a little growing up to do

Going into college, I thought I was a super mature person ready to conquer the adult world. I thought I had it all planned out.

I wrote for a few websites. I had an internship. This was before I turned 18.

Surely, by the time I was actually 18, I would be spending my summers in New York City in a big magazine office. Surely, I would have a neatly organized resume and I would have everything figured out.

It’s true that I’ve always gotten along better with people who are older than I am. I feel more in my comfort zone in an office building than at a party. But these things alone don’t mean that I’ve completely “grown up.”

What I’ve learned is that college is about learning, and I still have more of it to do. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s actually awesome. It’s actually an adventure.

Things have shifted. Some of the people and places that used to feel like home don’t anymore. Some still do. And I have some new relationships that I value more than I could’ve ever imagined.

The same work doesn’t excite me anymore. I’ve found new endeavors. I’ve kept some of the same ones. I’ve finally learned to quit, because before, I just kept making new commitments without giving any up. I’ve learned to prioritize. I’ve learned that not everything goes as you expect it to, but everything works out in some way or another.

A year ago today, as I was sitting in a high school classroom, did I think I’d be spending one of my first days of summer blogging in a local coffeeshop that I’ve been going to all my life? No. Of course not.

But am I unhappy here? No. Of course not.

I’m happy to be here. I’m happy with the work I’m doing. Everything is a learning experience, and I truly believe I need this summer at home. I need to do some soul searching in the most constant, familiar place I could be.

A few months ago, I planned on attending a conference on campus. Instead, I slept through half of it then woke up with a fever. I went to the doctor’s office instead of the conference. That isn’t the decision I would’ve made months ago. Months ago, I would’ve said “no, I’m fine” and I would’ve gone to the conference. I would’ve thought it was the most “adult” decision I could’ve made. But it wouldn’t have been. I needed to see a doctor. I needed to rest. I needed to take a break.

And being able to know when that’s the case, and not ignoring it, is a new skill I’ve acquired.

I thought I’d be spending my summer in New York, working at a magazine and keeping up with my online work. In reality, I’m quitting most of my online work. I haven’t outgrown my clothes in years, but that doesn’t mean I can’t grow mentally and emotionally. I’ve outgrown certain experiences and places. They may still find their way into my life, but that doesn’t mean I should keep wearing them just because they fit.

Yesterday I bought a pair of “adult” shoes. Heels. Shoes that I used to not be able to walk in. Those shoes don’t make me an adult. But they make me feel confident. I’ve outgrown my flats that keep me closer to the ground. I’m ready to stand taller and dream bigger.

I used to think dreaming big meant doing as much as I could. Now I see it as doing what makes me happiest. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone to do what feels best for me.

They say, “if the shoe fits…” but it shouldn’t simply fit. It should feel both comfortable and uncomfortable. It should make you feel both lost and amazing.

To some people, maybe the work I’m doing is less impressive now. Maybe the heels make me look like I’m trying too hard. But I don’t care. This is the time to try on new things. I shouldn’t just keep settling for what kind of, sort of fits if it doesn’t make me feel awesome.

Paige Sheffield 

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If this were a movie

College was not what I expected in any way. That’s not really a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just the truth.

Today I went to a choir concert and there, I released the emotions I had held back. I started crying in the middle of a choir concert for reasons I couldn’t quite identify.

If this were a movie, it would fade to black right there, with me sitting in the back row of a crowded, dark concert hall, directly in the center and crying as the singers slowly and soulfully repeated, “no one’s gonna hurt you.”

And I thought, “well, that’s where you’re wrong.” I sat surrounded by people yet alone. So close yet distant, so many accumulated moments leaving me with nothing but empty yet crowded rooms and vague songs in the background.

I thought about how this year was so many things then nothing. And people did hurt me. And memories hurt me. And fears hurt me.

When movies end that way, I often interpret it as the main character being broken, as life just not working out the way people want it to, as nothing making sense.

Nothing makes sense. I don’t know what I’m doing. The artsy films I watched in class last semester feel like my own old, distant memories. “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift takes me to the deep and vivid fall colors when I thought I was starting to understand. “Style” takes me to spring when I drank lots of coffee in the weak sunlight, everything slowly unraveling around me. The artsy movie would make it seem like I only went backwards. Like I knew who I was before I came here, and then all of that was ruined.

But the truth is, college taught me that I never really knew. I’m not back where I started. I’m starting somewhere new. I sit in the back of a dark auditorium. And I think the guys singing know that people will hurt me. I think they know that not everything will always be okay. But I think they know, and I know, that in these moments, we grow.

I should be over it

I should be over it. Or, at least, that’s what the people around me seem to think.

But those people don’t understand how much my first semester college changed me. I used to keep my distance. I pushed people away. I didn’t open up.

In the fall, though, I opened myself up to an unlikely friend. I spoke so easily, so confidently. I felt as though I didn’t have to hide who I really was. I felt like I could be more honest than I had ever been.

I felt like I could trust someone, which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. Whenever I was feeling down, this person would cheer me up.

I know now that I should’ve never depended on one person so much, but granted, I didn’t have much of a choice. This was my first time in a new environment and a new town, and this was one of the first people I got to know.

So I let my guard down. And I was just myself: sassy, analytical, goofy, cynical-some kind of contradiction, I guess. I thought, this is great. I should do this more often. Be exactly who I am, and if someone isn’t okay with that, then move on. 

As it turns out, this person I befriended wasn’t actually okay with that. Come to find out, months later, this person actually had an issue with pretty much everything I did. And there were signs that he felt this way all along, but I ignored them. Whenever he got mad or annoyed or distant, I found ways to blame myself. I made excuses.

But really, there is no excuse. I am who I am, but when I talked to him, I had to spend so much of my time justifying that and I shouldn’t have to. It’s hard to convince yourself of that though. When you see someone a certain way at first, it’s hard to change your mind, even if it’s “obvious” to everyone else. After all of this, I became overly apologetic. And it sucks.

And I should be over it. Except this person is not the person I thought he was and it hurts. It makes me feel like so many things were a lie. It makes me feel stupid. It jumbles up my memories and makes me wonder what I interpreted correctly, or if I was wrong about everything.

Is this how the first year of college ends?

This week I found out that one of the most trustworthy friends I had made isn’t really trustworthy at all.

Is this how the first year of college ends?

This week I found out my best friend at college is transferring schools.

Is this how the first year of college ends?

I have no idea what I want to do for my career. I have no idea what I’m doing at all.

Is this how the first year of college ends?

For a brief moment, I thought my work was the only thing going well for me. Everything seemed so promising in that way. Then, this week, that all fell apart.

Is this how the first year of college ends?

It feels like the beginning all over again, just with new bruises, new questions, and faded answers.

I should be over it by now. But how can I “get over” an entire year just because it ends? Frankly, I have no idea where to begin.

Miss Independent

Maybe calling myself “independent” is a way to glamorize that I like being alone. I don’t have a problem admitting it; though I love people, I also treasure my alone time.

I recently went to a concert alone, and I actually received a comment about that being “so sad.” I wasn’t sad, so I don’t know why this person was. That’s not to say that I like going everywhere alone; I was writing a story about the concert and when I’m working, I like to be focused and alone. But without even knowing the circumstances, people were so shocked and sad that I would go by myself.

I know some people who refuse to eat alone. I don’t have a problem eating alone. I often prefer it. Some people are terrified of being alone, and I treasure it. That doesn’t make me a better person, just a different one. And for some reason, people find that hard to comprehend.

For some reason, people think “alone” automatically means “lonely.” People think that  I couldn’t possibly choose to be alone. Because, to them, if I had the opportunity to surround myself with people, surely I would.

And maybe that’s true for some people. Some people are both alone and lonely, searching for people to fill them with energy and comfort and a sense of belonging. I love being around people, but it also drains me. I’m the most energetic writing in the middle of the night, accompanied by no one but the sounds of soft music and my keyboard as I type. I’m the most energetic sitting in an empty room, flipping through the pages of a magazine and sipping on coffee. I’m the most energetic when surrounded by my own ideas and the possibilities they could create. And around certain people, I’m energetic too. But I need the balance of both. I need late nights alone with words on pages. I need late nights with people with words floating quickly into the air around me. Some people make me feel like I belong. But to me, it’s more important that I feel as though I belong on my own. And I do.

Sometimes, I want to be around others. I want to tell jokes and laugh and connect with people. I want to be inspired. I want to have deep conversations and hear new stories. But sometimes, I want to sit on the floor and scribble words into a notebook. Sometimes, I ignore text messages for a few hours simply because I don’t feel like responding. Sometimes, I look at the world as an outsider surrounded by groups of people, not because I’ve been unfortunately excluded, but because I chose to step back and take the world in. Because I want to be aware. Because I want to know people, but I also want to know myself.

Sometimes, I have to get away and go for a long walk by myself. Sometimes, I want nothing more than to go on a long walk and have a deep conversation with someone else.

This isn’t one of the romantic comedies or pop songs where “miss independent” falls in love or becomes cool and worthy then abandons her sense of independence. This is my journey, and sometimes, I need to explore on my own. I might be alone. I might be lost. But I’m not in search of someone else; I’m simply discovering myself.