I used to think Brown was a poopy💩 color, but you can only create that color by combining all colors of the rainbow. Brown has been my canvas. Each semester has been a wandering collection of dissonances and consonances. Read my 5 Main Takeaways Below:
#1 The Best Teachers Are Bandages, and the Best Bandages Come From Our Friends.
College can be a journey of figuring out how to patch myself up from falls and scrapes but oftentimes not even knowing where these scrapes and cuts are. Throughout college, I struggled with a combination of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, which triggered depressive episodes after binges and manic episodes when I starved myself in punishment.
There were moments when I felt invincible and so productive so no sleep and keep going because your creative juices are flowing and no--you can't stop--you can't sleep anyway--stomach empty--you're so light you could fly away--
Then, moments when I struggled to get out of bed and do basic things like wash my face. Moments when I didn’t want to wake up from sleep. Moments when I hated myself so much and felt so useless for hating myself and not being able to do the simplest daily things, then hating myself all over again and thinking I did not deserve people’s admiration.
The scary thing about falling is that it’s sometimes not the injury that hurts the most but the painstaking process of trying to get to your original pace. There’s an insidious voice that keeps comparing yourself to your best version and reminds you’re so much slower and wobbly and graceless.
But the beautiful thing about falling is that the journey of crawling up teaches you so much. It’s taught me that friends and loved ones have always been my best bandages. They give me shoulders to cry on and hands to hold when I don’t feel grounded. They remind me that I’m still Bree.
Sometimes, learning how to be vulnerable means allowing your friends and loved ones to see you under a spotlight when you haven’t put on your protective skin, so you feel flayed and disgusting and ashamed because this version of you will always exist in their memory.
But sometimes, learning to be vulnerable means that you have hands that can put bandages in places you can’t easily see or reach. And unlike your bandages, these bandages come without self-contempt and are so purely filled with love and care that you start to feel like everything’s going to be okay.
Because it will be <3
#2 Inspiration is everywhere in the community, and everyone has a Mary Poppins Bag.
I believe that I am a collection of the wisdom of each person I’ve met at Brown.
As they say, the beauty of the Open Curriculum is that no two people are taking the exact same track of courses, meaning that there is less room for competition/comparison and more room for vicarious learning, exploration, and super cool conversations. I don’t need to take 20 classes to obtain knowledge from 20 classes. By talking with peers, I get “TLDR” glimpses of the most thought-provoking topics in way more classes, and we exchange these glimpses across our real world reflections.
If what people are studying is cool, what they are doing is even cooler. Everyone I know seems to carry around a Mary Poppins bag: a bottomless pit of talents and accomplishments that they usually keep humbly hidden but pull out on special occasions, ceaselessly surprising me.
Like just when I thought this person couldn’t be cooler as a STEM icon, but wait—they also won an award for their cutting-edge research—but wait—they’re also a kickass dancer—but wait—and they’re also involved in acapella and have a voice of gold? In fact, my admiration for my peers solidified even more after seeing everyone's senior theses, capstones, and extracurricular final projects. The spark in someone’s eyes is most beautiful when they talk about something they love, something to which they’ve devoted so much time, tears, and energy.
The reason I am the way I am is because of this Brown community: they’re always inventing, deconstructing, designing, collecting, fighting, advocating, teaching, learning, providing—-and inspiring me to do better.
#3 It’s never too late to start a hobby, or to revisit one that you’ve tucked away.
Success is not always accomplishing something but enacting an intention to start something. As someone who has always been a checklist person who likes the feeling of "finishing" things I'm good at, I really had to learn how to reframe my mindset throughout college. I'm happy to say I finally got really comfortable with this by my last semester at Brown, where I was welcomed into the frisbee, ballroom dancing, and ice skating communities.
Feeling "comfortable" in unknown spaces cannot happen without empowering and nurturing people. Ballroom dancing was completely new to me. Even when I started out as one of the worst dancers, these people gave me a home and never judged me, only uplifted me. Frisbee and ice skating were sports I’d tried as a first-year (but then stopped for 3 years due to time commitment). The fact that I felt welcomed so warmly despite my hiatus showed me that it’s okay to step back from things, to leave for a few years, and it’s okay to join again when you’re ready.
When time is ticking, it’s easy to get caught up in the end. I only had 2-3 months to enjoy these communities before graduation. While sometimes I lamented how I should’ve joined/re-joined these sports earlier, the experience taught me how to savor each moment because it’s happening (and not because it’s disappearing), to be comfortable with not knowing things and asking for help—because help is always there.
Three of my most exciting moments were when I did the Bronzie Cha Cha group number at the Phoenix Ball, when I performed a solo at Brown Figure Skating Club’s Annual Ice Skating Show, and when I played in my first Frisbee Scrimmage with another college team. I am proud of these moments not because I was the best performer/player (in fact, in ice skating, I was the worst) but because I went out and tried my best.
#4 No battle plan survives the first contact with the enemy, so learn to have fun while the plan fails.
Lots of us are perfectionists who try to avoid perfectionism but unwittingly stray towards perfectionism if left unchecked. Perfectionism is what makes us good at what we do because we hold ourselves to high expectations. However, it also makes us stressed out, especially if the work is not what we expect.
This is why my involvement in CCB (Class Coordinating Board) was such an amazing learning experience for me because no matter how much you try to perfect your "battle plan," unexpected problems arise.
Perhaps the weather is freezing, and the crock pot you need to melt the caramel (for caramel covered apples) doesn’t heat up, so someone on your board needs to run to the Blue Room with a tub of Boiling hot water to get the caramel to melt. Perhaps there’s glitches with a platform you’re using, and you embarrassingly have to send out a classwide email again apologizing for good-old “technical difficulties.” Perhaps delivery costs increase. The power fails. A few staffers get sick. A vendor backs out. Equipment doesn’t work.
The question isn’t a matter of “if” but “when” and “what” will go wrong—whether it’s a mistake you made or an uncontrollable external factor. So an important lesson CCB taught me (and something I’m still striving towards) is how to adapt, go with the flow, laugh and bond over our failed battle plans, and accept that no one is going to ever be completely satisfied with your event, or you—and that’s okay.
After all, the enemy of a “battle plan” is just life, and life will always give you unexpected lemons and things to be salty over. But if you stop seeing life as an enemy, you can slice up the lemons, gather some salt, and have fun taking tequila shots.