New Semester, New Me

In the constant uphill battle to better myself, I’ve been getting in the mindset of going back to school. I have two years of college left, and my fear is that I’ll get stuck in a rut and go back into old habits. Particularly, I’ve been thinking about the relationships I have on campus. While I don’t consider myself particularly stand-offish, I don’t feel friendly either. I could be more open to new friendships and working on the ones that I already have. Or, it could just be pointless to change a system that has been more or less “working” for the past two decades.

Personally, I’ve felt the pressure that a lot of women feel to be open and friendly with everyone. In a lot of ways, I’ve rejected that notion with the way I act because I don’t want to feel vulnerable. When I was young, my family told me that I had to watch out and keep myself guarded to avoid catcalling, being taken advantage of, and other uncomfortable dangers. Many people didn’t think I would be able to do it, but I proved them wrong. I learned from a young age how to be wary of the people I was around because I had to be cautious. Growing up where I did, in Oakland, CA, being cautious was a necessity because if you weren’t there could be major consequences. I kept my head down except to check if anyone was following me, wouldn’t talk to anyone, and practiced my best mean mug.  Now, I’ve taken those principles and applied them to my life on a college campus- where they may not necessarily be needed.

I align myself with feminist mantras, but I’ve been reevaluating some of what I used to think meant being a feminist. I grew up thinking that a woman had to be “strong” in a way that was cold, harsh, and unwavering. When someone tells you to smile, you have to frown harder because they are just trying to control you with the patriarchy. While I agree with this, lately I’ve been questioning if these rules for being strong are as rigid as I thought them to be. There seems to be a certain duality in how I was raised. I was told to be tough and protect myself. At the same time, going to school in an upperclass setting, women were supposed to always give a smile throughout any situation. I was inclined to reject this idea because what I understood about feminism at the time (a very surface level understanding) said that in order to a forward thinking woman, you must reject all aspects of “the patriarchy.” What I didn’t realize was that there shouldn’t be any rules for how women should act to be considered palatable by any standard. Can I smile while walking down the street? Can I sill be strong while being warm and welcoming? I think so. Now it’s a question of whether I can put this into action.

When I think about making these changes, a couple questions come to my mind. First, I wonder if it is even possible for me, or anyone to change. The reality is that don’t have enough evidence to support either side. Some people can and do change, and some people don’t or can’t change. Personally, I have to admit that my own capacity to change is not very high. Often, it seems, I attempt to make positive changes in my life, only to fall back into old habits. What I do know is that I am capable of putting in affect positive  change for a short while.

Second, I wonder, is it  even worth changing what has been somewhat working so far? This question I can answer more easily, because deep down, although I don’t like to admit it, I know the answer. It is worth it, if it is something I want. Being more friendly and open to new experiences is ultimately something that I want. I could go around and do the same things that I’ve been doing in the past couple of years, but it isn’t really advantageous to me. College is about more than just books. Making connections and having different experiences as a whole is critical during my college experience. College is a social environment, a crucial time for making friends, and a crucial time for making changes.

While in church this past Sunday, the pastor said something that resonated with me: “There comes a time when you have to stop surveying and start getting active.” I’ve thought about who I am and how I conduct myself, and starting this semester my goal is to make a change, talking to my classmates, joining more clubs, small changes, but changes none the less. Not only will I work on being open, but I’ll work on working on myself and not get stuck in another rut for too long.



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