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a beautiful morning

I’ve been struggling for awhile. I’ve felt like a fraud. I’ve felt like I was faking a smile through the day and crying in my car on the way home. (Well, that is what I did. Several times.) I’ve been sick. I’ve been wallowing in self-pity. I’ve been yelling at God. Let’s just say… it’s been rough.

But today… today was different. Today started with a beautiful morning.

Let me start by saying — nothing extraordinary happened today. There was no winning Powerball ticket, I didn’t get asked on a date, I didn’t ace an exam, I didn’t see any giraffes or pageant queens. Instead, my day was pretty normal.

I woke up to a really sweet direct message on Instagram. The sun was shining in my window. I got a great night of sleep. I heard a good podcast. I held a sweet baby. I listened to my favorite jesus jams on my way to school. I drank a smoothie with some fruits and veggies in it. I went to tap class and had a productive, sweaty session of tapping and learning (my dance class is always the highlight of my week), and then I had a couple more classes where honestly nothing could stand in my way. I was smiling ear to ear. The day rounded out with a nap, a workout, a group meeting, dreaming of visiting Boston next week, and a much needed girl chat session with girls who are like family (over Indian food, of course.)

I think that’s why I am writing this now. My day was totally, completely, normal.

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I think that today I realized that I’ve been letting situations that are out of my control and people whom I can’t control cloud the fact that I get to be the authority figure in my life. The decisions I make every day, even the small ones, impact how I feel for that entire day. Today, I took control. I took to positivity, and love, and sunshine, and tap dance, and girl talk. I accepted the blessings in my life. As one of my favorite podcasts (SHE Podcast by Jordan Lee Dooley) would say… today I was not a blessing blocker.

Today, I felt alive. I felt like myself. I felt like the sun was shining in my direction. I felt like God was answering many prayers. I laughed. I gave some hugs. And damn, did I smile. I’ve started doing the #mytruthiestlife challenge with a friend and a large group of accountability pals online. It’s a challenge started by Lisa of ‘The Well Necessities’ that encourages us to rediscover who we are and what we want out of our own life. So far, I’m loving it. Our challenge this week was to think about our values and select our top five from a list… and then make meaningful decisions this week that are fueled by our values.

I can already feel the challenge working, inspiring me to think about myself in a different way, and to make conscious decisions that benefit my mental health, my relationships, and my overall sense of self. Maybe this is why my eyes were opened to the beauty within my average Tuesday.

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I’m a pretty positive person. At least, I hope so. When I confided in my friend about feeling like a ‘fraud’ for still trying to encourage others while I was struggling in my own life and she simply responded… “Just because you cry doesn’t mean you’re fake. It means you’re real.”

So here I am… posting my feels on the interweb again.

Today, I’m going to bed with a smile. A real one. A true one. I am thankful that a friend encouraged me to do the #mytruthiestlife challenge, and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to accept my blessings and move past the outside obstacles that have blocked my path.

Maybe tomorrow will be your day… your beautiful morning that leads to a beautiful day, a part of your big beautiful life. Maybe you’ll cry in your car. Whatever you do, don’t forget just how blessed you are and that you and only you are completely in control of your own life.

always,

Alex

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+Encouragement, -Toxicity

I have a sticker on my laptop that says, “Be An Encourager.”

I see it nearly every day. It’s the perfect reminder for who I want to be right now. I have been working on myself wholeheartedly since this spring. I made a conscious decision to be a better person. Well, scratch that. Perhaps, I acted with intent to strip away the years of negative self-talk, gossip, failed friendships, daggers in the back, and held-in bitterness that harbored so much hatred and hurt in my heart to reveal the person I have always been and have always wanted to be.

As my dance instructor stated today, “You are in charge of your own authority.” What she meant by this is that I have the right, the option, the privilege, the courage, and the power to be in charge of my own life. My faith and the amazing people in my life feed me love and support and strength, yes, but I am making decisions for me. Honestly, I don’t believe that I am changing who I am. I’m just becoming a more true version of myself. This true version of myself includes empowering others to live better and more true lives by making my own life a labor of love and choosing to remove toxicity from my mind/heart/soul/life.

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• • • On being encouraging • • • 

Whenever I’m asked what my biggest pet peeve is, I answer: “when people are fake.” My favorite word will always be authenticity and I see it as a core value to who I am as a person. However, I want to be an encourager. I want to support my friends, my family, women I barely know, people I don’t know, and anyone in between.

So here I am – balancing my authentic feelings and thoughts and brokenness and healing and awesomeness and magic and beauty and emotions and mishaps with my love for people and the feeling that my purpose in life is to make others’ lives better. I will never be fake. My support, my love, my encouragement will never be fake. I have a lot of love to give. I may not comment on all your posts or message you every day or be able to provide the perfect advice… but when I feel it, you’ll know that I felt it. Support doesn’t need to be seen. It needs to be felt.

How can I encourage others? How can I make others feel loved, supported, valued, and worthy? How can I make someone else smile?

How can you?

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• • • On removing toxicity • • • 

Now, let’s switch to the flip side. Since I have begun encouraging others openly and vocally, I have concurrently found myself attempting to remove toxicity from my life. That may be physically removing people from my life, quitting negative habits, or finally deciding to unfriend/unfollow certain accounts on social media.  Honestly, the social media accounts took a long time. I would look at these accounts to stay ‘in the loop’  because I hated to be uninformed. I saw knowledge as power and power was necessary for me to maintain my hard armor shell that protects my soft and easily-hurt heart. Deep down, however, I knew that this was unhealthy behavior. It didn’t help. It didn’t protect me. It didn’t give me power. It made me hurt, it made me weak, it made me angry, bitter, jealous, and resentful.

I find it hard to balance caring so much about people (not wanting to hurt others’ feelings) and not caring what other people think (because I value myself and believe that some things are truly toxic for my own mental health.) This mental gymnastics is really hard. I wasn’t giving myself authority. Those people and my allowance for them to continue to be in my life was toxic. It was time to let go.

I finally committed to myself and made those decisions to remove myself from toxic situations. I had someone ask me today, “Do you hate _______?” after knowing that this person and I had crossed paths negatively around a year ago. He asked this question in case we would all be mingling in the same group this week for homecoming celebrations. My response was simple… “I feel that that scenario would be toxic for my mental health and I’m not going to choose to put myself in that situation, but I’ll see you around!” I am putting myself first. I am putting my mental health first. Maybe that’s selfish to some… but it’s also self-love. I don’t need to speak negatively about that person or continue to be held up on negative experiences. Sometimes the mature thing is not to make a choice between forgive and forget, but to simply acknowledge that it happened and that you don’t need to place yourself in that situation or any situation that makes you uncomfortable.

In removing toxicity, I am being my own encourager. It’s okay if other people do not understand that.

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• • • On where I am • • • 

So that’s where I am. And I’m okay with that. I do not need to let the negative things weigh on my heart when I can simply acknowledge the existence and learn to live and breathe through them. I am currently trying to live and breathe and pray and work through my heartbreaks and to encourage others that they can do the same. I am being my own encourager by removing the roadblocks of negativity and toxicity that stand in my way. I am creating a life I love and learning to fulfill my purpose. I am staying true to who I am and discovering new things about myself every day. I am still a work in progress; an imperfect girl loved by a totally perfect God.

So, today and every day: I challenge you to encourage others but do not forget to encourage yourself and make ‘selfish’ decisions that benefit your heart, soul, and mind.

always,

Alex

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fit, well, and good

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The other day, I said I was heading to work out and someone I recently met commented, “that’s probably how you look so fit.” I was honestly shocked. Regardless of the sweet compliment, I felt more excited about those few words than any other “you’re beautiful” or “you’re so pretty” I’ve heard in a long time.

Because I feel fit.

I feel well.

I feel good.

Trust me, it’s been a journey. Since April, I’ve been struggling. My life felt like it was collapsing and continually fighting against me. I didn’t feel fit, I didn’t feel well, I didn’t feel good. I was answering every “How are you?” with “I’m fine.” We all know… things were not fine.

I knew that there was only so many things I could control. If there was one thing I learned in my time as an orientation leader, it was the ‘wellness wheel’ model of total wellness. My focus for the summer was Physical Wellness, Emotional Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness. I decided that if I couldn’t be ‘great’ or even ‘good’… I was going to be feeling well.

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I have never smelled so terrible or been so sweaty during a movie. But hey, when spin class gets done at 7:15 and the $5 movie is at 7:30…. 

Let’s begin with the big one. Physical wellness. Not my strong suit, let me tell ya. I began the summer wondering what I should or could do to get my life in control. My control. I wanted to grow my strength and stamina. I decided to join b.well and I honestly think it was one of the best things I ever could have done for myself. Here’s what I’ve learned in just one month:

  • No one cares what you’re doing. I don’t mean this in a rude way, but instead in a ‘focus on yourself and forget the rest’ kind of mentality. I had dreaded the gym for so long due to the fact that others could see me, judge me, or laugh at me. I learned early on that the mirrors in the studio aren’t for you to watch others. They’re there to allow you to watch yourself, to truly see yourself, and to watch yourself be a boss.
  • Form > Fast. I have learned so much about my body, how it should move, and how it should look as I do different exercises. I am not a super fit person. Some of those moms with 4 kids could definitely beat me up (though they never would, everyone is so nice) but I don’t worry about doing the exercises quickly. I worry about doing the exercises correctly. I’m okay doing modified workouts as long as I know I’m working towards the ‘hard’ workouts and doing them correctly. (Megan, thanks for making sure my butt’s not sticking out at the barre!)
  • Actually, you can. So many times I wanted to give up. Sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I need a little break, a little water, time to towel down my sweat pouring from my body (which I have learned to love?). Instead of getting up and leaving the gym or being upset that I ‘can’t’ do something, I work on getting there. I work on doing just one more rep or trying to push through. I can hear Amber’s “Let’s go!” echoing in my ears.
  • No one else will see your progress, but you will. This one I have learned over the past month. I would take a sweaty sports bra photo and see absolutely no results between the photos. But then I remembered that I went up in weights at my last strength class… that’s progress. I saw a photo of my calves in heels looking bomb… that’s progress. I feel my shoulders, triceps, quads, everything ache… that’s progress. Just because I’m not losing inches (not my goal) doesn’t mean I’m not making progress. I went on a run/jog for the first time in YEARS last week and I actually enjoyed myself. I even went AFTER I’d already done a tough workout. GO ME! Seeing women like Bri post about her fitness inside and out of the gym inspires me to incorporate fitness into more than just my time at the gym.
  • Accountability and support are necessary. Internal motivation is necessary. It is absolutely crucial for you to see this change as beneficial and for wanting to make a conscious effort. However, that motivation lasts for about the first few days. This is one of the reasons why I had a friend join b.well with me, and one of the reasons I love going there. The women around me are supportive and welcoming. They smile as I walk in, my instructor comments on how it’s good to see me after I’d been on vacation for a week. This is what makes me feel a little bummed to be taking a 4-week hiatus from the gym…. but hellooooo Europe!
  • You’ll probably hate it… until you love it. My yoga instructor, Nikki, said in my first class, “If you hate it, come again next week. If you hate it a second time, come back a third week. By the third week, you’ll love it.” This was so true. I felt like a fool and completely out of shape/not flexible during my first class. By week three, I felt like I was getting a good workout, my shoulders burned, my balance improved, I knew what a chaturanga was, and I felt so empowered. I never in a million years thought I would be a person that looks forward to working out. Now, I can’t imagine what my week would look like without a variety of classes taught by instructors who really care.
  • You’re killin’ it. No matter how much progress you feel, no matter how many inches lost or muscles gained, you’re killin’ it by simply getting your butt to the gym and doing little things each day to improve your life…. by you, for you. In the words of Erica Schuster (thank you for encouraging me to join b.well, you rock sista) “Do this for who you came here for!”

Thank you, b.well brookings, for allowing me to believe in myself and to become a better, stronger, truer version of myself. I’ll see you after a month in Europe. My body is stronger and more ready than ever for long walking days across the world!

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first time in an infrared sauna • 3 degrees in Sioux Falls, SD • trying new things for both physical/mental wellness!

Emotional Wellness, Social Wellness, and Spiritual Wellness all go hand-in-hand. In addition to my amazing experience at b.well, my friends are supportive and loving, my devotional and time spent in conversation with the big man upstairs fuel me with his grace, and I spend my time continually filling my own cup with dedication to living my best life and loving myself in thoughts, words, and deeds. I’m in a really, really good place and I am so damn proud of myself.

Fit, well, and good.

May was good to me, and June’s getting even better. How blessed am I? I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a previous, less true version of myself. That’s pretty freakin’ awesome.

Bring on Europe.

In the words of my sweet friend Andrea, “The world can’t wait to meet you.

World… I can’t wait to meet you either.

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Cue Hailee Steinfeld’s hit song, “Love Myself.” 

always,

Alex

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I’m proud of me.

I haven’t written a blog in over a year. I kept thinking to myself, “I don’t have anything worth saying.”

Now, I think I do. Maybe it won’t be worth it for you to read (sorry, folks) but it’s worth it for me to say.


This year has really sucked.

It’s also been totally great.

I am not usually one to brag. In fact, when people post about all their wonderful successes, I tend to think “but what about the crappy stuff?” We live in an age of social media, where everyone posts the highlight reel. While I’m happy to see the people in my life succeed and excel in their passions and love and travel and learn, I tend to get comparative. We all do it.

So here we are.

This is my highlight reel for junior year. And also the rest of the story, because it’s not always great. And sometimes, we need a pal that can share in our brokenness and say, “me too.” If this is you, welcome. Sometimes, life sucks. It’s okay. We’re all in this together (cue HSM soundtrack.)

I’m writing this to celebrate me, because I am proud of myself. I am more proud of my accomplishments BECAUSE of the struggles I have been through this year.

Junior Year 

I have 111 credits at a 4.0 GPA.

I presented social media research in my first National Collegiate Honors Conference in Atlanta, GA this fall, alongside my friends and mentor within the Honors College.

I gave blood for the first time. While it may seem small feat, I was absolutely terrified. The only other time my blood had been drawn was the night of my car accident, strapped to a stretcher. So this year, I did it and checked something small off the bucket list. Getting a text message saying “Your blood saved a life!” was a good feeling.

Thanks to a faculty member who put faith in me and my ability, I was hired as a research assistant for the South Dakota Department of Health. This became my third campus job this semester.  At the University Undergraduate Scholarly & Creative Activity Day, I won an award for it. I also got accepted to the National Collegiate Honors Conference, and will have the opportunity to continue this research and share results in Boston, MA in the fall.

I struggled with my mental health. I never really thought I had any mental health issues, and I know mine are on a much more manageable level than others, but it’s a struggle. Nearly all college students feel consumed by it at one point or another. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, but it happens… the stress and anxiety and sadness get the best of us.

I received the Honors College “Campus Champion” award based on my campus involvement. I have spent hours and hours and hours on the campus of SDSU, dedicating myself to amazing groups of inspiring college students. This was truly an honor to be recognized by my peers and professors for my work outside of the classroom.

I grew in my faith, surrounding myself with people who God put in my life for a reason. I have always been a woman of faith, but in the times when I have needed God this semester he has always been there to say “your brokenness is welcome here” and has placed other amazing women of faith in my life to pick me up and tell me to pray about it. I have to give up my plan for God’s plan. (Also, a shout out to my amazing pastor who always can give me the words or verses I need to hear and for being absolutely instrumental in my journey in faith.)

I performed on stage in multiple capacities, working hard for months to prepare dances. This is part of that ‘involvement’ piece of the puzzle of college. It wasn’t always easy, nights were late and sweaty and tired, but I was proud of my performances.

I booked flights to Europe. Again. My original plans fell through due to unforeseen and sad circumstances… I was terrified that the trip I have been dreaming of for 5 years would slip through my fingers. However, the tides turned and Jenna stepped up to say “yes” to a crazy month-long adventure through Europe. I will finally see Alona and Nata again, and eat a large amount of gelato.

I got kicked off a team that I cared about, shockingly and seemingly without care for my feelings after years of commitment. This was a hard setback. In the end, my time on the team was a blessing and I learned a lot. It’s okay to say goodbye.

I hung out with my roommates, the dimes @ 629. These ladies were such a blessing. It was such a good feeling to be excited to come home. From venting about classes with Alex, wondering about the next time Amanda would return from Daktronics, dad-like advice and jokes from Jen, and the smell of Abi’s microwavable vegetables, it was a year full of laughter & great memories in a house that continues to test us in new ways and a garbage can that we always forget to take to the alley come Tuesday morning.

I finished my second year-long term with the SDSU Students’ Association, alongside some amazing individuals. I was selected to maintain my role as the Communications Chair on the executive board for the upcoming year. I look forward to serving in this capacity again. This organization has taught me so much about service and friendship and love for South Dakota State.

I got my heart broken. Twice.

I received and accepted the largest scholarship in my department. That ‘academic’ piece of the puzzle… the true reason I came to SDSU was to pursue my education. I am proud to say that education becomes far more obtainable through the gifts of scholarships I’ve received. Hard work pays off.

I drove more, continuing to conquer demons from my past. My friends support me in this and cheer me on, and every drive with the windows down and the radio on feels like a big leap in the right direction.

I cried in bathroom stalls, my car, and almost every place in between. I’ll admit it, and I’m not ashamed of it. I feel my feelings. I can’t hide them or shove them in a deep dark part of myself. I face them head on and I choose to validate my feelings. It’s okay to feel and feel deeply.

I was a teaching assistant with the best mentor and an amazing co-TA. This was definitely a positive experience for me this year, and I gained so much.

I traveled to Arizona for spring break for the second year with good friends, and am ready to continue planning flights, roadtrips, and adventures. We always say, “you can’t take it with you when you go.” $$

I made new friends. If you’re one of them, you rock. I am so thankful that our paths crossed.

I kept old friends. If you’re one of them, thanks for sticking with me… you’re a blessing.

I let some people go. In the words of a wise friend, “Some people are only meant to be temporary.” If you’re one of them, thank you for the lessons.

I learned to take time for myself, go to movies, pray, read a book, and relax. This is the puzzle piece in college that had been missing for awhile. Self-care is real, folks. I needed to remind myself that I can do anything, but I can’t do everything. That’s okay. I learned to say no to opportunities that didn’t feel right and trust God’s plan over my own.

I made a lot of mistakes.

Regardless, I’m proud of me.

Despite everything, despite the bad, I made it through. I excelled. I worked hard. I am more than just my highlight reel… I am every bump/curve/detour in the road. (Okay, maybe now I’m just combining metaphors.) I am proud of me.

In today’s society, sometimes it’s seen as taboo to truly celebrate yourself. It might be seen as selfish or conceited… but today I’m writing not because of either of those things. I am writing this because it is me declaring it to the world that it’s okay to be broken and bruised and still kick ass and take names. It’s okay to struggle, cry in bathroom stalls, and pray to the Lord for strength. I wouldn’t be who I am without all the struggles I have faced. I think we all know that no one else’s life is as perfect as we can make it seem on social media.

So that’s me.

Authentic.

Broken.

Strong.

Proud.

…and a senior.

Junior year is over, and it’s one for the books… the real story, that is.


always,

Alex

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when things aren’t easy

Yesterday, I may have failed my macroeconomics test.

At first you may read that and think, “Well, that sucks.” Let me put it in perspective for you: I have never before failed a test.  This year, I’ve had to adjust. Or maybe, I’ve been adjusting all along in hopes of making myself ready to combat this crazy world. I’m used to things being easy. I’m used to studying for a hot minute and acing an exam. I like easy. Easy is fun. Easy doesn’t frustrate me.

Before my economics exam, I had to give an impromptu speech in my public speaking class. My prompt: “If I ruled the world, the first thing I would do would be…”

My statement: “treat myself.”

I am stressed. I am busy, I am worn, I am frustrated, I am imperfect, I am unbalanced, I am exhausted.

I launched into 90-second speech about the importance of personal mental health and finding the time to refresh.

Following my speech, a perfectly lovely human in my class asked me something along the lines of “How do you find resilience?” Resilience – such a strong word, it almost caught me off-guard.

My mind was turning with economic terms, so I defined it the same way I would with the aggregate supply lines on a graph – long run and short run. Resilience is getting through the tough times in the short run and focusing on the long run. While I’m sick and exhausted and heading to my third meeting of the evening without returning to my room since 8:30 a.m., I have to remember that I LOVE my activities. I love raising money for Children’s Miracle Network, and finding ways to encourage students to purchase Love Your Melon gear for a great cause, and using dance to stomp out frustrations and make new friends. I love my majors. I know that all of these activities make me who I am and will continually shape me in my future. I am resilient because I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel of a bad day, a bad week, or a rough semester. I am resilient because I know I am loved beyond measure. I am resilient because I believe in myself and my capabilities.

Lately, I’ve felt disheartened when things don’t come easily. Grades, time for myself, the election, friendships and relationships, participation, excitement – they all come at a price. I must give in.

I must also give my all.

When things aren’t easy, you must work extra hard. When things aren’t easy, you must problem solve. When things aren’t easy, you must rely on the support and love and aid of others. When things aren’t easy, you must never give up.

So today, as if I ruled the world, I am treating myself. I’m going to spend my time with my mom, I’m going to paint, and I’m going to take a bubble bath.

But when it’s Monday, it’s back to the grind. 

always,

Alex

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blessed by stress

Today, I thought about how blessed I am by the stress in my life.

All the stress, the crazy schedule, the busy running, and the never-ending amount of homework or club meetings or attempting to eat or work out or sleep or get to church… when those loud elements of life begin to hush, I feel the most blessed.

I am blessed to have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, classes that are preparing me for two majors that I love, clubs and organizations that I am proud to be a part of, and people who hold my hand or encourage me to take a leap of faith along the way.

In the quiet moments, when I take my ‘introvert time’ to recharge myself mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually…I feel so blessed. College has been pretty surreal, showing me time and time again how introverted I am. My definition of the term is that I recharge by being alone. I need quiet and peace and chill vibes. I need to organize my planner with my colored pens, and listen to Andy Grammer, and get off campus, and laugh, and sit in my bed at 10:30 with my twinkle lights around me as I blog. In these moments, I feel blessed.

However, I can’t function by myself. I’m an extroverted introvert. I need to fuel my day with people and recharge my internal batteries by night. I have friends who laugh with me, guide me, support me, eat food with me, go shopping with me, tell me their stories, listen to me, and make me feel at home in this crazy place. (Lookin’ at you, #suitehearts301)

I have classmates who help me through classes I don’t quite belong in (Thanks for the help, Ian). I have classmates who’ve been by my side the entire way through (AnnaLee). I have classmates who hate science right alongside me (Bailey). And so many more that make each minute in the classroom that much more meaningful. (Barb K.)

I have a person in my life who consistently brings a smile to my face and butterflies to my stomach — a person who knows that I’m stressed by how I sigh, a person who willingly gives of his time to make me feel better on a rough day. This is a person who knows that a perfect recharge weekend is not complete without time in the hammock on a beautiful fall day. A person who loves endlessly and cares wholeheartedly. (I love this person.)

Amidst the stress, I have found many ‘little blessings’ that I have compiled in a note on my phone over the course of the semester thus far.

Here goes:

  • first day of school pictures
  • chacos
  • indian food
  • quick visits from loved ones
  • state fair // ferris wheels
  • a familiar face in a large classroom
  • deep breathing
  • music (favorite song right now: She Sets the City on Fire – Gavin DeGraw)
  • flannel
  • belly laughter
  • windmills
  • the words ‘i love you’
  • motivational text messages
  • stimulating intellectual conversation
  • dancing
  • girls’ days
  • food that tastes like home
  • late night cupcakes (Christine, you’re the best.)
  • weddings
  • getting your nails done
  • a cute outfit (all my outfits get cuter in fall)
  • watching pageants
  • a comfy couch and a midday movie
  • making a difference
  • fresh sheets
  • giving a speech
  • late night drives // jam sessions
  • phone call to mom
  • pinning home decor on pinterest
  • getting a good grade
  • a good makeup/hair day
  • a church service that helps you feel connected
  • fall leaves
  • hammocks
  • love. (that’s not a little blessing though. that’s huge.)

Despite how crazy stressed I have felt so far this school year, I have also found time in my (color-coded) schedule to feel insanely, immensely, incredibly blessed.

And just think… these are only the blessings I compiled in a note. It’s crazy that they’re abundant if we only take the time to realize it.

 

(Here’s some photos of some blessings!)

 

 

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a new generation of dreamers

 

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“Hello, my name is Alexandra Farber. I’m a sophomore Speech Communications and Advertising double major from Britton, South Dakota. Today, I’ll be working with the College of Arts and Sciences.”

This is how every session began. With endless smiles and a pink fanny-pack on my hip, I welcomed hundreds and hundreds of new students to our university at New Student Orientation.

This summer, I served as an Orientation Leader, primarily for the College of Arts and Sciences. I felt at home among the dreamers: future architects and chemists and linguists and economists, all listening to my words, welcoming them to a bright future at South Dakota State University. You may wonder how these new freshman, the ever-so-present hashtag of #newjacks16, impact your life at our university. I guarantee that these new students, these fresh faces of first-day nerves and lanyards around necks and students far too excited to eat at Chick-fil-A for the first time, can make a difference in your life, in our university, and in our world.

That new student may challenge your professor to think in a new way. That freshman may use their voice in student government to impact change for all students. That student may become the university’s largest benefactor in 30 years and create a brand new facility on our campus. That student may create a device that saves thousands of lives. These students will not only impact the long line at the University Bookstore, but also the long line of innovators, entrepreneurs, engineers, pharmacists, and successful people that have once walked the same paths as you and I.

The First Year Advising Center has taken an approach called the Appreciative Advising Model, encouraging our incoming students to dream. Imagine if we, as upperclassmen, also encourage these students to follow those dreams and utilize the resources here to propel them into futures filled with success. From our campus to Cambodia, our students have dreams that span beyond our imagination. I saw them, in colorful sticky notes, plastered upon a glass wall in the student union.

I ended every orientation session with a smile, thanking these new students for their impact on me. These students, in two short days, allowed me to improve my leadership and communication skills, learn more about various academic majors and career interests, and gain more friendly faces welcoming me back to campus this fall. Most of all, these students have inspired me to dream.

 

 

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to senior girls: my post-freshman year thoughts

My freshman year is coming to an end, and I’ve realized that nearly everything I thought about college was wrong.

Thank goodness.

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When I was planning for college, I thought I had everything figured out. I’d get the perfect roommate, the perfect dorm furniture and pinterest-inspired everything and it would all look like a magazine. I thought I’d be poor and hungry, struggling to get by. I thought my friends I met the first day would become my best friends forever. Honestly, a boyfriend was the furthest thing from my mind back then. I thought that the food options would lead me to a bagel for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I thought I’d have no time between classes and organizations. I thought I would struggle to find out where I fit in and if I could even find organizations for my interests and hobbies and ideals. I thought that classes would be boring until I “got into” my major. I thought it would be scary.

I was wrong.

My room is a mess. It never had a color scheme; I never take my trash out until it’s nearly flowing onto my carpet. I have clothes on every surface. But it’s home. This little dorm room has become my bedroom, kitchen, study room, dance floor… you name it. It’s not pretty, but it’s mine.

I thought my roommate would be my best friend forever, but I live alone now. We both changed and found happiness in other ways, people, and spaces. But that’s okay. College is about growth, finding yourself, and learning how to make tough decisions that benefit you. Having a roommate first semester was awesome, though, and I definitely love the memories we shared during that time.

I thought I’d constantly be worrying about paying for fun things or how to get by without online shopping. (gasp!) But I got a job. It’s not glamorous, but I learn from it. And I have awesome coworkers. I make it work with my schedule, and I pay for my own things. “Adulting” is a real thing, folks.

The people I met the first day are not my friends today. They are now acquaintances, or floor-mates, but my best friends are the ones that came easily and stayed. They appreciate me for me. Dance parties, pizza rolls, too many clothes… all of it. (And I can happily add, most of them will be living with me next year!) These people have truly lifted me up and made me a better person.

If you would have told me, at this time last year, that I’d have a boyfriend right now… I probably would have laughed in your face. But he’s great, makes me laugh, and has been an awesome addition to my freshman year.

I was so scared, as a picky eater, that I’d have nothing to eat. Instead, the food options feel like the refrigerator door. You just have to open it up, dig around, and mix and match combinations. When in doubt, go off campus. 🙂

I was worried about time management. As an organizer by nature, I took the time to color code my schedule and map out all the buildings. What I didn’t realize is that it takes about 3 minutes to walk to that building, or 7 for that one, or 5 for that one. It’s now down to a science. I didn’t realize that an hour for lunch is the perfect amount of time to meet up with a friend and talk about life. I didn’t realize that 12am is the perfect bed time. (Well, maybe not, but we can try.)

I thought I would struggle to fit in and become a part of something that I enjoyed and that benefitted me personally. Instead, I’ve become so involved across campus and I couldn’t be happier. Whether its honors, Students’ Association, an awesome late-night intramural volleyball team, political activism, dance club, major-specific clubs… it’s nearly impossible to feel lost. Your hobbies and ideals and dreams are shared by others, I promise.

I honestly dreaded any and all of my general education credits. I thought that I would be bored out of my mind or challenged extremely. Instead, one of my favorite classes was a Human Geography class. Of course, my math and science requirements have been less exhilarating, but I’ve made friends in the classes that make them much more enjoyable. However, the classes that are in my major are wonderful and applicable. It’s an awesome feeling to be learning about something that you’re passionate enough about to dedicate your life to.

I thought it would be scary, and you probably do too.

Let me tell you this: you are ready to conquer the world, and this is your first step. It can be scary, but it is so exciting and so worth it. You are at a crossroads. You are ready to choose your path and grow tremendously. I’m excited for you.

Get ready, because it’s coming so much sooner than you know it. And then you’ll blink and you’ll be in my shoes. This year has flown by, but thankfully I have a million memories to occupy my thoughts as I wait until fall to make more here at this university that has become home.

You have about 4 months until you begin..get ready to be wrong.

I was, and I’m so glad that was the case.

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I hope that this brings you peace of mind, excitement, and hope.

 

 

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right in the feels

Emotions, or feelings, are not everyone’s favorite thing to talk about.

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But…The past few weeks in my honors interpersonal communications course, we’ve dedicated our time to learning about, expressing our own, and understanding others’ emotions.

I’ve always known that I’m an emotional person. I have always thought that I wore my heart on my sleeve and my emotions were fairly easy for others to understand, to read. During this three-week exercise, however, I’ve learned an incredible amount about myself and others in my class and even beyond the classroom doors.

Each person in my class was assigned to find a short video that portrayed either how they react to/handle/express emotion, or a video that made them feel a certain emotion. However, we were told to simply find a video that we could explain how it fit the theme. It was a fairly wide topic, I thought nothing of the complexity of this task while sifting through youtube and then my own brain to find a video. In the breadth of this topic, I soon found, each of my classmates found a different perspective.

Several of my classmates found humor the best way to handle emotions and emotion situations. Many others evoked feelings with music; from “Fight Song” to “Cough Syrup” to “Over the Rainbow” to “Concrete Angel” to “Brave” to “If Today Was Your Last Day” —  all of these songs had powerful meaning, some of which I had never before thought about or experienced when hearing that song. The videos, too, held powerful messages packed full with emotion. Another classmate simply attached a satisfying video of a sponge reacting to water being poured on it. He explained that he, like the sponge, soaks up the emotions of those around him and then internalizes all of it. Another spoke about letting emotions out via physical activity and camaraderie on his football team. Another explained how when visiting Greece, she experienced feelings in a place and that place now holds deep emotional meaning for her. Another included a video, entitled “I Don’t Understand God” about how faith is unwavering even throughout confusion and hurt. He explained his desire to be a pastor, and how his faith allows him to feel and express emotion. Another disclosed his depression. Another, her ADD. Myself, my PTSD. Another, his battle with cancer throughout high school. Another, whose routine surgery gone wrong may have left her unable to have children.

Each of us feels, experiences, and discloses emotion differently. For some, it was difficult to stand up and admit to their feelings or their struggles. Others spoke openly.

I always thought that I wore my heart on  my sleeve with my emotions. Some of this, I’ll admit, is true. I cried during many of my classmates presentations. However, I also realized that, like so many of my classmates, my struggle with PTSD may seem well hidden. I’m a positive person, who feels many positive emotions each day. But I struggle, I fall down, I cry. I had no idea that my classmates, who’ve been in my class all semester, had dealt with the issues that they had the courage to speak about during these presentations. It made me realize that we are truly never alone.

What I also realized: emotions are sneaky. They sneak up behind you, they sneak into your mind. You can’t even control which ones end up ‘on your sleeves’.

I have gained so much respect for my classmates. I enjoyed getting to see their perspectives on life and struggle and happiness and all the things in between.

This exercise truly opened my eyes to the depth of what every single person feels. We all feel different things, care about different things, get hurt by different things, feel happiness from different things. If there’s one thing that college has done for me, it has sure opened my mind and my heart to other people’s differences.

My (amazing) professor ended the lesson with these words, “I guess that’s why I don’t like adults as much as my students. Adults get hard. They lose that capacity to understand and appreciate and challenge themselves with others who are different from them. Don’t lose that, folks. That’s a beautiful thing.” 

New Challenge: Accept that others feel as deeply as you do. Open your eyes and your heart. Don’t be afraid to feel.

A friend of mine has recently been struggling, and she has questioned everything she has been feeling. I caught myself saying to her, “You have every right to feel everything you feel.”

You really do.

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and here’s me and my cat snuggling.

…sometimes that’s all you need when you’re feeling emotional.

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My heart says go…

…but my brain screams “STOP!”

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Let’s start with the positive: I absolutely, positively, face-hurts-from-smiling, belly laughter-causing, can’t describe it in words, LOVE my life lately. Of course, this is due to the amazing people in my life. My friends, boyfriend, parents, brothers, coworkers, classmates… I feel like I’m on a sugar rush. This kid in a candy store has broken into the post-Easter candy sale on Starburst jelly beans. (my favorite)

The positivity that has flooded my life lately has been exhilarating. Never before have I felt so uplifted by my friends and truly learned to love myself as others do. I am truly blessed, happy, and loved. Let that be known and shown that I am so grateful!

…With this happiness, however, comes the downward spiral of the end of the semester. Not only is the stress of classes crashing down on me, but the thought of leaving these people, this campus, and the happiness that revolves around my everyday life here at SDSU… the very thought is excruciating.

Of course, people say “We’ll see each other this summer!” And I say, “Yeah, I hope so!”

The key word: hope. Hope is the thing that allows me to persevere through my fear. Hope keeps me going.

The PTSD, the fear, the anxiety… it doesn’t go away. Sure, in the safety of my dorm with my friends, I rarely feel it. However, the second we decide to leave, to get in a car, it all comes at me full force.

I’m terrified to leave this summer, because I know that all the visits I wish I could have, I wish I could drive to, may not happen. My heart says go, but my brain screams “STOP!” because that’s what PTSD does to me. The most painful part: not only am I allowing my PTSD to control my life (and to make me miss my friends horribly), but it will hurt the people whom I love and care about so deeply.

Saying goodbye in a few short weeks will be so, so hard. I guess that’s the beauty of it. Winnie the Pooh said it best:

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I hope to keep pushing past my fears each day, and I’m still continually thankful for the people in my life. It feels embarrassing to have PTSD; It’s horrible to feel like a bother. Thank you to the people who attempt to understand and are willing to make it work for me.

I’m going to soak in every last minute of these last few weeks with the people I love and revel in this amazing happiness that has come into my life. I will ride this sugar high as long as I can. The people in my life are just so… sweet. 😉

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always,

alex.