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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I don’t have the slightest clue

Last year, I could’ve told you with the utmost perceived certainty what I wanted to do. Not just that day. Not just that year, even. But for a very long time.

Now, I don’t have the slightest clue.

College has taught me that I love learning. I love exploring. I want to know so much and do so much and be so much. I’m a writer. But I don’t have interests that solely, or even mostly, reside in journalism. For so long, I’ve tried boxing my interests in. I’ve tried putting labels on what I like and don’t like, on what matters the most to me, on what my one true passion is.

But I don’t have one true passion. I have lots of them. So many things in this world excite me and give me energy. They exhaust me on some days, but I keep going back to them. I can’t keep myself away from the stories and adventures and problems.

I want to ponder and have deep conversations and wander. And what I want to do cannot be confined within a single degree. What I want to learn cannot be labeled “anthropology” or “journalism” or “women’s studies” or “religion.” Unfortunately, “the world” is not a college major, but I’m trying to just take in as much as I can.

I don’t have the slightest clue what I want to do. I want to read lots of books and write lots of stories and go lots of places and share lots of laughs and adopt lots of animals.

I want to study different languages and religions and go to South America and collect knowledge, not things.

There’s no reason to distance myself from the truth; the truth is that I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or what I’m looking for. I’m an academic and an artist, both logical and emotional, both realistic and idealistic. What do I want to do? I don’t have an answer. I simply have questions. I simply want to know more.

Things I learned this year

1. I am a major nerd and embracing that is so much fun.

I went into college thinking I would major in journalism and minor in design. Then I started taking college classes and remembered how every subject intrigues me. I try to go to all events that I can and I just really, really love to learn. I didn’t used to think I would go to grad school. Now I realize I might keep going to school for many years because I want to learn everything.

2. I can get a BS and still be a badass.

During my first semester, I learned about growth vs. deficiency motivation, which basically means there is no such thing as a bad decision, just a decision made for a bad reason. I used to make a lot of those. I used to hold myself back with the dumbest excuses. I originally wanted to get a BA to be different. I wanted to do so many things just to be different. But even though I’m going to get a BS now, I’m still different. I’m still the same person and I should make decisions without worrying about other people’s opinions of me.

3. I have a lot of inner strength.

I’ve had to regularly deal with some interesting people. I spent much of this year listening to people freak out about the littlest things and convincing them that it would all be okay. But in turn, I realized that all of the little things I used to worry about aren’t a big deal and I’m a stronger person because of it. I’ve embraced the idea that “you live and you learn,” because even some of my worst moments have been great learning experiences. As long as I’m learning, I’m growing stronger, and I don’t regret the mistakes I’ve made.

4. I shouldn’t wait around.

I often wait for people to approach me. This actually only applies to my relationships with people because career wise, I go after what I want. People have questioned me about this, asking me why I fearlessly approach my career goals but shy away from letting people know what I really think. I guess I don’t have an answer. What I will say is that the song “Almost” by Bowling For Soup is basically my love life in a nutshell because it seems that every story I have about relationships contains the word “almost.” I have this problem where I don’t want to appear needy or too interested, but then I just look like I don’t care at all and people get bored. One time, I almost took control and went after what I wanted. My goal is to delete “almost” from that sentence.

5. I’m always learning.

As I said before, mistakes are cool. Mistakes build me into the person I am. And mistakes used to terrify me. Now, I’ve messed up so many times that it really doesn’t faze me that much. It all goes back to growth vs. deficiency motivation; if I had a good reason for doing something and it had a bad outcome, I don’t want to regret it. Because not doing something because I’m afraid of screwing up is definitely deficiency motivation.

6. I don’t know what I’m doing (and it’s beautiful).

I used to find comfort in being “sure of myself” and having everything together. Then my second semester of college rolled around and I started juggling so many things because of my numerous interests and I started waking up right before class (I used to go to class half an hour early). Honestly, I don’t know what I’m doing. I want to do so many things. I have to prioritize and maybe some people think my priorities are misguided at times (I know they do. I’ve been told). But if I tried to pretend like I knew exactly what I was doing, I would never discover anything new. Before I started college, I didn’t even know what anthropology was and now I’m studying it. It’s pretty cool, and avoiding the opportunity to grow like that is no fun at all.

7. I should be more spontaneous.

I would say that the majority of my best experiences were not planned whatsoever. Unexpected things change you and you can’t predict it.

8. I should prioritize my health too.

I often choose to drink coffee rather than sleep. I sleep for about two hours per night. Then I got sick one day and slept through my classes and the doctor mentioned mono. I realized that I can’t let myself get to the point where I put everything else before my health.

9. My career doesn’t have to be what I always planned on it being.

Over the weekend, I had a bit of an identity crisis, which I admittedly have fairly often because I’m interested in so many things. I started thinking that I’m not sure if I can spend all of my time writing about cool things instead of doing cool things. I try to do both, but it can be difficult to manage. Even though no one ever told me to be a journalist, it’s what I’ve planned on for so long that it just feels like what I’m “supposed” to do. I recently remembered that the possibilities are endless, and there’s nothing wrong with exploring those possibilities. I am a writer for sure. But I am also many other things and I want to create a career where I can use many of my passions. I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing if it doesn’t make me happy. My career isn’t about them or what they want; it’s about me and what I love.

10. Embrace new beginnings. 

Have I ever been in love? Yes. With my fall semester of college. I just have so many feelings about my first semester of college and I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still find something new. I’ve been trying to hold onto that semester, re-watching the films I watched in class before walking home on fall evenings, listening to the songs that I played on repeat as I discovered more about myself, missing the buildings and classes where I met my first college friends. My fall semester was magical, and I can by all means hold onto that magic. But there is magic elsewhere too. I tend to view everything in terms of “the end.” The end of the semester. The end of the year. The end of the relationship. The end of the best moments I’ve ever had. Instead I should focus on the beginning. I should trust my ability to discover and create magic again, even if it’s not the same as before. It could even be better. But I’ll never know if I’m so caught up in the ending, dwelling on the perception that the best moments have already concluded.

It’s almost the end of the semester. Or maybe it’s almost the beginning of a magical summer, an extraordinary second year of college, and more adventures to come.

This realization hit me yesterday and I proceeded to change the wallpaper on my phone for the first time since last summer. In the morning, I went to a building I’ve never gone into before. I decided that I want to live on the opposite side of campus instead of staying where I am. It’s the simple things that change your world. And I’m beginning to realize that I can’t expect to change the world while leaving my world untouched and unchanged and unaltered. You have to screw up a few times before you can do things right.

Dream big,

Paige