Aim and Ignite

It’s back to school! (But not for me. Thank god.)

When I was in undergrad, so much of my time was spent stressing about what my major would be. First I tried English, making the decision based on nothing other than the fact that I enjoyed reading and writing. But I eventually came to the conclusion that literature wasn’t the right course of study for me, and instead, I wanted my time and energy to be spent on a subject that interested me, challenged me, and invigorated me. Based on my years of crossing things off my list and exploring new topics in college, I finally chose to major in Gender Studies.

There are plenty of people who don’t even know what that means. Or if they do, their first thought is likely “what do you do with that?” But I had never intended to go to college for the sole purpose of establishing my career (sorry, Mom and Dad). I was always so intimidated by my peers who knew the exact job they wanted, even though they were only 18 years old. I didn’t even know which Taylor Swift era I identified with the most – how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do for approximately the rest of my life? So instead of stressing myself out by trying to figure it out, I was simply going to learn as much as I could. And in my opinion, Gender Studies was the perfect way to do that.

Basically, Gender Studies explores the ways that gender significantly affects the different aspects of our lives. Though the premise is simple, the actual experience was one of the most challenging and rewarding I could have ever asked for. My curriculum consisted of classes in all kinds of subjects, like communications, English, politics, and even science. If you think there’s no way to consider gender in some of these subjects…that’s where the challenge of my major came in. Sure, there were a lot of times when I had to make a stretch or two to make a connection, but for the most part, I was forced to really think. I was forced to figure out new ways to think about the world around me. I was forced to think about possible answers to difficult questions. I was constantly questioning the dynamics I had been so familiar with my entire life. It was a really cool experience, and I totally encourage everyone in college to take at least one gender studies class if you can. It will challenge you in ways you never thought you even wanted to be challenged in the first place.

But despite the long rant, this isn’t me preaching that my major was the best major in the world. I don’t necessarily think everyone should study something in undergrad that simply sounds interesting and you hope will eventually turn into something more profound. But I do think it’s ultimately important to study what interests you. I think this idea of freeform thinking and exploration of difficult questions can be argued for any major you choose in college. You’re exposed to all of these new experiences in such a short period of time. It’s natural to constantly be questioning things and changing the way you view the world.

My major taught me how to think, how to appreciate and recognize my privileges, and how to always keep things interesting. But that wasn’t just because there was a magic spell put on me once I discovered the wonders of Gender Studies. It’s because I was able to fully immerse myself in the subject that was interesting to me, that I was personally invested in, and that I truly felt would help me learn what was most important to me. And after taking ownership of that, I felt like I left undergrad with the ability to make decisions for myself that I could be genuinely proud of, and truly happy about. From putting in the work and exposing myself to experiences that both scared and invigorated me, I learned to trust myself more and give in to the excitement of learning for the sake of learning. So whether you’re actually still in undergrad or you just love me enough to read all of my blog posts, I hope you can take away the inspiration of doing what drives you to be your best self. And keep learning.

(Whoa….wait….this entire post was SO Ravenclaw of me…….BRB taking a new sorting test)

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Don’t Panic

Just a warning: I’m starting this blog off with a bit of a #HumbleBrag. Sort of.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me before that I seem to have my shit together, which I consider to be the greatest compliment of all time. But let’s be real…I don’t know anyone who truly has their shit together. Odds are, we’re all faking it til we make it, including yours truly. However, I will say that throughout my first year post-grad, I’ve found some really great resources that have made the faking it look really impressive. (While on the inside, all of us “adults” are actually just giant babies). Here are some of my secret weapons.

How to Adult

When I was in high school, I saw a post online that said “I wish there was a Sesame Street type program that taught you how to do adult things like grocery shop and do your taxes.” Luckily, that magical program now exists. Scrolling through this channel’s videos, you’ll see that they’re all practical life skills that we should probably already know how to do, but no one has ever explained to us before, and now it would be kind of embarrassing to ask. Maybe you never learned how to properly do your laundry, or maybe you have no idea what the stock market even is, or where to begin when you’re looking to move into your own apartment for the first time. Good news, folks: these short, informative, and concise videos are a great place to start, so you don’t have questions like “how do adults make friends?” in your Google history.

Yoga with Adrienne

What do you do for exercise and stress relief when you can’t afford a gym membership, it’s too cold to run outside, and the nearest “donation based” yoga studio is basically just a place to stand too close to other people while everyone sweats and pretends to be healthy? You do Yoga with Adrienne. It definitely takes a bit more discipline than your usual workout regimen, but for me, it’s been worth it during those days I can’t bring myself to do any other sort of workout. YWA videos don’t take too much time – some are as short as ten minutes – and Adrienne’s guidance with each video encourages you to go at your own speed. Her friendly and inviting teaching style translates effortlessly through her videos and it never feels like a chore to keep going until the end. And for another option, if meditating is more your jam than yoga, check out Insight Timer – it’s free, has over 5,000 different guided meditations to chose from, and it’s free.

The Financial Diet

I can’t exactly remember how I stumbled upon this channel, but I can probably guarantee it was toward the end of my college career when I was about to move back home, I wasn’t sure if I would have a full time job, and I had spent the majority of my time in undergrad stressing about money…you know, the usual 22 year old stuff. Enter two angels: Chelsea and Lauren. TFD focuses on small ways you can make a big impact on your financial situation. Of course, these aren’t hard and fast rules for every person; you’ll definitely need to try what works best for you and adjust accordingly. But overall, their financial advice is extremely easy to digest (Get it? The Financial DIET?) and their personal experiences are super relatable. Whether you’re interested in boosting your side hustle, getting the most out of your paycheck, or need some tips on how to best use your credit card, spend some time on TFD.

Period Kit

This particular adulting tip is just for those of us blessed with uteruses. I gotta be honest, the first time I watched this video by Ingrid Nilsen (one of my favorite YouTubers) I thought it was unrealistic for me to carry around so many things all the time. Who has room in their bag for all that? But the truth is, we’ve all made the unfortunate mistake of telling ourselves we’ll always have tampons and liners in our bag, and then the day comes when those emergency things get used, we never replace them, and the horrible cycle continues – pun 100% intended. It wasn’t until I started carrying my period kit around with me everywhere that I realized I have not been living my best period life in the past. Especially for anyone who tends to be surprised by their period each gloriously non-pregnant month, this kit is the ultimate game changer.

Zocdoc

For someone like me who basically spends all of her free time at the doctor, this website was such a lifesaver…seriously, because doctors keep you alive. (I’m ALL about the puns today!) This was especially a great resource for me when I moved and had to change all of my doctors. All you need to do is search for the type of doctor you’re looking for, your zipcode, and what type of insurance you have. Even if you don’t have insurance, you can choose the option “I’m paying for myself.” The website gives you an extensive list of doctors in your area, and you can filter through based on your personal preferences. You can also make appointments online, fill out your new patient forms, and check-in before you even get to the office. I’ve found that 95% of the time, the offices are familiar with Zocdoc and will know how to collect your information on the computer. So not only do you have a one stop shop for finding a new doctor, but you also don’t need to talk on the phone with other humans to make an appointment. Isn’t the Internet amazing?

~ Extra miscellaneous tips that really drive home the “adulting” image ~

  • Always carry a pen with you
  • Decorate your bathroom
  • Sign up for theSkimm
  • Get a reusable water bottle (and bring it everywhere)

What are some adulting tips that you rely on in this totally bonkers life we’re living? I want to know them all! Soon enough, we’ll all be faking it so fantastically that maybe we’ll stop using air quotes when we say the word “adult”…Maybe.

I did it, y’all!

book

The summer before I started college, I started writing a silly little story, simply motivated by the need for more diversity in the books I loved to read. I’ve lived with this story for more than 4 years now. I wrote on trains, in the middle of the night, in class. I wrote when I was sad and I wanted to live in another world. The story changed while I did, but through it all, it was something I could rely on. Every time I read a new book, I felt empowered to work toward my goal. “I can do that,” I would always think. And now, after the most difficult journey of my life, I did. I did it. I wrote a book.

Brand New Eyes

Being a Gender & Sexuality Studies major is definitely a unique experience. For one, you suddenly become Human Google for a lot of your friends and family. “Is queer an offensive word?” “What does genderfluid mean?” “What is the definition of feminism?” Apparently people think I have all of the answers to these questions, when the truth of the matter is that I barely have answer any of them. (Side note: Internet Google is your friend!!!) And for the people who I’m still getting to know, when they ask what I’m studying in college and I respond “Gender Studies”, there are two possible responses:

1) A head nod and fake smile. They either want to hide the fact that they are judging you or they have no idea what that means.

2) “What are you going to do with that?”

It’s a question I have been facing for years, even when I was an English major. My parents asked me this question when I changed my major. Strangers ask me this question. And for a long time, I asked myself this question. Every. Single. Day. And as most people were anticipating, I didn’t have any concrete answers. Mostly because I don’t have any concrete answers to most questions. The truth is, no matter what I decided to pick as my major, odds are I wouldn’t have known the answer to the question “What are you going to do with that?”

From the time we are kids, people ask us “What do you want to be when you grow up?” That was always so stressful for me. While other kids were shooting back quick responses like teacher, doctor, and singer, I remember racking my brain and coming up empty. Eventually I started answering with professional softball player and other sports-related professions… because I was such a #sportyspice, and because that was something I knew I enjoyed in the moment. But the thought of doing that for the rest of my life was terrifying. The thought of doing anything for the rest of my life was (and still is) terrifying.

I am not the same person I was in high school. I’m not the same person I was last year. And I’m definitely not the same person I was yesterday – that Jessica didn’t have dirty hair. So if I’m constantly changing and growing and learning, how do I know that there’s one job fitting for me to do for years? I know people who have been in the same profession for 20 or 30 years. While there’s a part of me that thinks that’s awesome, because hey, you clearly rock at this job and you’re living your life and making it happen. Go you. But for me, I’ve never seen that as an option. Which is probably why I’ve had such a difficult time picking a ~career path~

In class recently, we were talking about how everyone in the trans community has a different experience transitioning. There is no answer to the question “When did they transition?” (This is another question people always ask me for some reason…even though…I’m cis!!!!! Please just let me continue to learn as much as I can while sitting in the backseat and eating pretzels, thank you.) While there are particular experiences that are unique for the trans community in terms of transitioning, my professor made a good point: isn’t everyone transitioning every single day?

I have two weeks left until I graduate college. That’s going to be a transition – one of the biggest transitions of my life, as I’ve been told for as long as I can remember. I’m going into the “real world” (which, for the record, is complete bullshit. If I’m not mistaken, I’m pretty sure the world I’m living in right now is 100% real – I’m not in Hogwarts, am I? My point exactly. Real sadness.) But with this new chapter of my life comes more growth, learning, and transitioning into whoever I will be when I have an undergraduate degree. Not to say I’ll ever stop pointing out every dog I see. But maybe I’ll start doing it in sign language. Who knows.

The biggest transitional moments in my life have been the most difficult for me so far. Starting my freshman year of college. Starting my sophomore year at a different college. Coming to terms with mental illness while trying to get through college. And working to overcome that in order to have an enjoyable senior year of college. If I hadn’t transitioned through all of these points in my life, where the hell would I be right now? Maybe I’d still be an English major. Maybe I would have actually worked to become a professional softball player. Maybe I would have decided to move somewhere other than NYC for college.

But if I’ve learned anything from the last few years of my life it’s that I don’t want to waste my time thinking about things that MAYBE could have happened. Now that I’m almost done with school, I have so many possibilities ahead of me. I know everyone is super scared about graduation, but as a surprise to absolutely nobody, I can’t say that I agree. I’m so fucking excited. I feel like I’ve been working so hard and for so long to get to this point and even though it’s still two weeks away, I feel ready. I reserve the right to revisit that statement once I’m an official college graduate, but for now, I’ll take it.