At the end of my first year of college, I wrote a list of all of the things that I learned. It is buried in this blog, but I refuse to link it because it is…. not who I am now.
In it, I talk about how much I loved my first year of college, how I learned that dating doesn’t define my worth, and how grades didn’t define me.
These are lessons that I still feel like I’m learning every day.
I don’t know if I would say I loved being in college. There were so many aspects of it that simply hurt, especially the last two years. But after a three year break, I decided to reflect on my time at the University of North Carolina, as a whole.
I have learned the things that I am not.
I am not a businessperson. I am not the smartest person in the room, not even close. I am not a scientist or an author or an economist or a mathematician or a designer or a PR guru and sometimes I’m not even sure I’m a reporter. I am not a sorority girl. I am not passive or willing to let my life be overtaken by others, but at the same time I am not loud and boisterous and sometimes I just like to have peace. I am not outdoorsy and I am not a city mouse, I am not a fitness fanatic or a fashionista or a philosopher. I am not wife material, I am no one’s girlfriend, I am not a woman that finds being alone comfortable.
I am not someone that takes control of my life but at the same time I am not someone who likes others to control it. I need control and I don’t have control and I don’t own what control I do have.
I don’t think I’m someone that is ready to have a “brand.” I am not ready to say that I am entirely interested in one thing. I am not a sports person or a fashion person or a hard news person. I am not ready to sacrifice writing about tricky subjects to write about culture but I am not ready to give up writing creatively just to be a picture perfect reporter for a daily newsroom.
Every time I question who I am and who I want to be, I turn to music as if the flow of J. Cole or the soulful notes of Maggie Rogers will reveal something to me, something I didn’t know the first times I listened to their songs. I hope that the beats will align with my heartbeats or the backup vocals will match my breaths and I can find a way to discover myself in other people’s art.
A huge influence on me the last two years has been SZA’s album Ctrl. In moments I feel like the world around me makes no sense, something about her voice and her lyrics comfort me (shoutout to my boss/friend at Our State for showing me this incredible album).
At the end of the album, SZA plays a phone call she had with her mother, where her mom says:
And if it’s an illusion, I don’t want to wake up, I’m gonna hang on to it. Because the alternative is an abyss, is just a hole, a darkness, a nothingness.
I think something I’ve learned is that I need to find the balance between what I can and can’t control. I can’t control other people, and every single thing that happens on this campus. But I can control what I do. I can decide to quit things I don’t like. I can decide to put more time into school, and becoming a professional. I can put more energy into finding people that I think I belong with, and find people that are actively trying to make the world a better place. People that are trying to create, or fight, or educate. That I would cultivate more relationships with people that didn’t look like me, or weren’t raised like me.
I would put more effort into art, and not just art that I have to turn in for a grade. I would force myself to write and write and write even on days where there are deadlines and stories from other people are swirling in my mind. I would paint, even though I’m terrible at it. I would tell myself that it’s okay that I can’t play guitar well, because I am trying. I would sing loud and sing often.
I am thankful for the people that have stayed put in my life as I’ve gone through these changes, and learned more about myself. I’m thankful for my friends that visited me while I was in the hospital, and I’m thankful for my friends that met me once I left. I am thankful for my family that reminds me they love me, even when we don’t see eye to eye.
I may not have loved every second of my time here, but I am glad that it happened. I’m glad that I left my hometown and I am glad I moved to another small town, and I am excited to move and find a new place to get lost (when that time comes lol, I need to get myself together first).
There are so many things that I feel like I messed up, but there are so many things that taught me what I have the potential to become.