Tips for Adapting to Change

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My last feature was about embracing change- or, as I wrote it, curbing your “pre-change” anxiety by looking for possibilities and opportunities in change. I am now a little less than two weeks into balancing my grad program, professional job, and commuting to the city everyday, and I have realized something important: embracing change is just phase one; phase two is adapting to that change.

Phase two is a little trickier than phase one because you are forced to reflect whilst in a state of minor (or maybe major) shock at your new environment, circumstance, schedule…what-have-you. You are balancing new roles, responsibilities, and time-lines, all while trying to incorporate time and energy for your passions, and live with balance and sanity. I find this process can be made a little simpler with a few key steps.

(1) Write down your priorities:  Choose you top (aprx. 6) priorities are write them down. For me, at the moment, those are, (1) health and exercise; (2) class and homework; (3) socializing; (4) work/career; (5) romantic life; (6) relaxation & re-cooping (In no particular order). Although on my typical day I am out the door by 6:45 a.m. and coming home at 10:00 p.m., I am trying to balancing my priorities within that frame. Its not a perfect system, and I may be slightly slacking in each of the 6 categories, but I am working on it. When you know your priorities, its easier to feel confident in your routine (especially as that routine becomes more crammed and hectic) because you can be assured that your valuable time is spent in a way that is in line with your core values.

(2) Accept being uncomfortable (for a little while at least): When you start something new, it may not feel comfortable immediately, and that’s o.k. You should allow yourself a period of “transition” time to work out the kinks of your new situation, and make changes where you need to (see number (3)). Understand that in any new situation, you will be faced with unforeseen challenges and benefits- that’s inevitable! Your strength will be in your ability to manage those new variables and adapt. It’s totally normal and expected to feel uncomfortable at first.

(3) If something isn’t working, fix it: If you feel like something really isn’t working in your new situation, you don’t need to be dragged down by your circumstance like its an anchor! I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but trust me, you can find a way out of a bad situation. Think about this: if you missed the correct exit on the highway, you wouldn’t just keep driving straight the way you are going, right? You would turn around, count your losses, and find your way back to the correct exit. Believing I have the control and ability to make positive changes is something I personally struggle with, but something I cannot stress enough. For example, for me, these past two weeks I have struggled to incorporate healthy eating into my schedule. Its simply hard to do when you have to pack both lunch and dinner, and when class runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. This routine has resulted in eating way to little during the day, and then power-eating (a pleasant way to say attack the cabinets) in the evening. So I identified the source of my problem, and now I need to fix it. Maybe that means trying to pack bigger lunches and more snacks to thwart late-night hunger; maybe it means planning more on Sundays…I am not sure yet. But, as I said in number (2), change takes a little time to adjust to, and that’s o.k. Take the time to adjust aspects of your lifestyle so that it works for you.  Above all, be kind to yourself: its o.k. if you pass your exit; just make sure you try to get back on the right course eventually.

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Embracing Change

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Here in New England, our seasonal weather patterns have conditioned most of us to be comfortable accepting change. For example, on this final summer weekend before the unofficial start of fall,- a.k.a Memorial Day Weekend- there is a feeling of the slow escape of humidity from the air, making room for the crisp autumn breeze that we have come to expect. As we prepare to say good-bye to our days of flip-flops, fruity cocktails, and bikinis and say hello to days of suede boots, pumpkin lattes, and bulky sweaters. It can be hard to accept, but alas, we all do it.

As I sit here and enjoy my final Saturday of freedom before I begin work as a full-time student/part-time employee, I can fully admit that I would love nothing more than to spend every Saturday this way (i.e. recovering from a fun night of friends, margaritas, and nachos in the comfort of my cool air conditioned bedroom with plans to see a comedy show tonight.) On the flip side, I am very much dreading what I will soon consider my new normal- text books, homework assignments, and time consuming commutes. But, alas, I will do it.

See, that’s the thing about change: while it’s scary, in the end, we can handle it. It can be difficult to embrace change, especially at first. Change forces us to start new routines- which in itself is exhausting!- and at first these shifts may not be comfortable, or even favorable, to what we are used to. At the same time, change can be rejuvenating, energizing, and  even cleansing. Take my situation for example: yes, I will be much busier once classes begin, but I will also be back in the world of public health (a world I have certainly missed!), plus I will be back on a track to my “dream” future. Not to mention, my busier schedule will force me to prioritize and fit in the space for my passions like writing, watching my favorite television shows (which will be back in September, woohoo!), and probably most importantly, exercise and nutrition. I don’t know about others out there, but I certainly let myself go more in the summer (see back to my night of margaritas and nachos and laying in bed until 3 p.m.!), and while that is fine, I do look forward to the cleansing power of a structured schedule. So, while I am not exactly thrilled to be leaving behind the dog-days of summer, I can see the positives that await me!

For those of you out there who are also about to embark on a change- whether that be going back to school, starting a job for the first time, moving to a new city, changing careers, beginning a new relationship, or even just adjusting to the changing weather- remember that while change can be scary, we can all relate to those fears, and there is a silver-lining- you just need to identify it for yourself! Maybe for you that means garnering the motivation to tighten up your soft belly after a few too many summer ice cream cones, or maybe its finally asking out that cute guy or girl whom you had previously been too afraid to approach. Or maybe your silver-lining is as simple as looking forward to pumpkin spice lattes and the return of your favorite T.V. shows (no shame!). No matter what positives you can see ahead, embrace the inevitable spark of adrenaline that accompanies any life transformation, and use that energy as extra fuel for your passions! Let the changes begin!

How I Have Started to Chase the Om

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After disclosing the unfolding of circumstances that brought me to develop Chasing the Om with a confident, I was encouraged to share the journey in one of my first personal essays in the hopes that it will inspire readers as well. Here it goes….

As I touch upon in my “What This Blog’s All About” section, I started this summer at a relatively low point. I had just finished one of the most difficult periods of my life, and in the course of three-and-a-half years, I had experienced a family member’s struggle with an eating disorder and a best friend’s diagnosis, and subsequent treatment, of a serious illness. Having never truly had to be emotionally there for people as much as I needed to be during these past years, I was physically and mentally depleted. On top of that, I was beginning to worry about my future. Some of my closest friends from college were about to move to the opposite side of the country and pursue their own dreams, and I was wondering what exactly I wanted to do with my  life. At 18, I had applied to a rigorous Masters of Public Health (M.P.H)/B.A. in Liberal Arts program at my university (partially to prove to myself that I was capable of this high-achieving goal) and was accepted, much to my surprise. Still, upon graduation it was time for me to take the plunge and invest in the final year of my M.P.H program, and honestly, I was worried that it was the wrong choice- couldn’t I just find a job that didn’t require me to go to grad school? And so, in my “freak-out,” that is exactly what I decided to do: I postponed my final year of graduate school and looked for opportunities to work. Considering that my friends were in California, and it had always been a dream to live somewhere warm, it seemed only natural to hop on a plane and move my job search to the city of dreams.

My time in Los Angeles was a mixture of enjoyment and anxiety. After months of interviews and a few job offers I wasn’t comfortable accepting, I secured a job as a part-time event planner, which, while fun and informative, was not what I was “meant to be doing.” I missed having conversations about social disparities and population health, talking about politics and reading through studies and knowing that my actions served a “greater good.” What I really missed, I realized, was my M.P.H program; and I needed to return to it.

With that understanding, I passed in my resignation, paid out my last month of rent, and made arrangements to move home to New England. Of course, that meant leaving a group of amazing friends, and, while that aspect wasn’t fun, I was excited to move toward my passion.

When I got home, I decided that if I was really chase my “dream,” then I needed to do it right: I wanted a transformation.

The first step was to get a job. I worked temporarily as a substitute teacher at my old high school, but it wasn’t positive for me personally. So, I actively sought out other jobs and did eventually find the perfect fit that would allow me to work and go to school simultaneously.

The second step was to feel good physically and emotionally, which began by signing up for my local Crossfit. Scared to death in my initial consultation, I started the physical journey, which included attempting movements I had never done in my life. I was so bad that it was actually comical, and yet, the coaches were still kind to me and encouraged me to keep trying, and eventually I have been getting stronger and fitter. Taking these physical risks despite my extreme fear was such a confidence boost for me. I am not sure I would have the same confidence today if I hadn’t taken that initial step. On top of this, though, I began doing more of what I loved- and that was socializing with friends. I started going out into the city more often, taking little weekend trips to the beach, and even just having The Bachelorette viewing parties with my close friends. The accumulation of these small, but fun, activities made me feel genuinely happy.

Finally, the third step was creating Chasing the Om. I knew I wanted a forum to write, as it was always something I loved to do. On top of that, my transformation had really enlightened me, and I wanted to share my newfound knowledge. See, when I was in college, I had become close with some extremely high-achieving, intelligent young women who were convinced that to be “successful” meant to also be unhappy. That sounds dramatic, but I am sure that if you really consider this popular public belief, you will realize that you also have friends who feel this way, or maybe, you even feel this way yourself. Its an understanding that you need to struggle or suffer in some way to know that you are really achieving something- as if the good times, or the pay-off, will be worth nothing unless you had struggled to get to them. Although I was definitely guilty of holding this belief, since coming home and realizing just what makes me happy, I understand that “success” and “struggle” were NOT synonymous. In fact, life does not need to be all that difficult all the time. No, I am not naïve. I understand that everyone will face challenging times- deaths of loved ones, disease and illness, financial struggles, you name it- and that there are severe injustices in the world that could make any person want to huddle up in her home and just avoid it all. However, we all have the choice and ability to enjoy our lives in spite of the inevitable hard-times. I know that I, as well as all of my friends, family (oh, and you!) have the right to live an enjoyable lifestyle and to fill our time with passions and energizing activities while also working hard when we need to.  With that understanding, I decided that I needed to create proof of my revelation: I needed to show examples of happy and successful women as models for my friends and all the other women out there with similar concerns. And so began the search for Chasing the Om’s “Inspiring Ladies.”

After interviewing my first round of women, I have made some striking conclusions. First, and probably most important, there is NO ONE PATH to success, and even further, there is no one definition of what success even is. While some of the women tried different paths before transitioning into a dream job, such as Cara, who has become a full-time fitness and yoga instructor, or Danne (coming soon), who began in graphic design, and eventually found a passion for writing and yoga as well, others moved relatively quickly into their field of choice, but were forced to make tough decisions in that process, such as Jessica who chose to study physiology early on, but put her career on hold after the birth of her daughter and the sudden terminal diagnosis of her husband. Each of the women I have interviewed has a different set of passions and motivations that allows her to enjoy her career and lifestyle. Even still, each has a different idea of how to create balance and passion, some choosing, and even enjoying a more rigorous, demanding schedule, while others enjoying, and purposefully creating, more time to travel and socialize. I am honored to have spoken to each of these women, and I hope their stories will inspire you to discover your own unique path to success, with the understanding that it is your journey and path and there is no right answer, so you might as well “chase the om” and enjoy!

Why Should We Even Be Talking About Women in the Workplace?

Career authors and workplace experts offer advice for the ladies on how to get ahead in the office in 2011.

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Preamble:

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Today I wanted to address an important issue that is highly relevant to ChasingtheOm, and its goal of encouraging and inspiring women in their early 20s who are just getting started professionally: women’s treatment and perception in the workplace.

As you may know, I am an academic at heart. I like facts and figures. And, while I love opinions, and I do consider myself a feminist, I am also rational and understand that an opinion/rant/etc. is only truly justified when it is supported by evidence. Thus, I realized that it may be important to share some research findings on the “gender gap” in the workplace, a topic I researched heavily for a school project during college.

This may seem a little boring in execution because its actually just a cut-and-pasted section of a research proposal I submitted to a professor last year. Regardless, it has some important information about women in the workplace, and while it doesn’t really offer any solutions to this problem- that’s what ChasingtheOm is for!- it does justify why there still needs to be public discussion around women’s roles in the workplace and why resources like these are critical to young women!

Thanks for reading; again, I apologize in advance for the academic tone!

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Background:

Today, half of all college students globally are women, and the percentage is even higher in the U.S. (57%). For the first time in history, more women than men hold advanced degrees of a masters level or higher (Yen, 2011). In light of a historical wage gap between men and women, the rise of highly educated and motivated women could suggest an ensuing transformation, or even reversal, of economic distribution. As more women are qualified for high-paying, reputable careers, presumably, we will see more women progressing into higher status positions within their careers. In fact, The Neilson Company projects that the vast majority of new income growth over the next 10 years will come from women (Anderson, 2009).

Despite women’s general advancement in the workforce, a substantive body of literature suggests that women are still subject to gender-biased evaluations in the workplace that prevent them from being judged equally to their male-counter parts. When reviewing two identical resumes, study subjects are more apt to rate one with a male name more favorably than one with a female name (Martha Foschi et al, 1994). Moreover, women often have to have higher qualifications than men for the same level position (Valian, 1998).

Existing literature suggests that gender schemas may be to blame for the unequal treatment of men and women in the workforce. Gender schemas are characteristics and behaviors that we attribute to be either masculine or feminine, but are generally shaped by the environment (Valian, 1998). Studies have identified that under typical gender schemas, men are associated with strength, drive, assertiveness and self-reliance, while women are associated with sensitivity, niceness, modesty, and sociability (Prentice and Carranza, 2002). Meanwhile, both women and men who behave in ways that are “inconsistent” with what is typically expected for their gender are viewed negatively (Pentice and Carranza).

Unfortunately, in regards to workplace behavior, this negative view places women at a disadvantage simply because the actions and behaviors that are often expected, or even required, for an individual to attain a high-status professional position typically requires him/her to behave in ways that considered more “male.”  In fact, it has been proven that a woman who achieves a high level of success in a typically “male” career will be viewed as indifferent to others, unlikable, and uncivil (Heilman et al., 2004). On top of all this, further studies have shown that it is considered more “feminine” to fail and to seem vulnerable (Valian, 1999), which, going back to the point above, would make a woman more “likeable” should she fail. To provide a famous example of this, when former First Lady, Hillary Clinton, was initially introduced to the public she became the butt of ridicule and scorn in the media. However, her perception and her popularity rose significantly after the humiliation following her husband’s public infidelity (McGinley, 2009). Evidently, when Clinton was seen as a victim, she “became more human and more likeable,” (McGinley).

On top of behavioral concerns, women are also judged more harshly than men for their appearance and dress at the workplace (Bartlett, 1994). The norms for appearance are stricter for women, and while men are more often rated as “average” in looks, women are more often rated as “above average” or “below average” (Bartlett, 1994). Meanwhile, it is more appealing for a woman to be more, rather than less, concerned with her appearances and fashion. To highlight another celebrity example, one study that sought to analyze social reactions to our current First Lady, Michelle Obama, noted that Obama’s overall likability increased when magazines began writing about her fashion sense and stylish clothing and focused less heavily on her her intellectual achievements (McGinley, 2009).

Evidently, women in most western societies today have many conflicting expectations that put them at a disadvantage to men in the workplace. Women are still expected to act in ways that are consistent with their gender schema, which includes strict expectations for dress and appearance. These findings suggest that academic credentials and a strong resume may not be enough to break the historical “glass-ceiling” (Valian, 2009). With the increasing population of highly qualified women who are employed or preparing to enter the workforce, it would seem logical that more women will fill high authority positions and be forced to behave in ways that are incongruent with typical female behaviors, and subsequently they will be viewed more negatively. Thus, I beg to wonder: does a woman sacrifice her likability when she advances in the workplace? With the information given above, it would seem doubtful that women will advance to equal or higher positions than men despite their increasingly higher academic and professional credentials. What needs to be done to create a more gender balanced professional atmosphere in the U.S. and even globally?

Sources:

1. Yen, Hope. “Women Surpass Men in Advanced Degree for First Time.” Huffinton Post [Washington] 26 04 2011, n. pag. Print.

2. Anderson, Doug. “Below The Topline: Women’s Growing Economic Power.” Nielsen Wire [London] 06 10 2009, n. pag. Print.

3. M. Foschi, L. Lai, K. Sigerso. (1994). Gender and double standards in the assessment of job applicants. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, pp. 326–339

4. Valian, Virginia. 1998. Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge : MIT Press.

5. Prentice, D. A. and Carranza, E. (2002), What Women and Men Should Be, Shouldn’t Be, Are Allowed to Be, and Don’t Have to Be: The Contents of Prescriptive Gender Stereotypes. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 26: 269–281.

6. Heilman, Madeline E.; Wallen, Aaron S.; Fuchs, Daniella; Tamkins, Melinda M. (2004), Penalties for Success: Reactions to Women Who Succeed at Male Gender-Typed Tasks.Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 89(3), 416-427.

7. McGinley, A. (2009). Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Michelle Obama: Performing Gender, Race, and Class on the Campaign Trail. Denver University Law Review, 86:709–725.

8. Bartlette, K. (1994). Only Girls Wear Barettes, Michigan Law Review.

Staying Sane During Unemployment

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I walk in the doors full-throttle, resume in hand, pencil skirt in line, and hair straightened to perfection, but still my stomach lurches. I am walking into, yet another, interview.

While I was living in L.A., this was a typical Monday for me (oh, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, too!). I interviewed for so many jobs, its almost hard to keep track. I interviewed for a job as a personal assistant to an inordinately rich family, a personal care assistant for individuals with mental illness, a data analyst at two major market research companies, a waitress, a professional recruiter, a fashion merchandiser, an event planner, a research assistant, a hospital administrative assistant, a writer, a pharmaceutical research statistician…the list continues, my friend! Both fortunately and unfortunately, I did receive a few offers from my many interviews and discovered that some of the positions were not worth taking while others were more promising. Regardless, I spent a majority of my time, applying, preparing, and interviewing for an array of professional positions, all in the small segment of (a brutally stressful) three months. While some may have thought my go-getter attitude was a little excessive, I was determined to find a job as immediately as possible, and decided that if I wanted any job right away, I had to let go of the idea of my dream job. However, as my job application obsession became so engrossing, eventually, I forgot what my dream job even was.

Now, though only months later, I am a completely different person. I have found a job that I enjoy, and I am moving towards achieving my dream of working in public health. My mindset has completely transformed, and I feel so much better for it. With this growth, I have picked up a few key take-away points about post-college unemployment and how to get through alive. Hope this is helpful!

(1) Know What You Want

Knowing what you want from a job is critical. When you begin applying for jobs, you will quickly realize that luck, timing, and a number of complimenting elements combine to decide whether or not you are hired for any particular position, and, more likely than not, it will be nearly impossible to get your “dream job” right off the bat. In fact, depending on their particular industry, my friends have applied to as little as three, or as many as seventy-plus, jobs before they received any offers!

On top of the high likelihood of immediate rejection, you will learn that with each new rejection it becomes more and more difficult to remember what your dream job is, and more and more appealing to settle for whatever job you can get. Frankly, more often than not, this may be the best choice, too! But, do not fret; if you keep your true intentions in the back of your mind, you can continue to achieve them, even if that achievement is not immediate. If and when you are offered a position, ask yourself: “how will this help me move towards my goal?” If, for example, you have 20 dollars to your name and rent deadline is approaching, then the answer is: “to survive!” Or, maybe, if, at the moment, you are offered a job in a less-than-ideal position, but within a company you admire, you can pin this opportunity, not as a set-backwards, but as a launching pad for your next career move. The possibilities are varying, but the key to making the most of your given circumstance is to keep your goal in the back of your mind. Having a clear idea of what you want will make the less fun stuff more tolerable and prevent you from losing sight of your dreams. I would recommend even writing your goal on paper to make it more concrete!

(2) Don’t Bring it Home

When I was applying to jobs, I was living with a roommate who was in the same boat and spending much of her time applying for jobs simultaneously. Quickly, our conversations began to focus entirely on jobs, applications, etc. and we were on edge, even in our own apartment. My advice to you is this: take your interviews seriously- prepare, organize, and excel- but then leave it at the door when you go home! Set aside a time in the day (i.e. three hours each morning) where you will research jobs, send emails, etc. and then stick to that routine! Applying for jobs is a job in itself, and its rarely healthy to take your work home. Have an escape route. Plan fun activities for the times when you are not looking for or interviewing for jobs. Spend time with friends who don’t cause you stress, watch movies, read books, and do low-cost activities that you enjoy. For me, it was most important to spend time with people I love, because support is critical during unemployment!

(3) Be Busy

Another risk during unemployment is the sheer amount of free time you will have. Although having nothing to do can be the most wonderful feeling in the world at the right moment, when you are too bored, you run the risk of slipping into dangerous territory emotionally and physically. It is easy to ruminate and feel sorry for yourself when you have excess time to reflect, so as a preventive measure, make sure you’ll be busy! Maybe this means volunteering, finding a part-time job, joining a sports team, taking a class, or staring a blog (hehe), but do something that will give you a purpose each day! Unless you are extremely introverted and would be better energized alone, try above all else, to make time to see friends and family and surround yourself with people because, as I said before, support is critical! On top of keeping you clear of an emotional break-down, staying busy creates opportunities for success through possible networks. The more people you meet, the more jobs you will hear about and the more pathways to those jobs will be revealed. What’s more, you will be energized through your activity and that will be further motivation to continue the job search!

(4) Know You’re Not Alone

Almost all people who have a job had to apply for it at one point. We can almost all empathize with the scary, anxiety-provoking, somewhat isolating time of applying for jobs and drowning out the voice in your mind that questions if you may be unemployed for eternity. You are not a failure because you do not have a job, and you will not be unemployed forever. Stay optimistic, keep searching, and don’t forget to enjoy yourself and find peace in your life even while you are getting your way out of unemployement.

Accept Your Unique Experiences and Live Your Life

 

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Freudian belief holds that during development, an individual who misses out on a certain “stage”- for whatever the reason, tragic or not- will be fixated at that stage; and I can’t help but wonder if there is some truth to that thought. While I cannot attest to any oral fixations, I can loosely apply this principle to my own sense of disappointment during my undergraduate years. As I would imagine most people do, I started my first year of college with a sense of bubbly, giddy (and maybe a little naïve) excitement. I had moved away from home for the first time, was eating ice cream-based dinners in crowded dining-halls, hanging out with new and interesting friends, and dancing with guys in basement parties. It was a simultaneously terribly frightening and wonderfully thrilling experience. However, during the summer between my first and second years at school, my roommate, and closest friend, was diagnosed with a serious illness, and though I did not immediately understand, everything would change. Out of respect for my friend- an incredible woman who coped with her illness and treatment with strength and patience- I will not get into the heavy details about the period that followed. Ultimately, it was a high-stress, melancholy-filled year that pushed all of our friendships, spirits, and beliefs, and changed my outlook on pretty much everything. In the middle of our second semester, my friend was informed that her treatment had been successful, but by then, we had all changed. As for myself, I waited out the final weeks of school just ready to move back with my family and crash for the four months of summer. I did a lot of lounging on the couch during that time- Ben & Jerry became my close friends.

Now, I am a recent graduate, and I feel a sense of loss: a loss for that “typical” college experience that I had in my freshman year. Looking back, I never really went wild during college- never joined a sorority or club or dressed inappropriately on Halloween.  Now, I am a little worried that missed stage will come spouting out of me in some highly inappropriate way- something akin to Natalie Portman’s drunken behavior at a work-place Christmas party in the movie No Strings Attached (“you look like a pumkin, bitch!”). But, at the same time, I have to wonder, did I truly “miss out”? I mean, I had some pretty fantastic times in college. During my third year of school I studied and interned abroad in Paris. Beside stepping out of my comfort-zone and speaking the foreign language, I met incredible people- some of the best I have ever known- and made lasting friendships (plus I got to eat fresh baguettes on the daily, so that wasn’t too bad either). On top of that, I spent two of my college spring breaks doing ASB (Alternative Spring Breaks) in NYC and Arkansas, got a scholarship to present my academic research at an international conference, and trained for two half-marathons. Plus, during my sophomore year, while I wasn’t partying, I was excelling at school and landed a paid research position with an incredible women’s health initiative that helped me to realize my passion for public health and inspired me to apply to an accelerated B.A./M.P.H program. I even accumulated enough credits to graduate a semester early and spend the next months living with a friend across the country in Los Angeles while I learned the ropes of networking, job-searching, and eventually, working a professional job. Sure, I only rarely rolled into my apartment in the wee hours of the morning or dressed up in sequins while dancing at roof parties, but I did have some pretty awesome times. Maybe, just maybe, my experience is still great, even if it wasn’t the typical one. I grew up a little faster, but I became stronger as a student and person because of it.

So, in the end, I can’t know for sure if Freud is right. Will I go crazy during my twenties to compensate for the drunken nights I missed out on in school? I guess I’ll find out. What I do know is that I need to let go of those feelings of regret and disappointment for having an “alternative” college experience. In reality, I would guess that there many others out there, who, like me, hold their own sense of disappointment because, well, life happens, and sometimes plans need to be shifted in response. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can choose how we live our lives now and in the future. For me, that means taking advantage of the good that happened during college- i.e. getting into a competitive graduate program and discovering my dream career- and using that as a fuel to live my current life, here and now, to the fullest. We all have our own unique stories and experiences; we need to learn, accept, and eventually move on from our past in order to keep moving forward and cultivating a life we love and appreciate.