyone else. Young girls should be taught that they can be anything they want without fear that someone will attack them for their personal choices.

So I challenge you to drop the phrase "other girls" from your vocabulary. We are all people, and no one fits strictly into the boxes society has made for us. In literature we have stock characters like the dumb jock or the bitchy cheerleader, but the mistake comes when we apply these notions to real human beings. Real people, when viewed with understanding, fall a little bit of everywhere in between.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't Call it a Resolution

"And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, 'This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!'
And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, 'No. This is what’s important.'"

It's been a whirlwind year, and if it's taught me anything, it's about priorities. You are what you repeatedly do, so it's important that whatever that is be the thing you deem most important.
They say that saying no becomes easier when you have a bigger, more important "yes" burning inside you. While I agree that it's true, it's not always easy. Oftentimes, it's a hell of a lot easier to say yes to a party, another episode of whatever you're binge-watching on Netflix, or even just a nap than it is to say yes to something that will put you on course to meet your goals. I for one am terrible at saying no, especially to friends or work. That's a big part of why this blog has been neglected as of late, or why my other writing is a slow and steady process. As I often rationalize to myself, life just gets in the way. 
I don't believe in New Years resolutions, because I think if you want to change your life you should do it- no waiting around for January 1st to get your life into shape. So I'm using my newfound free time over the holiday break to reassess my priorities. As much as I love laying in bed watching the umpteenth episode of SVU on a Sunday morning or going out to a country bar on Friday night, I also need to make time for myself and the things that not only make me happy in the moment, but make me happy in the long run of my life. I don't want to look back and just say I had a good time. I want to achieve something lasting that I can be proud of. And if that means carving out an hour a day to stick to my goals- writing something, anything- then that is what I'll do. Because that's where my priorities are at at this point in life. With graduation looming just a year away and real life just around the corner, I intend to use my time while I have it.
So challenge yourself, whether it's right this minute or in the new year, to put your goals first. Whether it's squeezing in a workout every day or taking up photography, do something now that your future self might thank you for. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Pressure to be Perfect

For my first post in a while, something somewhat serious: 
I'm finally able to put into words what caused me to develop panic disorder when I went to college, and it will probably sound silly to some of you. 

I was always, from like kindergarten, labeled as one of the "smart kids." I was in enrichment programs, honors classes/societies/rolls, and just generally recognized for academic achievement. I vividly remember going into the bathroom at school and crying when I got my first B. 

I was decent at a few other things like choir, but school was my identity.

As I'm sure many other kids in my situation realized (as I realize, there are many other kids who put crazy amounts of pressure on themselves to perform academically, my best friends being some of these people) going from being a special smart freakin snowflake in high school to a small fish in the big pond of college and real life can be super hard.

Basically, when I got to college where classes were harder and life in general was harder, I felt like I completely lost my identity. Which basically resulted in daily panic attacks and a general sense of low self-esteem and self-consciousness.

I went from being supremely confident and funny to struggling to make all new friends while keeping up with the impossible academic standards I'd set for myself, as well as not really knowing what I wanted to do "when I grew up." One of my biggest regrets is missing out on a lot of normal college experiences because my anxiety was so high.

I think the transition from high school to college can be an incredibly disillusioning experience for a lot of people, and it isn't until now, after just finishing my junior year of college, that I can somewhat put it into words.
Allow me to lighten the mood with some Community 

I'm not all better, and I'll probably have anxiety issues for a long time, but figuring out what I want to do as a career helped a lot. So did finding out that I wasn't alone and that other people had experienced the same kind of stressful identity crisis post-high school after being perfectionist students. Hopefully when I'm an English teacher I can help my students create healthier expectations for themselves and avoid the same honors student anxiety freakout that I experienced.

Being so type A about school did help me in a lot of ways. I'm very driven and hard-working, and doing well in high school is the only way I could afford to be going to a university now. Still, I hope when I have kids I can teach them not to put so much pressure on themselves when it comes to academics. 

I mostly wrote this for myself, because I like to write and putting things into words is kind of therapeutic for me. Also, though, I think that there's an attitude among most people that if you're "smart" or "good at school" that school is easy for you and should be a fairly stress free experience. If any of my followers are in high school now and are someone like me who stresses themselves out to the point of a physical panic attack over doing perfectly on an assignment, basically I'd like them to know that they aren't alone, because I would've liked to know that before my anxiety issues went as far as they did. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pics Or It Didn't Happen: Keeping It Classy In The Age Of Social Media

As a complete social media junkie, I understand the temptation to update everyone you've ever met in regular intervals of what you're doing. Cute new manicure? Instagram that shit. Going to a new bar? Better check in on facebook. Wearing a particularly cute outfit? You should probably post an Outfit of the Day post on your tumblr so your internet friends and acquaintances will think you're someone with style (even if this cute outfit is the first time you've been out of sweatpants in days).
I love OOTD posts as much as anyone
That being said, there are some people I'm sure I would like a lot better if I never saw them tweet again. People who hashtag #prettygirlproblems, I'm talking to you. Who are you trying to convince? Without sounding too much like my high school cheerleading coach when she handed out of "code of conduct" contracts to sign, your internet presence probably shouldn't make you look like a self-involved, drunken barbie with questionable morals an ego the size of One Direction's fan base.
Yep, I'm sure that's why.
Keeping it classy in this day and age is difficult when it takes all of two seconds to add a filter to a picture of you doing a keg stand and put it out there for the whole world and your grandma to see. But that's why it's all the more important. There seems to be an attitude amongst my generation that if you don't tweet about something it somehow didn't really happen. But I guarantee you, it did! My best friends and I had a girls night a few weekends ago while everyone was home from school. We didn't take any pictures. Guess what? It was still SO MUCH FUN. And no one had to know about it.
We did take pictures on NYE, but look! Everyone is fully clothed and no one looks like a hot mess (yet)
This is especially important when it comes to your more reckless decisions, like drunken injuries and especially rough nights out. Maybe it's just me, but if I'm struggling home at 5 AM with a sprained ankle because I fell off the table I was dancing on, I don't consider that my finest moment. Or one that I want my Facebook friends reading about.
So next time you feel the urge to whip out your phone and tweet about your walk of shame, your fifth selfie of the day, or your #princessproblems (Real tweet: "Ugh I hate painting my own nails! #princessproblems), RESIST. Try instead to keep your updates to your friends in the realm of the funny, relevant, and intelligent. If you're looking for inspiration, I'm hardcore in love with Mindy Kaling. In 10 years, you'll be really glad you did. (Trust me. I recently found my Xanga from 7th grade. It's not pretty).
This girl knows how to tweet.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I Get My News From Huffington Post (& Other Signs I Am Not A Real Adult)

As a big city collegiette, it's easy sometimes to be so caught up in my busy schedule of classes, work, and sorority business that I forget I'm only twenty years old (one month til 21!). I've always been "mature for my age" (whatever that means), and often like to think of myself as an adult. Thankfully, I'm not, because I much prefer this college version of pseudo-adulthood to the full-blown, real, bill-paying kind. So without further ado, the top five parts of my life that bring me down to earth and remind me that I'm not quite my mother yet.

1. My go-to source for news is The Huffington Post.
Because who doesn't love a website where you can get both analysis of the economy and a story about Kim Kardashian's maternity wardrobe? And who needs things like original stories when they can provide the links to the original stories? And who cares about the occasional typo? I just want to get enough world knowledge to feel like I'm up to date. I also want to read about the Haylor break-up. Sue me.

2. My bank account. Period.
Around this time of year after paying for Christmas presents, textbooks, and sorority dues, I start to get good morning texts every morning from my good friend Chase. By good morning texts, I mean low balance alerts. Nothing makes you wallow in self-loathing more than that text after every purchase letting you know that you really shouldn't have bought that salad from Panera.

3. My idea of a home-cooked meal usually involves something out of the freezer.
I love fast food. I love restaurant food. I love pretty much any food that someone else prepared for me. If it weren't for the current state of my finances, I would probably eat out every day, no shame. My fantasy life involves marrying rich so I can have an in-home chef. Clearly, I'm lazy when it comes to cooking. Sometimes I'll try to "be good" and make my boyfriend and I dinner. As adventurous as I've gotten with that is pasta with vodka sauce, and I was beyond proud. Nevermind the fact that he took over halfway through so I wouldn't burn the house down.

4. I don't know how to change a tire. Or do my taxes. 
Every year when it comes time for tax season, I call up my dad. In fact, writing this reminded me to add that to my to-do list. He works at a bank and knows all the good grown-up money things and does his own taxes every year. And mine. He has also been begging me for years to let him teach me how to change a tire, and I have thus far avoided it. That's what AAA is for, right? 

5. My laptop case is neon orange. I bought it at Victoria's Secret PINK.
This past semester, I started my observation hours at a high school. I already look like I'm about 14 years old, so I went out to New York & Company and bought some "teacher clothes" in an attempt to look a little more authoritative. However, nothing nullifies your authority like carrying a floral backpack and encasing your electronics in girly colored cases. I love my pink Vera Bradley Kindle case, but it doesn't really scream "serious young professional".