To The Girl: An Open Letter

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In this moment of my life, past the days of college and in the days of adult life, I am aware now more than ever of the girl I was. The struggles I endured. The restraints I broke. The expectations I surpassed. Everything that developed me into the woman I am today—both good and bad.

Day in and out, I see girls who were once me facing insurmountable difficulties. My heart aches for them to escape these dark, lonely, all-consuming cells. To feel even a tinge of happiness, without wearing an artificial smile on their emotionally-battered faces. I want to be you for the sake of freeing you. But I know I can’t.

So, this is an open letter to you, my sweet, deserving friends. To the girls I love who are struggling, and to the girls I haven’t met and wish I could. This one is to the girl.

To the girl who struggles with her worth: I know it is so damn hard to be there. When your efforts aren’t recognized, when your purpose feels nonexistent, and when all you do is try for what seems like nothing, understand that you are here for a reason. It’s a reason that no one else could ever share, no matter how hard they try. Why? Because it’s yours. Hold on for now. Trust me, your worth will show itself in time. And when it does, you’ll be thankful for these dark moments.

To the girl who isn’t comfortable in her skin: understand that everyone else feels that way. Try as it may, society will never define what perfect is. A standard of beauty one day, is quickly trashed and packaged as ugly the next. What is fat to someone, is skinny to another. Every curly-haired girl wishes at some point that she was more like her straight-haired friend, not knowing that inside, her friend is wishing her hair would hold a wave for more than 5 seconds. This was something I struggled with deeply, and still do. My anorexia dragon will creep its scaly head in the most innocent of circumstances, hissing words of hate and judgment. But I fight it, knowing that expectations aren’t worth losing my confidence, beauty, period (literally), and goals. And it’s not worth it to you, either.

To the girl drowning in stress and anxiety: been there, still there, will always be there. What you are feeling right now isn’t an overreaction, no matter the source. It is OK to look at piles of homework and stacked deadlines with dread. It is normal to become nervous and anxious about your uncertain future, an upcoming exam, job applications, scholarships, and sport tryouts. But the difference lies in how you handle these feelings when they arise. You can choose to dwell on them and squash any chances of facing the hurdles giving you anxiety, or, you can leap over those hurdles, knowing that greater rewards lie beyond them. I took this perspective, and because of it, I am where I am today. Do I still face uncertainty? Of course. But I look past it, knowing it is only a lingering feeling along the path of success.

To the girl who feels lonely: the truth is, you aren’t. There is always at least one person out there who cares for you and doesn’t want you to feel this way. I’ve often struggled with this, thinking that my loneliness in one situation translated to loneliness in every situation. That just because I wasn’t invited to one event, or looped into one conversation, those people wanted nothing to do with me. To the girls who feel this way, I urge you to step and ask yourself: is what I’m feeling true loneliness, or just temporary hurt? Was this exclusion intentional, or just an accident of the moment? I think you’ll quickly discover that these fleeting moments are just that - fleeting. They will pass, and you will see that you aren’t lonely. In fact, you’re pretty damn loved.

To the girl who wants to end it all: you really, really, really don’t. Your life is precious beyond measure. It is unique, significant, beautiful, and worth fighting for. I know it seems like every door is shut, and every eye is blind to your suffering, but all it takes to change that is one, small admission: I can’t do this alone. Find someone you can talk to (and no, I don’t necessarily mean a therapist or an adult). Seek out a friend or family member who you know will listen. You can even reach out to me, no matter who you are. And if that fails to help, know there are professionals who can lead you along the path to healing—whatever it takes. There is more courage in living through our struggles, than dying because of them.

To the girl who has, is, or will, feel these ways, I know you’ll make it through. Because I’ve been that girl, too.

5 Ways That Student Involvement Changed My Life

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Tomorrow. On May 17th, 2018 at 5 p.m., I will swipe out for the last time as an employee of the UCF Office of Student Involvement. And honestly?

I will miss this place more than anything. 

Because of OSI, I found a home among the thousands of students at UCF. I found a place where I could embrace my individuality and grow my creativity. I found a safe haven from the stresses of academic life.

But more than anything, I found a family. 

People who never stopped believing in me and my UCF-BIG dreams. People who encouraged me to test myself when I doubted my ability to succeed. People who truly loved me.

I leave OSI forever impacted by my experience serving there. And for the Knights who will fill the positions I held, I leave with them a legacy to grow even more in the new year.

To any student who isn't involved, I challenge you to change that this year. UCF offers endless ways to get involved for every type of student. You just have to make the effort to find those opportunities, just like I did after hearing three words at freshman orientation: 

Involvement changes everything. 

Simple, but so, so accurateAs a student who came to campus feeling lost and alone, I needed these words to kick-start my UCF journeyPaying attention to them literally changed my life, including:

  1. It helped me find my dream career: Which is essentially why any lost freshman gets involved. Very few of us come to college with a clear (or accurate) idea of what we want to do four years later. Because of OSI, and more specifically the OSI Street Team, I got my first taste at marketing and social media. I was hooked. Without that small volunteer position, I would probably still be struggling to like the medical field. And hating my life. And this blog probably wouldn't exist *yikes*
  2. I deepened my relationship and made new, everlasting ones: I met my boyfriend of three years, TJ, the second day of college in Psychology class. And later, I was blessed to work alongside him in OSI Creative Services in my first of three roles as a Street Teamer. We worked at events, ate lunch, and played office pranks on each other each week. But aside from TJ, working at OSI gave me a network of authentic, loving people who all loved UCF and being involved as much as I did. I am forever grateful for the support they've shown me these past three years.
  3.  I got my first taste of networking (and why it matters): Which happened the day of Spirit Splash 2016, when I met Jenny DeWitt, who was then the Social Media Manager for UCF. After talking for a while, she invited me to attend the monthly UCF Social Media Manager's meetings. I met amazing and talented creators like me in that group, who led me to connecting with creatives at Universal Orlando, FPRA, Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, Think Creative, and more. This is networking. Meeting people, who know people, and meeting those people, and building a community who loves and supports you no matter what.
  4. I was able to help my fellow Knights find a home at UCF: This comes from being part of the everyday culture of OSI. You constantly see events being planned and executed, people making them happen, and resources being created and bettered. Having this knowledge allowed me to connect other Knights to campus resources and define their own journeys. In fact, I made this very idea the mission of OSI's social media: helping Knights create their own unique involvement journeys.
  5. I found a respite from college stress and academia: Because when you're throwing ducks into a pit of students, everything else seems to melt away. The moment I stepped into OSI, I felt the stress of college and life slide off my shoulders. In OSI, I found peace. In OSI, I found escape. In OSI, I found fun. A life without involvement gives students no way to escape the stresses of academic life. College seems less valuable when it is only classes and homework. Involvement makes the money you spend seem valuable; almost like buying tickets for a concert. It is all worth it for the memories and exhilarating high that involvement brings. This is what OSI did for me, and because of having an escape, I enjoyed my classes more in the long-run.  

To end, I'll say this: My involvement story is one of thousands. It is insignificant alone. But combined, every student whose life has changed because of their involvement speaks volumes about why it matters. It changes everything.

So this summer, or even this fall, I challenge every Knight to get involved. Join a club. Attend a campus event. Schedule a KnightQuest consultation. Just do something. 

You won't regret it: trust me.

I hope you enjoyed my latest blog post!

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~Beyond Words~