Knowing Yourself College Edition

What I know now is no where what I knew in college about myself. In college is where you begin to take the veil off of your eyes to what you learned all your life to what you want to be in life. It’s a line that crosses to merge the two and the journey is a battle!

I left high school and entered Penn State university and this was what I knew at the time: I was a straight A student since 2nd grade, I was a daughter of ministers, and I was goal oriented. That was my identity. I didn’t know I could be Toi and have my past be my identity while learning who I wanted to be. I could date if I wanted to and define what dating meant to me. I could party and still be an amazing student. I could be goal oriented and want to find joy in all things and I didn’t have to choose.

Growing up in a strict household and having everything be about church wasn’t the issue. The issue is my church in particular only preached Hell and marriage as the basis of life. Everything was Hell and being married because marriage was great was the focus. I watched couples who shouldn’t have been married run and get married just cause they wanted to date and dating wasn’t allowed unless it was for the purpose of marriage. Most of those marriages didn’t make it! Truth hurts! You wasn’t allowed to date just because two people had an interest in one another! You couldn’t see where things went. Every date doesn’t end in a proposal! It actually breeds unhealthy dating relationships in other areas!

As a college student my focus was going to college, completing a degree and finding a husband. The reality is I could form my life on my terms and college is where SOME find husbands but the reality is getting my degree was key, finding myself, and enjoying the experience should have been the focus. Now that also means learning how to incorporate my love of God into a balanced life. No one not one preacher at my church taught it. So many of us went to college and struggled. Some dropped out! Some completed and got shunned for breaking away from what we were taught! Some still have resentment for that period of their life.

I struggled without support. I should have been supported into being able to be an adult and make healthy choices instead of thinking even healthy choices were dooming me to Hell. I should have also been encouraged to just be free instead of this pressure of if you are dating and it’s not for marriage than I was doomed. Great respect to those who married young but as an 18 year old passport stamps, girl trips, and fun while maintaining my grades should have been the focus! I choose to try to please everyone and in the end I wasn’t happy!

So freshman year I meet this amazing guy. Rewind, I met amazing guys. I literally messed up relationships because the thought that I could multi date was foreign. Men do it and are applauded. Women do it and they are a hoe. You do know women can date multiple folks and not have sex with them if she doesn’t want to? It exist! Women do it all the time. I lied to my parents about my relationship with my then boyfriend who is now my husband and then covered it and that was one is the most horrible experiences I went through! Shout out to the folks around me who called me out! Grateful for getting through! Grateful for even the friends lost during that heavy transition if I’m honest!!

Why am I talking about this for college students?! Take your time to enjoy your time on campus. Even if you find an amazing person you don’t have to commit to them right off the bat. I love my husband now and then as a boyfriend but I should have allowed myself the opportunity to do whatever I wanted. Our love was intense. College years are different than normal dating time. The connection for me was intense. We were in classes together, we were in the same scholarship program, so we were together alllll the time! When we loved hard it was great and we fought hard too! Instead of being sneaky just be an adult! It’s understandable that you are going to find yourself in situations that your parents aren’t going to approve of. I would be lying if I pretended that wouldn’t happen. No matter what you get into I know you will be okay. You will find a way out! Don’t do anything you as an individual aren’t proud of. Do what you can stand on. If you can’t be proud of a decision don’t do it! Don’t do anything to make someone prouder than you feel looking in a mirror-EVER!

Make every decision on what makes you happy, safe, and fulfilled! Stay on top of your studies! You are there to learn. Don’t start the journey by going into a field that someone else has for you. The biggest lie you can tell is the one that has you lying to yourself! You can’t keep up a lifestyle that only honors those around you! Trust me the heartaches, lost friends and friendships, broken promises, and general dishonor to yourself isn’t worth it. When I think about those beginning years of how in the end I dishonored myself saving my reputation from folks I later found out was doing the same makes me parent my kids differently, live with purpose and makes me grateful I figured it out!! FYI this isn’t about my parents doing something wrong this is about a I needed to do right by me!

For every decision right or wrong I fully own! As a college student I learned how to break out and be okay being who I wanted to be. I learned that I like what I like and daily instead of packaging myself to make others happy I make sure I can live daily with myself! College is more about getting to that aha moment than what your GPA is! But don’t sleep on your studies! The best opportunities come for those who do the work. So do your work literally. Don’t skip a bunch of classes-at least not all the time. You get out what you put into it in every aspect!

If you’re returning to campus return and start the process of what makes you-you! Don’t show up on campus for your parents, your church, your community more than you show up for yourself! Not one person is getting your grades and they definitely won’t help wipe shame off your soul when you live on their terms. Not one!

To my parents who send your kids with the do as I say do cause I’m paying for it: you will get a better child, a better person; when you support your child where they are. If you want to not “waste” your money invest in your adult child where they feel like they will thrive. Support them in mistakes. If your child has to lie to you it isn’t just because they are a liar it too may mean you aren’t fostering an environment conducive to having an open engaged communication!

To my husband who at the time was my boyfriend-you stuck by my side and didn’t hold it against me when I couldn’t be authentic! You loved me during that time and hadn’t we not married now I would have still had nothing but the most upmost love and respect for you!

To my parents: the life you gave me protected me for a point of life. As much as I could easily blame you for my inauthentic ways life showed me that I would be faced with more inauthentic areas that belonged to me and only me. I would love to go back and stand up for myself. The only thing I regret was not doing it sooner. I love that you gave me a great foundation and for that I will always honor that!

To my Penn State friends who stood by my side you are amazing! I definitely know we have made each other life friends! The love we experienced life together! If it hadn’t pressed through together we wouldn’t be as close as we are now!

My parents birthed me and gave me the foundation I still have in many ways. Penn State refined me. Life polished me and now as a parent I get to redo little mes!!

Go back to college or step into college and take the journey for what it is. You will fail in many ways and you will succeed in a lot of them. As you continue the journey get grounded. Make new friends. Find ways to travel. Take that internship! Study Abroad! Go to that party! Date that guy/girl just because! Smile and take the lumps because it all will mold you into a dynamic person!

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Increased Self Care

Who doesn’t love getting a mani/pedi? How about a salon trip? It feels amazing to pamper yourself or just continue your up keep. As much as these activities are awesome and can be forms of self-care, do not limit that to your only self-care. Increase self-care to those things that bring joy into your heart and life.  What about that hobby that brings the type of smile that can’t be wiped away?  What about making time with friends a priority? What about going back to school to accomplish a goal you left sitting? What about making time for rest and unplugging? We all need to dip deeper into self care now more than ever.

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When I hear older folks make complaints such as “what is this self-care business, we didn’t have that growing up,” it irks me. Those be the same women that have the most insecurities, the most hard battles in their spirit that have gone unchecked. When you know better you do better. Why aren’t you practicing it yourself or encouraging the younger generation to focus on their mental health just because no one encouraged you? You remember them lonely battles you fought? Remember that feeling of being overwhelmed? Why would you want another woman or man to go through that?  Even it made someone 5 seconds better, it’s worth it. Encourage and then practice it yourself. 2019 is about accountability and that is even in how we treat ourselves. We can’t expect anyone to treat us well when we treat ourselves badly. Think about it from head to toe. What are you doing to make you whole? If you are still eating, drinking, not working out, have a thousand bad habits that contribute to your body and mind’s demise, these things need to be worked out.

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Self care is about self-preservation.  It pulls you out of darkness and makes you alert. When you don’t practice self-care often times you are numb to things and people around you. It doesn’t stop bad things from coming but it can help you deal with it that much more. Think about the times you let yourself go mentally. You weren’t even ready for hits that life was about to throw. Self care is super important. I don’t care what you call it.  You can call it self-care, self-love, me time, whatever it is find it, be consistent, and then add some more. There is no such thing as too much self-care. That is impossible. Having joy in this world is what keeps people from feeling hopeless. That hopeless feeling leads people into paths that don’t bring about positive results. People need hope. Joy isn’t about walking around with a smile 24/7.  It means that you have things in your life that bring you real happiness no matter what. Self care is about preserving peace in a world full of chaos. Self care is about loving yourself even when the world wants to make you feel unlovable. Self care doesn’t care what your status is in life. Self care is important. Please invest in yourself. Practice some more self-care!

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Mature Love

Let’s face it with the wave of reality television society obviously loves drama. We thrive on. We take it in.  We gravitate towards it. In the last 2 years I have taken on a journey to dismiss a lot of the drama in my life in the form of television and media. In addition to that in the last few years I have eliminated drama in my personal life and especially in marriage.

I think about the wonder years of college. Here I had come from this small town and I had recently been holding on to my high school sweetheart. I was so torn on keeping up this relationship but happy to start this new adult life. With limited time I ended one relationship and set out on a journey to find myself. In the midst of finding myself, I found a new relationship. In the beginning I kept telling myself to keep my options open but I fell hard and heavy with this tall glass of water who I later would end up marrying and having a family.  Oh the relationship goals I hear people speak of when I post my beautiful family is encouraging.  It encourages my husband and I to honor each other more and to be the example to ourselves and children.

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Let me dip my baby toe into the early years when we weren’t as gracious in relating to one another as we should. The drama and fights and break ups to make up were really out-of-pocket. My college years were filled with too much of it.  Our friends God bless their hearts had seen their fair share. From me moving off campus, to not being able to go down the street without a fight, goodness. Yes not anything physical but all that ratchet yelling could have made a lot of this reality television look like Elmo’s World. We were in love and I will speak for me unable to handle and know what adult love was supposed to look like. The cursing each other out, seeing or attempting to see other folks (depending on who you ask), acting a fool in public, breaking up and making up and not telling others, just exhausting to write let alone live. Back in the day it seemed like a whirlwind. It seemed normal. Everyone on campus knew we were toxic and out-of-pocket. Just a mess!

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Separating and allowing space and time and for me to honestly deal with some inner struggles led us back to each other. People think we just woke up one day and decided to give this thing called love a try. We were tested in that love several times almost ending our marriage. What turned things around from college and marriage was living and learning about myself. Finding out what worked for me. I found out my passions. I had learned to live with myself enough to not allow someone else to come into my space that wouldn’t allow me to be me. This allowance has come up several times in our current marriage. The ability to let your partner balance their lives with you is necessary. One day in our car we were at the point of divorce, he looked at me and said, “are we in or out?” He said if we are in lets stick together and make it and if we are out, lets find a way to be honorable with our children.  He looked me in my eyes and I knew he wasn’t playing.

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We at that moment lived by our mantra” us against the world.” We had stated that mantra in college but it solidified with me and him that day. That was at least 2 years into our marriage. There are no cute pictures you can take when two people have kids and are literally walking around like hateful roommates. What picture can you show when you are at the point of no return?  what picture can you show when you have enough and only doing the bare minimal?  So I always go back to the picture below.  When we were happy and made the decision to love each other forever. The time where we were so in love that nothing before that mattered and now nothing after should be to the point where we can’t work together.  We are willing to be with one another and this picture reminds me to take a mental break, wait for an answer, love despite of, and go back to the basics of what makes us, us!

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We don’t have the answers. We live each day but we know what works for us. We were friends first. We have “truth moments.” We give each safe space to be vulnerable.  We are learning to listen and talk to and not at each other. These are things that we learned in counseling the first months of our first year! I stepped out what we should be in our marriage and looked at the value of what we are able to make and hold on to when disaster hits. We are stronger together because we still want to be teammates in this thing called life.  As holidays like Valentine’s Day comes we love love or at least I who loves all holidays love these and any love related holidays, but to know that we are working through things and have matured beyond the college days is a miracle of staying the course! I want to leave a highlight with you, don’t think you have to struggle to get to this great point. If you can avoid it, please do so. Know yourself before you enter any relationship. The best thing is to work on you, get counseling before considering dating because uniting with a person can be a trigger in itself, and be clear about boundaries.  I am not glorifying bad behavior.  You can have healthy love. I am glad that we did the work to get to where we are. Nobody wants that perfect love story, but our love story is perfectly fitting for us!

College Final Words

So when I graduated I was the happiest person in the world.  I thought about every stressful situation, every heartache, every defeat, every victory and it made me realize just how strong I was to get through it all.  I was happy to finally have my degree.  The very next semester I cried walking in a Walmart because there was no more school.  I know I am a rare person most folks would have rolled over and slept or even just went to work but I didn’t.  College had really been so much fun and a place for me to learn about myself.

I literally wouldn’t be the woman I am had I not gone through the experience.  It helped me to see others for who they really were too.  One of the biggest things I got from Penn State outside of the education was a lifetime supply of friends. College isn’t for everyone. I don’t look down on anyone who hasn’t gone. It seems like a party all the time but it’s not. It’s hard work.  There are many students who start out and don’t finish.  I would be lying if I told you that there were many days I wanted to quit.  I cried a lot.  I was stressed.  I had disappointing times.  End of the day it was something that I wanted so I fought and won.  If you want to take the journey into college whether that’s community classes, a big or small university or college it’s your choice to make.  Make sure to be clear what you want and if you decide to change your mind that’s fine too, but be sure and prepared to do the work to graduate.  To some college is just a piece of paper but I call it the proving grounds. If you are a graduate of higher education do NOT let anyone make you feel bad for attending.  You did the work and like me may even be a first generation college student. I had many people tell me how stuck up I was.  I had people say I thought I was too good.  I wasn’t.  I simply made my plan and with detours in the way made it happen.

To incoming freshman embrace this new life you are about to embark on.  It is the most challenging and most rewarding one yet.

My last key things to remember:

Breaks: It doesn’t matter if its Fall, Spring or Holiday breaks take them.  Try to spend time with family but also go on one trip with your new friends.  It is the time to have a blast so don’t waste it sitting on campus unless you are working getting your coins.

Meal Plans: I had one of the biggest meal plans but like most colleges they have places off campus where you can use them and of course they eat up your points.  Try to do this every now and again or prepare to eat Ramen noodles and spaghetti O’s.

Refunds: It seems like a big check in the beginning but once you account for all of your needs during the semester which will also include entertainment try to budget especially if you don’t have a job or work-study.

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Off Campus Apartments: Make sure you either have a reliable car or get familiar with the bus system in your town.  Make sure that you pick convenient living arrangements.

Roommates: Do not always choose your closest friends to live with.  I did and had no issues but just because you are friends does not mean you can live with one another. I have seen friendships end fast.  You do not know how another person lives.  I was a neat freak it drove my roommates crazy but we were able to live together.

Romance: If you read my college blogs you know that I ended up marrying my college sweetheart but not everyone ends up with that love story.  Make sure the one you decide to make public and date on campus is on the same page.  Dating should never interfere with your grades.  So if you are dating someone who is encouraging you to let your grades slack you already know what to do.  You both came to get an education so get it.  Be balanced.  Yo do not need  to be joined at the hip.  Separate us time, me time, friends time, school time, and maybe work time.  This is practice for when you get into the real world or get married its the same expectations.  If you were interested in certain activities continue them. Keep the campus folks out of your business.  Rumors spread faster on campuses so be aware of what you allow out.

Laundry: Many students do not take laundry into account. Most campuses have machines that take cards, points or some type of monetary exchange.  Please consider the options. Mom and dad love you but no wants to see a semester worth of clothes coming home.

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School, College Style

It’s that time of year where students begin to prepare for back to school.  The most stressful of back to school is back to college.  For many this is their first time away from home.  Parents and student start to feel it. College is some of the best years you will ever experience but there are a few things you should keep in mind.  We will switch back and forth for both the parent as well as the new college student…

Trust/Communication

I looped both topics together. It’s one of the first fears that parents have.  Your child may be ready to cut the strings but you aren’t.  You want to still treat them like the baby that you see them as.  There is an issue, your baby is budding into an adult.  They aren’t grown yet but they are adults.  Let me help you define grown.  Grown is when you can support yourself and ALL decisions made.  Many college students define grown as 18 and ready to roll.  Parents take a deep breath.  Your emotions are about to do many different things. One day you are crying about it and the next day you may be planning what to do with the newly minted space left behind.  It’s okay.  Your child is doing the same types of emotional roller coaster.  If your child is someone who has NEVER been out of your presence, you are going to have a tougher time.  You are going to have to find that fine line between parent and friend.  I know if you are a parent like mine were, friendships don’t start until your child can pay bills, but in college they are going to need unconditional love and support.

Parents you are going to have to develop real open and honest non judgemental communication.  Take it from someone who did any and everything the lies get greater if you don’t.  Your child will hide more from you just to spare themselves the nagging.  If you want them to be able to tell you things you have to start now by trying to get in a place where you can receive even the worst of news calmly.  It doesn’t mean that parent part of you won’t be disappointed because you will.  I was a good kid.  Never got into any trouble but the minute my feet touched campus, the doors of foolishness were open.  I lied to cover up things from my parents in more ways than one.  I didn’t feel like I could say hey this is what is going on without thinking I would lose their respect.  Your child knows you won’t like what they do, they are prepared but to lose a parent’s respect is major.

Even if you didn’t attend college yourself you know what’s waiting for your child.  Keeping the doors open allows you to cover them in ways you can’t even imagine.  You will forge a better relationship with them because you know what’s going on. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t set boundaries.  You don’t need all of the details but being able to have them open up to you is key.  Oh and the picture you allowed them to see of you where you were perfect and angelic won’t work.  You need to open up about the things you have been through too. Keep those things in the back of your mind too they may be helpful in guiding your child to the right direction even if you can’t make them do what you want them to do.

Care Packages

If you can, send them often.  I don’t care what your child says, everyone loves to get little reminders of home.  Kids no matter their size get home sick.  They are ready to take on the world but they still need your love.  What’s more loving than a care package?  It could be things that they need as well as little things they can’t get on campus.  If your child is going to a college or university that isn’t as diverse, hair products can sometimes be key. If you don’t want or can’t afford care packages, send a card.  Send one, twice a month.  The smiles and encouragement that a .99 card can bring will do wonders.  The purpose of care packages is just little reminders that they are loved.  There are many who will never get them.  They will long for them trust me.

Phone Calls

I got my first cell phone in college.  I didn’t have one before then.  In these days and times, text messages are golden.  Have a conversation with your child, a code or something you make up that they can let you know they are alive and well.  Your child may not be able to answer every call.  They should be in school or enjoying their new life.  Communication may be cut but it doesn’t have to be non-existent.  Express some form of communication does need to be had.  No way your child can go off to school and just do them without getting back to you.

Social Time

This is the part about parenting that ALL parents cringe.  Yes your child may go to parties. They don’t all have to drink.  I didn’t start until my junior year.  No I wasn’t 21 then but that’s when I started.  I actually just enjoyed the parties for dancing and meeting new people.  My freshman year I didn’t miss one.  I had a ball and a half.  I traveled.  I enjoyed my life.  I had to figure out balance.  Some days were better than others.  The key to getting out and having fun is not let it affect your grades or any scholarship requirements.  Yes trust and believe that academic probation is real.  I was fortunate not to have to go throguh that but not everyone around me was as fortunate.  As quickly as they can give scholarships, they can easily snatch it away too.  If you are a new college student there’s not enough tears you can give that will stop them from taking your money back.  Be careful.  Be responsible.  This is the time in your life where no one is going to be over top of you to make sure you are where you are supposed to be.  That means if you fail it will because you choose that life.

Also be aware of your surroundings.  Use discernment. Everyone that is in your face don’t always mean you well.  Understand that concept now to avoid the pitfalls that being on a campus can bring. It’s a great time but it also has a lot of drama too.  If you are on a small or large campus it doesn’t matter. Campus issues are bound to happen.  This is the time where you go from being a child to being an adult.  You will learn about yourself in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

Dating

I met my husband practically day one and we had been inseparable since then. HOWEVER let me keep it real.  As much as I am grateful for that chance encounter, I love him but I would have done things differently.  Yes hold your pearls I am serious.  I had dated him almost my entire college career.  So not dating others or casually dating didn’t really happen.  I think every young person deserves to be young and free and not tied down.  I didn’t know who I was and what I wanted.  I’m not saying sleep with everyone, I said date. Go out on activities , grab a bite to eat (college will be broke times a meal is a God send), enjoy another person’s company.  Do not attempt to lock down a person freshman year without experiencing life.  You should be traveling. I was a home body.  My first year I just went home never even knowing about Spring break trips, or girls trips, etc. I didn’t start that until Sophomore year.  These are the times when you forge great friendships.  Had my husband and I not married we would still be friends.  Yes we met 2 other amazing friends that first week and that branched into a life time friendship and we added other Penn Staters along the way.  I still call them often.  I still take trips with them. The point is have some fun.  Enjoy being young.  There are many handsome men and beautiful women all around the world.  You have no idea where your life will lead you.  Take your time.

Another component of dating is date rape.  Yes this is when you go out with a person and you have already spent time together.  You talk on the phone for hours at a time.  You feel you practically know them, but then you are out and it gets to that point of parting ways. You are thinking should you kiss them or not and then the unthinkable happens, you are raped.  This is real.  This is happening on every campus.  Women are afraid to talk because they won’t be believed.  They deserved this.  They should have known better. We as a culture have to dispel these things.  Speak up.  If this happens, get help.  Don’t hide it, there’s no shame in what another person stole from you.  I used to tell people around me all the time, for all the girls that do give it up on campus, there’s not one need to take anything from anyone-period.  Men if you are reading this you have a responsibility to have these talks with your sons and other male family and friends.  We can’t continue to have rape culture around. I don’t subscribe to it in any form.  Let’s take responsibility so that your daughter, cousin, niece, etc doesn’t have to endure this embarrassing, hurtful experience.

Get Organized

So you are on campus to learn.  You should know all of your advisors.  You should know where the student centers are.  You should know where help is.  I would applaud you to take a real trip on your campus and introduce yourself to the key players.  In college it’s not just you taking courses and being just a number.  If you don’t learn to forge relationships across the board, you are going to have a tough time.  You will need recommendations.  There are people on campus that have strong connections with others, and you need to get on board.  Make it your business to find them.  Your professor shouldn’t only know you once you failed.  The second you didn’t pass a simple test you should be in their office asking questions on why you missed the information.  What can you to make it better?  You need to be on top of your academics.  So get to it and get organized in your thinking.  Remember you are investing or someone is investing a lot of time and money into you so don’t waste it.

College is a ball of fun.  You will learn what you need to learn to take the next big steps in your life.  You will learn about yourself. It takes a village so understand if you are a parent to reach out and have understanding.  Keep the lines of communication and be a full support to your new college student.  Know that it isn’t like being at home.  Establish some new rules.  To the student, know this will be a great time.  You will have fun.  Don’t let fun get in between the goal which is to graduate so you can be credentialed to be in the field of your choice.  Have fun but be organized, take care of your business, and always use discernment.

Don’t worry I will highlight a few pitfalls I went through in college next week.