After picking up my cap and gown this past Tuesday, looking around seeing all my fellow soon-to-be grads, the idea of graduation officially sunk in… I couldn’t help but feel overcome with emotion… thinking about all of the connections I’ve made in the past four years, knowing how much I’ve grown as a person. I wondered if I had an impact on the people I’ve met or helped shaped this community in any way.
While reflecting on the past, I started thinking about all my beloved firsts: my first moving day, my first friends, my first sporting event, my first homecoming, my first apartment, the first day I joined TNH. On top of these experiences, I endured the spontaneity that is dorm-life, the crazy college nights (and the not so pleasant mornings), the all-nighters, the rush of acing an exam, writing that perfect paper…and finally being of legal age to get into the bars without consequence. I was struck with an overwhelming sense of community and closeness and more empowering, the feeling of being young, innocent and free. But in spite of all my good memories, I couldn’t help but think of the bad ones too—not for their negative implications, but rather, for how they’ve shaped me and made me the person I am today.
Lamentably, throughout my college career, I incessantly rehashed the past, rethinking my decisions, regretting my choices, constantly wanting to go back. I was plagued by FOMO (fear of missing out). I felt pressured by and jealous of others: what they were doing, how they were acting, the kinds of pictures they were posting, the amount of likes they were getting…I felt, in a way, trapped, and UNH—filled with all the same kind of people, who thought all the same kind of thoughts, and did the same kind of things—was the fence holding me back. I felt that if I didn’t dress like everyone, or talk like everyone, or act like everyone, I wasn’t good enough, and therefore wasn’t normal. I didn’t understand why no one else felt this way; I didn’t understand why it seemingly was just me.
All this over-analysis of every little transpired moment altered me and I started becoming a worse version of myself. I started nit-picking everything I did and every word I said. I reworked every situation, as if reviewing it would lead to a better solution or at least knowledge of what to do if it were to happen again. Too many times I wrestled with finding the answer, trying to be someone I wasn’t or trying to look the part, trying to please everyone. My relentless self-ridicule began eating away at the happy-go-lucky person I used to be. This vortex of negativity was invading my life and I began losing my sense of self along the way.
I kept these sentiments to myself which ended up doing me more harm than good. By not reaching out, I wound up reaching in—becoming isolated. My scrutiny turned deep and dark and I permitted thoughts of self-loathing and anger to enter. With these moods thickening, I began skipping class and resenting my friends. I stayed out later, stopped working, stopped working out and started drinking more. Overall, I stopped appreciating living and stopped appreciating who I was. I became depressed.
Fortunately, because of important people in my life, I was able to learn how to deal with this negativity and rid it almost completely. Instead of defining myself through clothes, social media outlets and bad choices, I successfully rediscovered, through various forms of ‘help,’ what it meant to be me. Once I constructively searched within, I started discerning what I really liked, who I really liked, what I was really interested in and what truly motivated me. Not only was this hard to do and took a full four years to master, but is something that I do not take for granted. Subjugating negativity is something that takes practice. Too many young people, especially those in college, often have feelings of not fitting in or feelings of being unwanted. Students struggle to find their identity because of the abundance of opportunities presented to them. Somewhere along the way, in this amazingly puzzling time frame, true selves can get lost in the mix. It happened to me.
Negative thoughts can devour a person, co-habiting inside the mind, rejecting acceptance, making one sick. Dwelling on them can ultimately destroy your life. I wasn’t accustomed to entertaining these notions at first. I tried avoiding them at all costs. I thought avoidance meant conquest, but I found I only subdued them. The memories I was running away from ended up catching up to me, hitting me like a freight train and, in the process, utterly consuming me. By learning to confront my demons I built a stronger, better, me.
The practice of appropriately examining bad circumstances and moving on in order to resolve them wasn’t something I realized early on in my college career, or even something I picked up in the next two succeeding years. Rather, it was something I achieved via my four amalgamated years of experiences… By taking all situations—good and bad—and making them a part of my life, I’ve learned a whole lot about who I am and how I work, which is the greatest gift I could ask for. No more holding onto bad thoughts or resentments. Embrace who I am.
I’m choosing to talk about this now because I realize, as my time here at UNH comes to a close, self-acceptance is vital. It is the topic I reflect on most, because dealing with the lack of it has shaped who I am. Now I know what you may be thinking, “what a dreary senior column,” and I bet you more than anything Andrew Yourell’s is 100x funnier, but I chose this subject in hopes to make a lasting impression on at least one person and somehow leave an impact on the UNH community. I suppose I could have talked about how I’ll miss the ringing of the T-Hall bell, or the sound of the football announcer echoing through campus. I guess I could have talked about how much certain teachers have influenced me and how I’ll miss the newsroom dearly. But happiness through self-acceptance is the most important thing and it’s something that should be continually encouraged and celebrated here at UNH.
“Don’t rely on someone else for your happiness and self-worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can’t love and respect yourself – no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are – completely; the good and the bad – and make changes as YOU see fit – not because you think someone else wants you to be different.” -Stacey Charter
Unfortunately, I had to wade through waters of despair before I came to really know myself, believe in myself and find happiness. Without UNH and the people I’ve met along the way, I’m not sure I would have been able to achieve this goal. So thank you to the UNH community, to the students, to my peers, to the teachers, to my advisors, to my editorial staff; because without any of you I would not be standing where I am today, a part of the 2016 graduating class from the University of New Hampshire. So I end with this; go out, live life, be happy, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to be yourself.