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How I Met Your Mother, Toltec Wisdom and Letting Go

images“Oh, if you could just let go.” – Mae, Just Let Go

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For some of us, September marks the beginning of a new year. For others, it simply points out that the old year is almost 3/4ths over. Still, I like to think of this time as a new start, whether you’re embarking on a new school year or celebrating the Jewish High Holy Days, and with every beginning should come its fair share of reflection.

Recently, I looked back on my previous year and realized just how much anger and resentment I had for some of the things in my life that hadn’t gone as I’d hoped. Not only did I recognize my own grudges, but I also picked up on some of the grudges that others around me had held. It seemed that everyone I knew had lost a friend, endured a difficult breakup, missed an important opportunity or failed at something they truly wanted. We may not have realized it, but we were walking around each day with a chip on our shoulders, an air of disappointment or a certain sadness we couldn’t shake.

IMG_3431I recognized this in myself and in others, but the solution didn’t hit me until about a week ago, when I was watching a rerun of How I Met Your Mother. In the episode after Ted, the protagonist, gets left at the altar, he thinks about what he would say to his ex-fiancee if he had the chance. Finally, he comes to this conclusion, which Older Ted narrates to his future children:

“Kids, you may think your only choices are to swallow your anger or throw it in someone’s face, but there’s a third option: you can just let it go, and only when you do that is it really gone and you can move forward.”

It sounds so simple, but all too often we take the “easier” road of resentment, in which we either act on our anger toward others or we keep it bottled up. Of course, neither reaction is a healthy one, and even when we display our anger openly, it rarely helps the situation. I think that a huge part of the problem is that we don’t trust ourselves to find our happiness from within; our self-worth is so defined by others that we can’t allow ourselves to let go of the past.

51MfVDOlEkLIn his book, The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz says, “If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from youWalking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”

When you walk away from something that isn’t right for you — whether that is a relationship, friendship, job or anything else — you have to trust yourself and move on. Wallowing in the past and not accepting the things you can’t control will only embitter you further.

Take a moment today to break free from something that has been holding you back, and allow yourself to finally let go. It may take some time, but it will be worth the effort and will be the best way to begin anew.

My Facebook Newsfeed in a Nutshell

As I waste my precious relaxation and study time on social media, I begin to notice patterns among the people with which I am connected. It doesn’t matter that I have 655 friends on Facebook; I can still narrow down their statuses (and often my own included!) into about 10 categories. We are all guilty of at least some of these from time to time. Which types of statuses do you find most often?

The Party Animal Status.
You essentially live-blog your crazy nights out, complete with poorly lit cell phone photos, check-ins at a nightclub or two, and misspelled statuses that prove you have mastered the caps lock button. The Party Animal Status has become rarer with the threat of potential employers using it against you, but you still post them on occasion to let your acquaintances know that you have a pretty exciting social life and that you are, in no way, a borderline alcoholic.

The “I Love My Significant Other” Status.
Whether you’ve been dating for two days or two years, you are clearly madly in love and therefore want to share it with the world! Every day! You want everyone and their mothers to know how happy you are that you found the perfect person (for the time being), which is why you post statuses about the adorable things your significant other says or about why you love him/her. (Bonus points if you do this more than once per week.)

The Obnoxious Political Status.
This type of status exists on both ends of the political spectrum. If you are someone who posts these types of statuses, then you are the type of person who likes to take “freedom of speech” to a whole new level (and not in the hip, investigative journalist kind of way). Instead of, say, writing a letter to the editor or creating your own blog specifically targeted to people interested in reading about your political views, you find it appropriate to post them on your personal Facebook page and argue vehemently with anyone who disagrees. Whether you’re complaining that the country is in shambles or gloating over your candidate’s latest win, you want to make sure everyone is aware of your political views in the most in-your-face way possible. Luckily for me, while you may have your freedom of speech, I have my freedom to block your posts from my news feed! :)

The Passive Aggressive Status.
You’re so vain you probably think this status is about you. Carly Simon aside, your Facebook status is clearly that of a scorned lover/betrayed friend who may not have the guts to speak to the one who wronged you in person, but would still happily share your feelings online in a way that they can’t 100% prove is about them. If I confront you about your status and ask if it was about me, you can simply say, “Why would you think that? Obviously you must think you’ve done something wrong if you think I’m posting statuses about you,” and then you’ve won. If I don’t confront you, then maybe you’ve still won – I’m not really sure. Well played.

The Thinly Veiled Song Lyrics Status.
This status is similar to The Passive Aggressive Status in the sense that it speaks to a particular person without mentioning them specifically — the only difference is that it does so with song lyrics. You don’t always attribute the artist or song title when you post this status; after all, Justin Bieber may have summed up your feelings exactly in his latest song, but letting the world know so openly that you listen to him might ruin your street cred. We all know that this song is about your recent ex/crush/date, but we’ll let you pretend it isn’t completely obvious.

The Misattributed Old Hollywood Quote Status.
Let’s be real – you are either going to select a quote attributed to Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, because clearly those were the only two important actresses in Hollywood before you were born. (I say this with the best intentions — I am a huge Audrey fan!) The quote you have posted usually has no source other than the countless Tumblrs and homemade websites that have reposted it. Still, the quote is sassy and it reflects the current state of your life in some way, so who cares if you’ve never actually seen a movie with Marilyn Monroe in it?

The Tough Girl Status.
Unlike The Passive Aggressive Status or The Thinly Veiled Song Lyrics Status, you are not afraid to share your true feelings about someone on the Internet. Instead, you craft grumpy posts about the people who have hurt you or the many things that make you angry. You threaten to delete friends regularly from Facebook if they aren’t living up to your expectations, and at least once, you have deactivated your entire Facebook, created a new one under a slightly new identity (first and middle name instead of first and last) and re-friended virtually all of the same people. And the cycle begins again.

The Status That Should Have Stayed on Twitter/Instagram.
Hashtags (#) have no actual purpose on Facebook, but you’re not afraid to use them liberally on your statuses, even if those hashtags are simply #bored or #picturesofmylunch. Keep these on your other social media sites.

The Cry For Help Status.
You don’t want to bother any of your friends by calling them up and telling them what’s wrong, so your next option is to write about your problems in a strategically-timed Facebook status so that everyone knows how upset you are and will compliment you on a website that lives forever.

The Pretentious Status.
You might use this as an opportunity to humblebrag. You might use it to let your friends know that the upcoming American remake of an acclaimed European film is going to be terrible. You might even use it to tell your friends about your fabulous taste in records, slightly offbeat but still fairly mainstream fashion, or books by Chuck Palahniuk. (These are a few tips for figuring out if you’re pretentious.)

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What are some of the Facebook statuses you’ve been seeing lately? Which of these are you guilty of?

What Senior Year of College Really Feels Like

I’m reaching the end of my second-to-last semester as an undergrad, and it seems that almost everyone I know (myself included) is going through a major quarter-life crisis. This year has brought with it a mix of emotions for many of us that are unlike anything we’ve experienced before, as we urgently question what we want to do when we graduate and struggle with the idea of what it means to grow up.

Often in high school, senior year ultimately boils down to a prom dress, a few questionable hairstyles, a last-minute SAT exam, the wait to hear back from college admissions, and the hope that your one guy “friend” will decide he’s crazy about you and, in a gesture as grand as any high schooler can imagine, send you carnations on Valentine’s Day. (Later on, of course, you forget the exact breakdown of your SAT scores, discover that your high school crush was interested in men the entire time, and recognize that prom was never a defining moment in your life as pop culture would claim it to be.) Although it feels incredibly important and all-consuming at the time, senior year of high school eventually fades into a distant memory that you’ll later claim to have hated all along.

College, meanwhile, becomes an exciting time of self-discovery and opportunity. You meet the friends who make you feel infinite, join organizations, and attempt to figure out what you’re good at and how to develop yourself professionally. You still fall for the types of guys your parents warned you about when you were in high school, only now they own suits and are a little harder to identify at first glance.

Senior year is a new ballpark, because while college itself is a glamorous night downtown with your best friends, senior year is a mess of emotions and scribbled-out schedules and lunch plans canceled in favor of finishing that last paper. Senior year is that moment when you realize that you might be too old to wear heart-shaped sunglasses or your Holly Golightly tiara in public, but you still store them in your closet with the quiet hope that maybe you can put them on one day when no one is looking. It’s the time when you stop accepting the advances of guys who only text you after 10 p.m. because – dammit – you’re an intelligent, complex individual who deserves to be taken to a nice restaurant or museum once in a while. Your most used topics of conversation with friends, family, acquaintances and the guy in the checkout counter at Publix? 1. Post-graduate plans (or lack thereof); 2. Where to buy business casual clothing; 3. “I AM SO STRESSED OUT RIGHT NOW.” In fact, your stress is both a source of pride and a source of grief for you.

I firmly believe that senior year of college comes with all of this craziness because it is a time of transition in our lives. We are uncertain of what the future holds, so we start to look backward with a mix of nostalgia and regret as we attempt to decipher the past four years of our lives. Perhaps four years from now we will look back at college in the same superficial snapshots with which we look back at our high school years today. Perhaps we’ll wake up one day and things will suddenly make sense, or maybe we’ll simply need to do a little more self discovery to figure out what it is we were meant to do.

From one college student to the next: I hope you are surviving your senior year and cherishing every memorable moment it has to offer.

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

Today I bring you a very exciting blog. For this month’s Freshman 15, I asked 15 college students and alumni to share their advice for navigating university life, based on their own experiences (much like last year’s blog!). We have an amazing group of contributors: documentary filmmakers, contestants and cast members from America’s Next Top Model and Real World, the owner of an organic vegan blog/brand, website creators, you name it. Enjoy the wise words of some of the coolest college students and grads that I’ve met, and feel free to add your own in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 2)

1. Enjoy life outside of the classroom.
In college, you will do more learning out of the classroom than you will do in it. Don’t forget to grow as a person as you grow academically. This will eventually prove so much more important–in your personal and professional lives–than the specifics you learned in lectures.
– Alexandra Govere (Real World: San Diego), Stanford University, Civil Engineering Major (@alexgovere)
Blog: The High Fiver 

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2. Learn for learning’s sake.
While it’s important to take classes that will help you reach your chosen profession, be sure to take a few on some things you would enjoy learning. These fun classes will offer a break from the stress of your regular course load and provide the chance to learn about something you find interesting. And you never know, these fun classes could lead to new friendships and a world of new opportunities that you never considered before!
– Monica Monticello, University of Central Florida, English Major

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3. Communicate with faculty.
Talk to your professors! They can’t help you or work with you in the event of an absence if they don’t know who you are! You can do this by asking them about something you don’t understand, or telling them how much you liked a video they showed during their lecture. Talk to them face-to-face whenever possible.
– Rachel Milock, University of South Carolina, Information Science Major (@singyouhome)

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4. Stay organized!
My biggest tip to balancing school and other things would be to stay extremely organized. I keep a planner (not in my phone or computer) and color code classes and events so I never forget about anything. As soon as I get the class syllabus I split up the work evenly every week until test time/assignment due date. A few days before an assignment is due or an exam is going to take place, I’ll write down to study for it/make sure everything is finished. It helps to be redundant…if I only write an assignments due date on the actual date, the chances of me remembering it before the day it’s due is slim to none.
– Nicole Lucas (America’s Next Top Model), University of Central Florida, Psychology Major and Marketing Minor (@NicoleMLucas)

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5. Stay in the present.
Make sure you don’t spend all your time worrying about the future. It’s good to have the go-getter attitude and want to make sure you’re going to have a job/acceptance letter at the end of these four years, but it’s also important to make the most of your college experience. Play hooky for a day, join a bunch of clubs, start an organization – those are the stories you’re going to share someday.
– Mina Radman, University of Florida, Journalism Major

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6. You don’t have to party.
Although “college” is often synonymous with parties, it’s okay if that’s not your scene. Contrary to popular belief, people won’t think you’re a “loser” just because you decline an invitation to party with them. There are a community of people on every college campus who prefer to play board games on Friday nights rather than go to frat parties. Various organizations (such as religious groups, Student Union Board, etc.) often host fun (and free!) events on weekends, which are great for meeting people with similar interests who aren’t into the party scene. Also, don’t be afraid to go to those events alone. You may arrive alone, but you’ll likely leave with a few new acquaintances and a few more numbers in your phone’s contacts!
– Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema Major (@toritwine)

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7. Manage your time.
Learn time management and learn it fast!
– Logan Kriete, University of Central Florida, Radio/Television Major (@logankriete)

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8. Stay excited.
Most freshmen have a period of heightened sociality during their first year at college. They’re more willing to attend study groups, talk to strangers, and join campus organizations. However, as the excitement of college-life begins to fade, I’ve noticed those same freshmen (including myself) are inclined to draw back socially. So as freshmen, I urge you to hold on to that bit of excitement you’re feeling right now, and make it last! Continue to get involved on campus and with your peers throughout your college career. The rest of your college years will thank you for it!
– Marilyn Malara, Florida State University, Editing/Writing/Media Major (@wowmarilyn)
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9. Experience everything you can.
Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. So take a risk and try something new. Be someone who says “yes.” You never know when a leadership position, unfamiliar class, study abroad experience, challenging internship, new friend, or even a ridiculous past time like line dancing will change your life. If you leave college with just a degree, you truly missed out.
– Jamie Gregor, University of Central Florida, Advertising/Public Relations and Marketing Major (@jamiegregor)
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10. Stop comparing.
If I could do one thing over when I was in university it would be to stop comparing myself with other women. I used to always think that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, or skinny enough and I spent so much time unhappy with myself and struggling with an eating disorder. I missed out on so much. When I look back at pictures of this time in my life I feel sad for all the things I missed out on. Instead of seeing someone who needed to lose weight or who wasn’t beautiful enough, I see someone with so much possibility, love, and beauty. I just wish I could have seen it at the time. So my advice is to appreciate what you have NOW. Stop wishing to be someone else or to have someone else’s body. Stop telling yourself you are too fat to go out. Work with what you have and hold your head up high. Don’t let this time pass you by!
– Angela Liddon, University of Guelph, Psychology Major (Blog: Oh She Glows)
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11. Keep a calendar.
Keep a calendar either digital or old fashioned. I have yet to update to a fancy phone so I still have a paper and pencil calendar. You can not only use it to keep track of appointments, events and classes but also to remember when you should study and when you have tests coming up.
– Rebekah Callari, University of Central Florida, Molecular & Microbiology Major
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12. Get out of your comfort zone.
Do what terrifies you. My sophomore year of college, introverted and disconnected, I agreed, with some coaxing, to put my name on an email list for the student newspaper. A year later, I was one of the top staff writers for the news section, churning out several stories each issue. Figure out why you’re afraid of something and make sure you’re running for the right reasons. I wasn’t. But plunging headfirst into journalism taught me more than how to write. It brought me into a circle of equally passionate writers.
– Kaleigh Somers, James Madison University, Media Arts & Design Major (Blog: HUGstronger)
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13. Trust cautiously.
Be careful whom you trust: Just because they live with you, sit next to you in class, or are in a club with you, does not guarantee that they will keep your secrets. Think twice before spilling your soul to someone you’ve only known for a few weeks. They are still capable of judging you and betraying you. College is a scary place, but don’t rush into friendships right away. Good things take time, and you will thank yourself for waiting before opening up to people.
– Shannon Payne, University of Central Florida, Anthropology Major (@shannon_nicolle)

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14. Don’t date your neighbors.
Dear freshmen, my golden rule for college life — well actually, life in general — is to not date someone that lives in your dorm or a co worker. It might seem cool at first since you get to see each other all the time but that gets old as quick as Drawing with Friends! Unless you love drama and tears by all means live and learn!
– Zhe Liu, University of Hawaii, Psychology Major
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15. Know who to turn to.
In college, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Studying too hard, participating in too much, and sleeping too little can inevitably lead to a more stressed-out you. Never forget that college is an excellent opportunity to build a “safety net” of new friends and acquaintances who are there to keep you sane, calm you down and boost you up when you need them most. Also, don’t forget that mom and dad are just a phone call away.
– Robert Gottfried, University of Central Florida, Legal Studies Major (@thegottfried)

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Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog — you are all amazing!

As We Mature, So Do Our Friendships

With the first half of my college career officially over, I’ve already started to get nostalgic. Not only is my sister about to graduate high school and embark on her freshman year, but I will also be assisting at freshman orientation next month. As our group begins to train for the big day, I can’t help but think back two years to my own freshman orientation, where I fell in love with my school and met some of the people who shaped my first two years (for better and for worse).

It’s crazy to think about how much has changed since then. I’m no longer the terrified 18-year-old who dreaded enrolling in college as a Journalism major. Nor am I the girl who avoids the organized socials at all costs. I remember wanting to skip the pool and pizza party that the school put together the night before orientation because I resented not being able to attend a high school friend’s party instead. Ironically enough, I’ve probably only kept in touch with one person who actually attended that party — and now I’m the one hosting parties and events.

Of course, I still have a few close friends from high school (with whom I try very hard to maintain our long-distance friendships!), but the vast majority of my friends these days are people I met in college. I go to a state university, so obviously a lot of people from my high school are enrolled here too, but I don’t mingle with many of them anymore. It’s nothing against them, but I can’t stress enough that a lot of high school relationships are based on convenience — you might not have much in common, but you live somewhat close and sometimes that’s enough. At the university level, you tend to find more people who like the same things you, appreciate your sense of humor and bring their own unique perspectives to the table. Even at the honors freshman orientation, I found that I clicked a lot better with people there than I did with the “AP” crowd in high school.

Overall, I can’t get over just how strong most of my college friendships have been. In high school, a good friend was usually someone you sat with at lunch every day, hung out with on weekends and confided in about the guys you liked. In college, the friendships tend to mature– you find the friends who will drive you to the health center and hospital for your medical emergencies and spend the night making sure you’re okay, the friends who sit up all night with you after you get your heart broken (when they would rather be studying), the friends who will rescue you when you need them most. Some of the situations might be more serious now, but we seem better equipped to help each other out with them. Perhaps because we are all going through them, we are more willing to go to great lengths to support our friends.

I’m not saying that everyone you meet in college is going to be your best friend, or that everyone you knew in high school was a terrible friend, either. However, I do think that as we mature, so do our friendships, and those people we connect with at college can become some of the best friends we have ever had.

The Friday Five: Gradients of Friendship

We’ve talked about the boys you date in college. We’ve talked about the girls you become or befriend in college. But here at So It Must Be True, we’ve never really talked about the gradients of friendship in college. Scroll through your Friends list on Facebook, and you’ll start to find patterns. Now narrow it down to the friends you actually come into contact with regularly, and you’ll be able to start categorizing.

Of course, as I’ve said before, there are exceptions to everything, and there are plenty of categories that I’m not even going to touch upon. However, this is The Friday Five, and therefore, I am going to discuss the five main types of friendships you will experience throughout your college (and possibly young adult) career. Try and figure out where your friends fit in!

The Friday Five: Gradients of Friendship

1. The friend who isn’t really your friend.
This person is really more of an acquaintance, but you try to make nice when you have to. Maybe he or she is somewhat of a frenemy (I can’t believe I just used that word), or maybe just someone you don’t have anything in common with and don’t have much to say to, but you still manage to run in the same social circles and occasionally have to interact. You don’t necessarily like this person, but you can tolerate him or her for short periods of time.

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2. The “class” friend.
You met this person in your Intro to Psych class as freshmen and have since planned your schedules so that you would take all of your psychology classes together. Whenever you’re in class together, you get along great — you catch up on all of your personal anecdotes and always notice how you really hit it off. However, while you both constantly promise to plan a lunch date in the near future, it never happens. The only time you hang out when you’re not in class, it is at Barnes & Noble for a quick study session. True, the two of you have never been to a party together, but this person is your buddy for all things psychology.

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3. The platonic friend.
You’ve known each other for a while, but you placed each other in the Friend Zone a long time ago and honestly do not want to leave it. Everyone thinks you’re dating, but you’ve made it clear to each other that there’s no attraction and that it would never feel right, so you laugh and respond, “No way, he’s like a brother to me!” and then he replies with something offensive and you punch him in the arm.

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4. The mostly platonic friend.
You’re “just friends,” but one or both of you has entertained the idea of something more. The attraction is there, but neither of you wants to leave your comfort zone or rock the boat. The two of you claim to linger in the Friend Zone, but even you know that the idea has crossed your mind and will continue to do so.

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5. The best friends.
You are the Blair and Serena, the Marissa and Summer, the Batman and Robin of the group. You finish each other’s sentences and sicken other people with your skills in reading each other’s minds. This is the first person you call after you’ve had a successful first date, purchased the perfect new outfit or found something awesome to decorate your apartment together. You love everyone else in the five gradients of friendship, but anyone who fits into this category is the most important of all. :)

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What other categories of friendship have you encountered?

Heartbreak and The Latin Deli

“And the heart, like a well-constructed little boat, will resume its course toward hope.” – Judith Ortiz Cofer, “To a Daughter I Cannot Console,” The Latin Deli

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Today in my Women in Literature class, as we broke into groups to discuss our latest anthology The Latin Deli, I couldn’t help but become drawn to its poem called “To a Daughter I Cannot Console.” Although I’m not by any means a fan of poetry, the works of Judith Ortiz Cofer really caught my attention, especially because of the real life situations and relationships that her book brings to light. In this particular poem, a woman (the speaker of the poem) tries to take care of her heartbroken teenage daughter. The speaker tries to explain to her daughter that things will be all right in the end, but naturally, the daughter does not believe this because of the pain she is currently going through.

Of course, when the speaker tries to remember the boy who broke her own heart at sixteen, she can barely even recall his face. Ultimately, she realizes that while “the storm surging within will abate – like all acts of God,” her daughter is still too young to realize this, and will have to undergo those hard feelings herself. As difficult as it is to watch her daughter endure such a disappointment, the speaker recognizes that her daughter will have to learn from life experience rather than merely a mother’s calming words.

The significant things in our lives are always changing. (Tweet this!) The things that are important to us on one day aren’t always the same things that are important to us a year later. When I look back at my high school experience, for example, I realize that the boy who broke my heart in a Spiderman costume right before Homecoming has become just a memory, a random story I’ve told a few friends in college (you can’t make these things up).

In other words, all of us have — at one point or another — been that sixteen-year-old girl, inconsolable over someone or something that has hurt us. But after the wounds have healed, we begin to forget that they were ever really there in the first place. We take on the role of the mother in the poem, optimistic that the passage of time will make everything better.

Therefore, when things haven’t gone our way, we have to keep on moving like that “well-constructed little boat,” and remind ourselves that soon enough, many of our disappointments will disintegrate into the stories we rarely think to tell.

The Freshman 15: Time Management Tips

As we make our way through the spring semester, we find ourselves in a bit of a rut. We’re not quite done with classes — there’s still another full month of papers, projects, exams and other obligations — but we’re past our early-semester stage of perfect grades and attendance. We might still be doing well in our classes, but not as well as we did in January, when we started putting our resolutions into practice. It has gotten harder and harder to drag ourselves out of bed in the morning and stumble over to our early classes, and we have more and more difficulty choosing our academics over our social lives.

Therefore, this month’s Freshman 15 is all about getting back into the swing of things after Spring Break! Let’s get back into motion with 15 time management tips for college students. (Tweet this!)

The Freshman 15: Time Management Tips

1. Office supplies are your new best friends.
I’m not just saying this because of my weird fascination with spiral notebooks and post-its. In general, it is important to keep track of your dates as thoroughly as possible so that you never overbook yourself. In my case, that means keeping my zebra datebook in my backback, updating the calendar on my phone regularly, and recording important dates on the colorful dry-erase calendar in my room. If you aren’t as crazy as I am, I suggest at minimum a day planner with calendars and a page for each week, so that you can schedule your days more accurately. Office Max has a few examples.

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2. Maintain a weekly checklist.
This is something I started doing last summer that has worked miracles for me. At the end of each week, I create a checklist of every school task, appointment and club meeting that I have coming up the following week. Then, as I complete those tasks, I check them off. Having this list is a great way to not lose track of certain assignments or obligations.

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3. Maintain a daily checklist.
This may be a bit of an overkill, but if you write down a list each day of what you wish to accomplish, it will help keep you on pace. In the mornings, I create a list on my dry-erase board next to my desk, and then as I complete each task, I erase it. That way, the less writing there is on my board, the more productive I have been. Again, having so many lists may seem a bit extreme, but for the busiest of us, it can be a lifesaver. This gives you multiple reminders so that you can’t make any excuses.

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4. Learn to multitask.
Sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in the day. While we certainly have a lot more free time when we’re doing things efficiently, we still have to realize that the clock is ticking regardless. Because of this, it is important to learn to multitask whenever possible. Take advantage of the time as best as you can. If you have to read for tomorrow’s class but you also have to go to the gym, for example, bring your book and rest it in front of you as you work on the elliptical. If you need to clean your room but you really want to catch up on last night’s episode of Bones, do both. If you know you are going to be sitting around in a waiting room for a while, take study materials with you and prepare for next week’s exam. Find ways to kill two birds with one stone (but not literally, because killing isn’t a nice thing to do).

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5. Sacrifice some of your social life.
Sure, you may want to hang out with your friends tonight, but if you have a paper to write, then you need to say no to your friends. It might sound like a simple concept, but people struggle with this concept all the time (myself included). Realize that you have to come first from time to time, and don’t feel guilty about not joining in on dinner plans. There will always be other social gatherings in the future.

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6. Shut down electronics.
I’m no statistician —  in fact, I don’t even play one on TV — but I’d venture to guess that at least 85 percent of U.S. college students have procrastinated at one point or another because of their participation in social media (*cough* Facebook! *cough*) or other Internet activities. The resolution? Turn off your computer. Silence your phone. Get away from all the action (ie: tweets and Facebook status updates) and worry about your homework. I promise you can catch up on the virtual world later. (Editor’s Note: … But please continue reading this blog!)

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7. Prioritize!
Maybe on Thursdays you’re ambitious. You want to tackle as many things as possible at once, so your list for the day is twice as long as that of any other day. Of course, some tasks on the list are more important and time-sensitive than others, so you can mark those tasks in some way to designate their high priority. For example, you will probably want to finish making flash cards for this week’s exam before you take on an ambitious cleaning project.

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8. Don’t overbook yourself.
If you enroll in 18 credits of classes, take part in several organizations, intern during the week and have a job on the side, you are probably biting off more than you can chew. Of course, this may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I know several people who spread themselves thin in college, and it wore them out. Seize the day – take advantage of those clubs and opportunities that interest you most – but don’t fill up your calendar too quickly, either. Make sure you have enough time to do everything you have committed yourself to do, and be able to do it well.

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9. Break things up.
Large assignments can be daunting, so one of the best ways to approach them is to split them into parts. When I have a book to read for my literature class, for example, I count the number of pages in the book in total, then divide that by the number of days I have to read the book itself. That way, I can take on a little bit every day, and not become too overwhelmed by one book. The same goes for projects — do a portion of it daily so that you aren’t saving some heinous assignment until late on Sunday night.

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10. Keep up with the essentials.
If you aren’t eating regular meals or getting enough sleep, you won’t be able to effectively complete your work or meet all of your obligations. Regardless of what is going on around you, you have to make your nutrition and sleep patterns a priority. Otherwise, your body will hate you later and you will be completing your work even less effectively than before.

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11. Be wary of online classes.
Online classes can be a huge gift in the sense that they give you the freedom to work at your own pace (more or less) and allow you to complete your assignments in the comfort of your own home/dorm. However, online classes are easy to forget about because you don’t have a set time to attend, and you don’t have a professor that you meet with face-to-face to discuss your progress or upcoming assignments in the class. Therefore, only choose an online class if you consider yourself a disciplined person or if you are willing to figure out a specific time every day to complete the classwork so that it may feel like a regular class.

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12. Change your location.
Because it feels quite dull to sit in your dorm room all day studying, it becomes easy to find distractions – books, unnecessary cleaning projects, television, etc. – so choosing a new location can be a great way to get a new perspective and forget about looking for other things to do. Bring your books outside on a sunny day, or visit the library, computer lab or a student lounge. Finding a new place to go will make it more difficult to become distracted by your own personal items in your surroundings.

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13. Don’t save your assignments for the morning.
As bad as all-nighters are, half-nighters are even worse. When you stay up late and then resolve to complete your assignment early in the morning (most likely three or four hours later, anyway), you sleep less restfully and you always lose time in the morning. Trust me, you’re never up as early as you plan to be in those situations, and you end up racing the clock when you do finally get started on things. Get a head start on your work early so that you don’t end up in these late night situations — your decision-making is never very good at that point, anyway!

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14. Take a well-deserved break.
Workaholics, when you do get time to relax, please do it wisely. Don’t spend all of your free time in planning mode or else you will go insane. Find a hobby or interest that allows you to rest and do that when you have the chance. You will be much more efficient and lively once you do return to your work if you take breaks when you need to (no more, no less).

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15. Know thyself.
Realize that different tips will work for different types of people, and know that you may be the exception to some of these rules. Maybe you have a better way to manage your time, or maybe these tips don’t work as well for you as you would like them to. These are just a few pieces of advice that will hopefully help you to improve your time management, but there is always something for everybody. Recognize the type of person you are and how your mode of operation affects the way you get things done.

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Questions for readers:

- What is your biggest time management struggle?
- What tips would you offer to those who have trouble with time management?
- What other college topics would you like to see in future Freshman 15 articles?

The Freshman 15: Celebrating the Holidays from Afar

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish and partially-Jewish readers! Tonight, like many other holidays, is a night typically shared with family and friends, as observers exchange gifts and enjoy household traditions. However, some college students will spend the entire duration of this holiday away from home because of final exams and a few lingering classes. In fact, while we may have Christmas break (and some might not even have that!) and many of us do travel home for Thanksgiving weekend, we do run into this problem on plenty of other occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, mid-semester holidays, etc. Even for those of us who will get to celebrate Christmas with our families, we still miss out on some of the pre-holiday preparations – the weeks of decorating, menu-planning and gift-shopping that some people might do together.

So, does this mean that college students are doomed to lose all holiday cheer? This month’s Freshman 15 is all about how to get in the holiday spirit even when you’re far from home. – Tweet this!

Grab your coats and boots, and let’s get started!

The Freshman 15: Celebrating the Holidays from Afar

1. Decorate your dorm room.
While the picture shown on the right doesn’t do it much justice, my three roommates and I wanted to make sure that our apartment was festive for the holidays. Because we come from different backgrounds and religions or non-religions, our room represents both Christmas and Hanukkah, with an electric menorah plugged in by the window, and Christmas lights and garlands lining the walls and ceilings. You don’t have to go all out, but it’s nice to put up a few holiday decorations here and there just so you have something celebratory to come home to. You can purchase these really cute window clings for $1 at Target, or start the search on your own. Besides, I am a firm believer in the idea that personalizing your dorm room or apartment makes you feel much more at home!

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2. Participate in a gift exchange.
Get together with a core group of friends and set up a Secret Santa or other type of gift exchange. Come up with price limits so that no one ends up with an unfair deal or completely breaks their bank accounts. Presents are definitely not what the holidays are all about, but rather the spirit of giving!

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3. Send out holiday cards to faraway friends and family.
Just because you might not get to see each other on the actual holiday doesn’t mean you can’t wish each other a happy holiday! While a Facebook message can be quick and easy, it’s hardly the most personal way to contact someone, and often text messages can even feel like they were sent out en masse. Instead, a simple card can be endearing. When your friends open their mail and see something waiting there from you, they won’t be able to stop smiling.

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4. Throw your own holiday party!
You’re not alone – plenty of your friends at school will be separated from their families during holiday seasons at one point or another, so why not celebrate the holidays with them? Last year, I threw a small Chrismukkah get-together, complete with latkes and Christmas cookies, and this year it’s going to get a lot bigger. Next Tuesday, my friends and I will celebrate in style! Your party can be as outrageous or low-key as you want it to be, and you can ask friends to help chip in.

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5. Ask your family for left-over items.
If you’re ever going to be home before the holiday and not during, ask if you can steal some extra holiday decorations or other items for your own use at school. In fact, I stole #5 on this list from my mom! Chances are, your family has accumulated a lot of excess holiday decor throughout the years, and more times than not, they’d be happy to part with some of it.

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6. Go to a service.
For those of you who celebrate certain holidays more religiously than others, you might feel more in tune with the holiday if you attend a church or synagogue service. Campuses are usually crawling with groups that are ready to take you in, and if not, you can always look around the community for something that appeals to you. I’m not preaching any religion here, but I do think that being a part of a congregation during the holidays can be comforting to some, and if you’re one of those people, you should consider the option.

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7. Volunteer your time.
This may be the Season of Giving, but that doesn’t limit you to just gifts among friends and family. Because others in the world are less fortunate and don’t have the same luxuries we take for granted, doing some volunteer work may be beneficial at this time of the year. Whether you choose one of those Angels at the mall or you visit a soup kitchen, you can make a difference and make someone else’s holiday season a little brighter.

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8. Build a gingerbread house!
It’s fun to be crafty with your friends. Every year when I’m home on a break, my sister and I decorate our own eccentric gingerbread houses (see this year’s example on the right) with our cousins and friends who are visiting, and it’s a great way to be creative and spread our holiday cheer. Not only is it a fun process, but it also lasts for a while afterward, and provides plenty of laughs and smiles along the way.

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9. Bake something delicious.
The way to a college student’s heart is through his or her stomach, right? So if your dorm room, apartment or other living arrangement is equipped for baking, then win everyone’s heart by baking something holiday-esque for them. Either borrow an old family recipe, pick up some break-and-bake cookies from the grocery store (still arguably just as yummy as any other homemade cookie!) or try out one of these adorable cupcake designs.

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10. Leave notes for your neighbors.
If you’re feeling creative or just hospitable, write sweet little notes wishing people the happiest of holidays, and then tape those notes to your neighbors’ doors for them to come back to. You can sign them from yourself and your roommates (always a fun bonding activity), or you can keep them anonymous. Either way, it’s one of those random acts of kindness that you can’t help but feel good about afterward.

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11. Enjoy the cold[er] weather.
We all tend to associate a drop in temperatures with the holiday season. Even if you’re from Florida like me and all you’re ever exposed to are cold fronts, you know that the holidays aren’t complete without a sweater and scarf. Therefore, one way to feel festive is to go outside and really enjoy the cold weather. Build a snowman. Have a snowball fight. Go ice skating. Floridians, go on a picnic but wear a jacket. Embrace the cooler temperatures because before you know it, you’ll be melting in the heat once more.

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12. Showcase old family traditions.
When you celebrate the holidays with your college friends, everyone should bring a piece of their traditional experiences to the rest of the group. Cook that special dish that has been passed down through your family for years, and try out some of the new customs that your friends bring to the table. Seeing your friends in a setting they might normally experience with family can actually bring a group closer and teach you something about those people you never even realized.

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13. Watch your favorite holiday movies.
Whether it’s Shop Around the Corner, It’s a Wonderful Life or Nightmare Before Christmas, boost your spirits by watching a movie that pertains to the holiday you’re celebrating. Sip some hot chocolate and bundle up.

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14. Pump up the volume.
Create a holiday playlist on your iPod or online, and play it whenever you want to feel just a little jollier. Taylor Swift does an adorable cover of Last Christmas!

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15. Create your own traditions.
Yes, it’s hard to be away from home during holidays, but as you create a brand new “family” at school (not to replace your old one, of course), you will find that new events become important to you, and new traditions will emerge. Embrace the changes that you undergo, and enjoy the spirit of the holidays no matter where you go!

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How do you like to celebrate the holidays? What are your plans?

The Friday Five: Things To Be Thankful For

Back in my hometown until Sunday, I’m excited to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and friends. With the crazy schedules customary of my family, we get to celebrate twice this weekend, and therefore I have even more time to think about all of the wonderful blessings in my life. Even when the semester feels like too much to handle, we have to remember to appreciate the little things in life.

In honor of this Thanksgiving (which we celebrated on Thursday and will celebrate again on Saturday), I would like to dedicate this Friday Five to the things we should all be most thankful for.

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The Friday Five: Things To Be Thankful For

1. You have food on the table and a roof over your head every night.

2. Even when it feels like the world is against you, there are always those few people who support you regardless.

3. You aren’t Amber Portwood… or her daughter, Leah, for that matter.

4. You have survived Black Friday without becoming one of these people.

5. There are only a few more weeks of classes and exams before you can call it quits for the rest of 2010!