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.

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a whole new world

That’s what college should feel like, right? A whole new world.

In the media, we see college presented in a way that makes us think we’ll make instant best friends, go to parties every weekend, rarely go to class, and somehow have time to do every possible cool thing ever. 

I had high expectations for college. I imagined myself making tons of new friends, breaking out of my shell, going out a lot, and getting involved on campus in numerous ways.

The reality is that building relationships takes time.

The reality is that for the first week or so, I buried myself within that shell that I wanted to destroy, hiding myself away from everyone.

The reality is that I don’t have time to get involved in everything that I want to because I have class and other obligations.

But college is by no means worse than I expected. Somehow, it’s actually better. Stepping onto this campus did not instantly transform me. I’ve had some great laughs. I’ve destroyed my feet during long walks in ballet flats and sandals. I’ve learned new things in my classes and thought about my life in different ways. I’ve allowed myself to simply live without worrying so much about my future. I’ve met some amazing friends. I’ve embarrassed myself. 

And in the midst of all of this, everything feels so familiar. Within what felt like seconds, I caught onto the rhythms of this new place. I fell into beat as though I had been here along. I made this place my home. And that’s because I’m still me.

I’m still awkward. I’m still an introvert at heart and happy that way. I’m still trying to branch out and talk to more people. I still have big dreams that I’m trying to put to acting in some shape or form. 

College has already opened my mind so much, but nestled within those new lessons is the same girl I’ve always known. Here, she feels free. Here, she feels refreshed. Here, she’s still learning. Here, she can be anything. But I haven’t fully taken advantage of that yet. The movies could never emphasize that enough: You don’t automatically become a new person when you start college. If you want to abandon a piece of your past and improve yourself, you have to put some effort in. You have to start by seeing yourself as more than what people thought you were. You have to start being the person you want to be, rather than watching movies and imagining yourself as the person you want to be. Stop limiting yourself to what people saw within you before. Start showing the world what you see within yourself. Or better yet, what you feel within yourself.

I have to keep reminding myself that I can talk to people. That I can start conversations and that it’s not weird. No one here knows me as the “shy girl,” yet I’m letting myself fall into that all over again by restricting myself to the expectations of my past. 

This is a whole new world. So why would I confine myself within the boundaries I used to live in when I could explore? 

Dream big,

Paige 

 

coming clean

As a young girl, I was obsessed with Hilary Duff. I watched Lizzie McGuire frequently and had all of Hilary’s CDs. I’d picture myself standing in the rain, dramatically shouting the words to “Come Clean” like in the music video. I’d picture myself as a teenager, putting on red lipstick while listening to “Wake Up.” During “So Yesterday,” I’d see myself walking the streets of some imagined city, surrounded by flowers and local markets and friendly people. “Fly” reminds me of an exact moment with my cousins after our bond had been strengthened by a family loss. I still hear my cousin whispering to me in the darkness while her friends were in the other room; we had something that connected us, something that seemingly could not be broken. But “Why Not” was another story. “Why Not” was my ultimate spin-happily-in-a-circle-while-wearing-a-summer-dress song. It was the kind of song that made me twirl around until I got dizzy and jump on my trampoline until I fell over. 

“Why not take a crazy chance?”

I had always wanted to believe that I lived my life with this “why not” outlook. I liked to think I was carefree, fearless, and ambitious. 

It’s absolutely crazy that these songs can be a part of our lives for so long without us making sense of them for; that these songs can be our anthems without ever actually guiding us until much later when we don’t even listen to them anymore.

Because I could twirl around in my dress in my living room all I wanted, but I didn’t learn how to embrace “why not” until my junior year of high school when I stopped letting my fears dictate my life. When I started going to zumba classes and truly doing “a crazy dance.” When every day started to feel like “a crazy chance.” A crazy, beautiful, worthwhile chance.

I could listen to my cousin’s stories and feel connected to her, but I didn’t learn about how relationships fall apart until I was 14 and we lost that connection without any sort of warning. I didn’t understand before that “flying” takes a lot of trying. 

I could imagine myself as a teenager or an adult, thinking that I had everything figured out, but that wouldn’t make me figure anything out in the future. I didn’t learn this until recently. All my life, I wanted to be sure of myself. I wanted to have everything figured out. I wanted this so badly that I convinced myself it was true. Easily, I could make myself believe that I knew exactly where I wanted to be and exactly how I would get there. But the truth is that I don’t know everything. I don’t know exactly where I will go. I have so many interests. I have so many goals. I stumble and fall a lot. I keep going, sometimes turning in other directions. I stay up late, trying to figure out what I’m going to do. I make lists. I cross off what I’ve written only a day later. I go back and forth trying to figure everything out.

But the words Hilary sang were right all this time: “If you lose a moment, you might lose a lot…”

And that’s what I’ve been doing: passing up moments. Skipping the chapter of my life where I put on red lipstick and “wake up, wake up on a Saturday night.” Bottling up what I feel instead of just “coming clean.” Imagining myself as a “bird that’s already flown away,” without even allowing myself to leave the ground.

Thank you, Hilary, for the metamorphosis.

Thank you, Hilary, for the metamorphosis.

I’m coming clean now, and it’s more than me just shouting to myself in my imagination. It’s me taking control of my life. It’s me repairing the broken relationships and embracing “why not” and enjoying the moment and exploring the world around me. It’s me finally, finally taking the advice that Hilary Duff’s CD gave me years ago: “go, baby, go.” 

 

Paige Sheffield 

connecting with stories

Recently, I watched a movie that I love with one of my friends. When the movie ended, my friend asked, “so why do you like this movie?” Initially, I was shocked that she didn’t see the same power within that I did. That she didn’t like it all on her own, without asking for an explanation. I fell in love with the movie throughout each scene; my connection with it built and stuck with me. But as I thought about it, I couldn’t really explain what I liked about it. 

“I guess it’s hard to verbalize,” I said. “It’s something you have to feel.”

When a story strikes a chord with you, trying to describe why is like trying to describe what you like most about the universe; it’s too vast, too complex, too all-encompassing. It’s an array of magical and heartbreaking and dead and alive. It speaks on its own, with no one being able to hear each whisper. Each whisper that tugs yet another chord and makes us feel like the story sprawled out on the screen in front of us is one we’ve been living ourselves. Our own journey. And in a way, it is. We connect it to our own journeys; we take away the pieces that mean something to us, the pieces that feel all too raw and familiar, and let them touch us. We match it with our feelings and experiences, creating meaning not just from the scenes we can see, but the ones we’ve felt and lived. The ones that belong to us.

That’s why stories are personal; they tug each of us in different directions, mold us each into different versions of ourselves. They build us and break us at different points, taking us on a completely different ride.

We can watch the same movie and yet watch something different. I could say I like a movie because it’s raw or real or emotional or happy, but those are all just surface features. And if I say I like a movie, I’ve sunk much, much deeper into it than that.

Truly, that’s why I want to write; to create stories that entangle people, that take them somewhere, that make people feel a whirlwhind of emotions that they could never completely explain. To give a voice to the universe’s whispers that I hear. To find a place in and make sense of this vastness.

Why do I like this movie? Why do I write? Why do I overanalyze every experience and create stories everywhere?

Because I feel exactly what I feel. The rest just happens in result, when I entangle my emotions and weave them into sentences that could form into someone else’s comfort blanket and another person’s broken friendship bracelet.

We don’t know where stories will take us. But they make us think and learn and explore. They make us discover new facets of ourselves and the world. They give us the courage to let go of our old, worn-out friendship bracelets, or the hope that maybe, just maybe, we can piece the strands back together. 

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Dream big,

Paige