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finding yourself

I remember my very first day at Fontbonne. Well, okay, I remember the day I moved into the Joe. I remember the night before I moved in pretty clearly, too, along with the two days or so leading up to it. I remember being in high school and being so ready to move on. Gosh, I HATED high school. I loathed the place. My best friend did as well, and we were both ready to get far, far away from it. She, being a Mormon, moved out West to go to Brigham Young in Idaho (Yes, there is a version in Utah as well). Frequently she’ll send me gorgeous photos via text of some beautiful location she’s visiting for fun. Because according to her, frequent outdoor adventures are the norm for kids out there our age. Anyhow, I was done with high school. And all during that summer before my freshman year, I was super excited to go off to college and start a new chapter. But that all changed a day or two before I was actually supposed to leave. All of a sudden, I felt scared. I didn’t want to go. What if my mom was sad with me gone? Sure, my brother was over at SLU (Heck, he was getting ready to leave the country with his girlfriend for a semester.). But still, the thought of somebody being sad always puts a knot in my stomach. I wouldn’t have it.

The day I was to move in, my overprotective dad (who still doesn’t want me running in Forest Park. Oh well.) gave me a talk about all sorts of things that the little naïve version of myself didn’t want to hear. If I wasn’t scared or turned off to the idea of going, I really was after that conversation. I guess after that I just kind of closed down, before I had even stepped foot onto campus, and I never really opened up my mind to embrace my situation.

I still go home every weekend. I used to tell myself that in doing so, I was taking the easy way out. And to some extent, yeah, I guess you could say that. It meant I didn’t have to deal with trying to entertain myself or meet new people or what have you. But on the other hand, home was, and is, well, home. Read: I feel most myself here. And maybe that’s why now I still pack up half of my dorm every weekend to head south, and why I don’t think it’s something I should be apologizing for or beating myself up over or a logical reason to tell myself I’m a big baby who will never make it to Washington or Colorado or Alaska (okay not really here, but I bet it’s beautiful). Because that’s just not true, and it’s totally not fair to myself.

There are things about St. Louis I love, yes. But at the same time, something about it just doesn’t click with me. Kind of like the dietetics program. Something didn’t click with me when I was in my old major, so I left. I remember over spring break, I was feeling pretty babyish. And I probably sounded like it too, when I whined that I was too old to be at home and that April would be the month that I wouldn’t leave school at all. Yes, I declared, I would stay in the city every weekend. For the most part, I did, as my time at home was limited to maybe an evening or a random day each weekend.

At the time, I felt so desperately that I had something to prove, but in the end, what do I have to show for it? I remember that on those weekends I had to venture down to use the laundry room in Medaille on the evenings (this was a first). One night as I was down there by myself, folding up my new yellow long sleeve running shirt (don’t ask me how I remember that that was what I was folding. I just do.), I caught myself feeling…empty. Fake. I hadn’t proved anything to anybody. If anything, I was even more unsatisfied than before. I may not have felt it quite as clearly as I do now whenever I look back on those sad, confusing weekends, but there’s no denying that something felt off to me at the time. There I was, thinking I was being the Best Version of Myself by forcing myself into doing something that just wasn’t me, because I had somehow convinced myself that the BVM (Best Version of Me…let’s abbreviate it from here on out for the sake of simplicity.) was some fake big-shot who was too good and too big for home, and that being a college student meant I had to take on that role and grow up at some point.

For somebody with an A- in organic chemistry to show for both semesters (I don’t like to brag, and I’m not full of myself by any means. But I’m still healthily proud about this.), I sure can be a big dummy sometimes. I mean, does that make any sense, my reasoning for staying at school? No! How is being somebody other than myself, all for the sake of trying to measure up to the other kids around the country who have no problem with staying at school for months on end because I’m insecure with what makes me happy (and, ultimately, me), equivalent to being the BVM? It’s not! It so, so is not. And every now and then, when I feel myself feeling weirdly insecure or insignificant next to the fresh-out-of-high-school kids I’ll be lifeguarding with this year (when the Water Park actually opens because it’s not raining or too cold so I can make some money already), I catch myself having that urge bubbling up inside of me to prove myself yet again. I find myself thinking, “Yeah, well, I’m a fancy Clayton resident, so there, you Mizzou-bound tigers.” And I do it all out of insecurity. Isn’t that just stupid, that I have to take on a role, put on an act that makes me feel empty and totally unlike myself all because I feel like I don’t measure up? I think it is. I think it’s sad and pathetic of me and I know it’s the reason for the knot in my stomach I’ve experienced since April. That knot is there, telling myself, “Carly, you’re bigger than this. And I won’t let you eat until you see that already.”

I remember last spring feeling a similar urge to prove myself. So I joined a club I didn’t care about, really, because I felt I wasn’t involved or much of a force to be reckoned with on campus (despite my A-‘s in organic. Okay I’ll shut up about it now.). So all year this school year, I dragged myself to meetings for that said club, contributing little, if anything, to the organization. And I did it out of insecurity, once again.

As I reflect on these mistakes and the reasons why I made them, I’m beginning to see a bit of a pattern. The BVM isn’t somebody totally different than who I am. No, I don’t need to change and stay at school if I don’t want to or join a club I could care less about, all because I feel, for some bizarre reason, insignificant. No, the BVM is quite the opposite: the BVM is the same person, but with a different perspective instead. She does things because she wants to do them because they make her feel full and alive and happy, not because she “should” or because everyone else is doing them. But more importantly, she’s happy with herself and she finally sees herself for what she really is: an excellent student (A-! Organic chem.!) with a plethora of interests and passions and ambitions who has so much she wants to do and see. Babyish loser? I don’t think so! And I can’t believe I would ever use such harsh words to describe myself.

Maybe your self-esteem is through the roof. Even so, there’s still something to learn from all of this: do what YOU want to do in college. Listen to yourself, and be okay with what yourself has to say to you (say what?), as I’m working on this summer. And most importantly, remember this quote (I’m not letting you go without one):

“You alone are enough. You have nothing to prove to anybody.” -Maya Angelou


“High and Dry” by Radiohead


Students writing for Real Life at Fontbonne are paid a small fee for each post by the university.