School is out and I'm heading into the last summer of my teenage years. It feels strange to say that I'm a junior in college, but here we are! Sophomore year challenged me in almost every area of my life, but I leave it feeling capable and confident. As a companion to my last end-of-the-year blog post, here are some lessons I learned over the past two semesters.
1) Make time for things that make you happy!
On Valentine's Day, my boyfriend Joey and I headed over to the Oberlin College Lanes. Neither of us had spent much time there, but we thought it would make for a fun date. We bowled mediocre games and laughed a lot. Upon going to the counter to pay, we found out that bowling was FREE on Tuesdays! From then on, bowling was our Tuesday afternoon activity. No matter what was going on, we went to bowl away our stress! Thanks to Juan, a friend who works at the Lanes, I developed some awesome skills this semester. Who knew that I love bowling? And that (I think) I'm actually pretty good at it?! I might even join the team next year!
This semester, I also started volunteering with Big Brothers and Sisters of Lorain County as a Lunch Buddy. Once a week, I walked over to Prospect Elementary to hang out with a fourth-grade girl during her lunchtime. We played games, usually making up our own silly rules - our favorite was Battleship, in which we were allowed to move the ships as much as we wanted! I've loved volunteering; my Little is so kind and hilarious, and she inspires me to look at things from new perspectives. As her "Big Sister," I'm there to be a friend as well as a mentor. I'll be in the program for the rest of my time at Oberlin, and I can't wait to see her when I get back in the fall! Big Brothers and Sisters needs more mentors in Oberlin - if you're interested, check out their website!
I had so much homework this year that it would've been easy to forgo these joyful activities. But their presence in my life has been invaluable - each week, I looked forward to bowling and hanging out with my Little!
2) You can research anything you want.
Being a Comparative American Studies major, I get to study issues relevant to my everyday life, like race, sexuality, and disability. As I've said before, that personal aspect is one reason I love my major. CAST is absolutely my academic home at Oberlin, and I'm going to be a student major representative for the department next year!
I've always liked school, but there's been an element of needing to do it for an external reason - pleasing my parents, impressing teachers, getting into college... Now I'm getting to learn for the sake of learning and developing knowledge that I care about! This year, I figured out that I can do academic research about youth with queer parents - how freakin' cool is that?! The idea developed as a proposal for my CAST 200 course, became my Winter Term project, and will hopefully transform into my senior honors thesis. I never imagined that I would get to examine such a foundational part of my identity in academia!
3) Don't be afraid to lean on others for support.
You can't do it all alone, and you don't have to. Look to others for help. If you need an extension for an assignment, ask! If you're not getting what you need, talk to a dean! If you're struggling in a class, go to office hours! Not every resource will work every time, but there are people who want to help you. I learned that firsthand this year as I navigated a housing change and several difficult courses. I succeeded in those endeavors by being persistent and putting myself out there. People couldn't help me if they didn't know I needed help.
That goes for mental health too. When I had a hard time this year, I reached out to friends and family. They checked in with me on a regular basis and made sure that I was taking care of myself despite stressful situations. Without my support network, it would be more difficult to thrive at Oberlin. And, as cheesy as it sounds, I found one of my biggest cheerleaders in an unexpected person: myself.
4) You can be your own best friend.
This was a year of growth: sometimes painful - feeling scared and lonely - and sometimes liberating - making a little home for myself in a room with a gorgeous sunset view. At the beginning of the year, I went through a social rough patch that left me with insecurity about making new friends. Spending a lot of time by myself, I began to feel like I wasn't doing college "right." I didn't have a huge group of friends or go to parties. Slowly, though, I understood that that was okay. Maybe I don't really love going to parties. When I stopped feeling guilty about not having the "typical" college experience, I felt less lonely and began to learn more about myself.
Having my own space changed everything too. In the middle of second semester, I moved to a single in Noah and began to live alone for the first time. I was still surrounded by people I recognized, and I definitely didn't have my own bathroom, but that space was the first in my life that was wholly mine. I was the only person who had a key to the room, so I got to decide when others could come in. I got to be as messy as I wanted to be, or lounge pants-less while watching The Great British Bake-Off, or dance wildly when the perfect song came up on shuffle.
I leave this year holding on the sacredness of that space (with excitement for my single in J-House next year too!). Oberlin feels like my place when I know that I belong there, no matter who I hang out with or what I do on a Saturday night. Towards the end of the year, I met more and more people that I enjoyed spending time with - I'm feeling optimistic for next year!
When I came home for spring break, my mom said she noticed a change in me: I seemed like more of an adult! I agree, I've changed. I'm worrying less about impressing other people. I can be kind without being too "nice," without sacrificing my personality and spunk, without pushing my opinions away when they might be unpopular. I think I owe that transformation to the time I spent getting to know myself while living in Noah 317.