2015 has been a year of change, some welcome and others, well, not so much. Was 2015 the year I thought it would be? No, frankly it wasn't. 2015 was hard. 2015 was joyous. 2015 was full of disappointment and full of love, laughter, and a new appreciation for life. 2015 kicked my ass. I also kicked 2015's ass. In short, 2015 was perfectly imperfect: messy but wonderfully so.
If I had to sum up what I learned this year, I would say that I learned that I am capable of more than I think I can handle. I have confronted challenge after challenge this year with a persistence that I sometimes forget I possess.
On my way to Niger in March, 36 hours into my journey, I sat in the Charles de Gaulle Airport and cried. I just walked off my plane from the US where one of the aircraft engine's had stopped working. Firetrucks were standing by on the tarmac in case the other engine caught fire. I had just fallen down the end of an escalator with my hands full of camera equipment, sunscreen, and saltines. I had developed a bad cold under the stress of delayed flights, bad weather, and lack of sleep. I was all alone in Paris with no cellphone service and no easy way to contact home. I told myself that this was it. I needed to fly back home. I could not handle a trip of this magnitude. What was I thinking traveling to West Africa alone? I still had to go through Istanbul.
Kate, you aren't strong enough for this trip. You really think you can make it to Niger? Well, you can't. Just give up. Go home. You are already going to be two days late with all of these delays. It's not worth it. Give up. Turn around.
I recently reread an article in The New York Times "Modern Love" column from the Modern Love College Essay Competition 2015. Winner Jordana Narin's essay "No Labels, No Drama, Right?" has stuck with me throughout the first few months of college, popping up, lingering in the back of my mind.
She writes about her "Jeremy... an archetype, a trope, an all-purpose noun used by my college friends to talk about 'that guy,' the one who remains for us in some netherworld between friend and boyfriend, often for years." Jordana's "Jeremy" gives a perfect insight into what modern love often is for millenials: undefined, perpetually confusing, neither here nor there, messy, and for lack of better words, often infuriating.
We never know quite where we stand. You're "friends." You're "just hanging out." You're "dating but not exclusive." At least among my friends, both men and women, there seems to be a never ending quickstep of trying not to step on your "Jeremy's" toes by asking for more or less commitment, for asking for a label, for wanting more than just a hookup.
A friend and I were recently talking about some of the guys she had been seeing. I asked her if she would like something more with one guy who she felt particularly connected to. She paused before continuing: "I would like to take things to the next level with Jeremy. Maybe getting Insomnia Cookies after hooking up. But I'm not sure if that would work." I pushed further: "You don't think he would want to do that? Just getting a cookie?" She wasn't sure.
I held my tongue but felt unduly frustrated after I went back to my dorm. On one hand, hooking up doesn't have to mean deep feelings, love, or affection. We have the right to do whatever we want with our bodies with whomever we want. And yet, I feel like there's something missing here. She isn't even sure if she could ask to get a cookie with him after hooking up? This feels so off.
Originally Published in the February Issue 4 of "The Mainsheet"
Remember Valentine’s Day in elementary school? Classroom walls were adorned with red and pink paper hearts. Friends were dressed up in their finest holiday garb with “Be Mine” or “Friends 4 Ever” shirts. And the best part of all had to be the cutesy Valentine cards that you agonized over picking (puppies, princesses or Shrek?) and candy (sweet or sour?) for every classmate: a requirement of inclusion.
Now that I am 18, I understand that Valentine’s Day is not the pink and rosy holiday of my youth. In fact, my friends call Valentine’s Day one of six things:
1) Singles Awareness Day (SAD): A day dedicated to those not in a romantic relationship (usually celebrated in spite of Valentine’s Day).
It is extremely important to speak your mind. I have always admired/feared friends of mine who cut straight to the punch. Friends who say what they want to say and don't beat around the bush.
I chose the GIF above from an HBO show you probably haven't heard of (I joke) called Game of Thrones. The character above's name is Ygritte, and she is in love with Jon Snow even though she knows she shouldn't be. She tells him "You know nothing, Jon Snow."
Now Ygritte, maybe you could inform Jon Snow what he doesn't know. You are being a little cryptic. More on this later.
The importance of speaking your mind cannot be emphasized enough. When you don't speak your mind, you are left with a million unanswered questions. You left with the "what ifs." When you don't say what you want to say, when you don't ask, when you don't put yourself out there, you will never know what the answer might have been.
Some say old habits die hard. I could not agree more with that statement.
Letting go of past habits, past people, past anything can be quite difficult. There is a genuine comfort in things we already know. Even if people disappoint or hurt us, even if habits are destructive and unhealthy, even if the past is not where we want to be, it's known. In other words, letting go of the past means drifting into unknown territory; what a scary thought.
Mustering up the courage to let go of people we once loved (or still love) in favor of a possibly brighter yet somehow murkier future is no easy task. I recently was talking about the idea of letting go of old friends with a close friend of mine. She asked me what I thought about her holding onto a friend who wasn't putting in the same effort into their relationship and to be frank, was no longer honoring her happiness and needs. Should she hold on to the past and let this newer and now constant behavior go, or should she let go of this old friend who still means a lot to her?
I had this to say:
It's easy to feel caught up in the tests and tribulations of life. I often feel like I am barely treading water, barely keeping up with the unending work, the unending challenges, and the unending disappointments.
Focusing on the positive can frankly be really hard when it feels like a million things aren't going perfectly. Positivity and optimism can often be associated with a naiveté, and I don't think they should be.
Any person that has ever had some kind of adversity in his or her life (that's all of us) knows that life isn't always smooth sailing. Life can be heartbreaking and sad and really unfair. Life can beat you down into a juicy pulp where you feel like your love and strength are oozing out of a punctured shell. In those broken down moments, it's very easy to feel bad about yourself. It's very easy to feel un-beautiful, not good enough, and like a failure.
Have you ever seen Shrek and Shrek 2? I hope the answer is yes. Confession: The first two Shreks are two of my favorite childhood movies (the third and fourth Shreks just didn't get at my heart in the same way). So why are the first two Shreks two of my favorite movies you ask? Not only are the movies funny, but the soundtracks are pretty dance party ready, and don't get me started on my soft spot for Donkey.
There are some pretty advanced themes in all of the Shrek movies. For one, the "ogres are like onions" line is pretty rich. It speaks to the fact that we all have different layers and complexities hidden beneath the surface. Second, there is something to be said for having a kick-ass (pardon my french) female lead who doesn't need a man to do her bidding for her (yes, you could argue that Fiona was rescued by Shrek in the original Shrek, but she was really the one that got them past the dragon and through the forest). Third, the fact that Fiona gives up the prestige, money, security, and power with Lord Farquaad to be with her true love Shrek is so romantic. It's refreshing to see a capable, grown woman (okay- she's a princess) deciding her own fate. And lastly, Fiona choosing love and emotional connection over physical beauty (Shrek isn't the prettiest, but that's okay!) time and time again is HUGE. Picking an ogre over THE Prince Charming- the hottie mc hottie of Far Far Away cue swooning is worthy of discussion.
Now, I sort of went on a tangent there, but the part of Shrek that I really want to talk about is the idea of Prince Charming.
Originally Published in the June 2014 Issue 7 of "The Mainsheet"
So it’s prom season, juniors and seniors! While I have previously written on the financial burdens of the school dances, I have decided to talk about the other kinds of burdens that dances inflict on students: the self-esteem burden.
Dances can either be a major confidence boost or a major downer. Maybe that’s a little extreme of me to say, but for many students, dances are a very real form of anxiety. Will I get asked? Who should I ask? What if they say no? What if no one asks me? What does it mean if I ask him or her?
I would like to simplify this whole process. It doesn’t need to be this stressful or hurtful or frustrating. So here’s my Kate breakdown of how to survive prom season. Godspeed to the classes of 2014 and 2015!
Originally Published in the April 2014 Issue 6 of "The Mainsheet"
I will never let rejection stop me from accomplishing my goals. I will never let rejection keep me down. I have been rejected plenty of times, so I have become very good at being rejected. I mean it. My ability to be rejected has almost turned into a skill.
I was rejected when I was 1 1/2 years old. My biological father decided he didn’t want to be a part of my life anymore. I have had zero contact with him since.
I was rejected in first grade. My classmates told me that I should not be able to go on an Indian Princess Trip to Lake Arrowhead because I “didn’t have a daddy.” I was too afraid to tell anyone how much those words hurt me.
I was rejected by God. My grandmother, my second mother, the woman who picked me up from school every day and held me until my mom came home late from work, died unexpectedly from a rare autoimmune disorder that 1 out of 1,000,000 people get. The last time I saw her she was in the hospital. I was in my white first communion dress she got me months earlier when she still had her curly black hair and warm Irish smile. I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.
Originally Published in the March 2014 Issue 5 of "The Mainsheet"
I think it’s fair to say that teenagers often suffer from a lack of self-confidence. If you listen around campus, you will hear student fat talking, diminishing their accomplishments, and generally being unkind to themselves. Being confident in high school is really hard! Media influences are constantly telling us that we aren’t skinny enough, pretty enough, strong enough, man enough, or smart enough. How are we supposed to learn to love and take care of ourselves with all of these societal pressures?
The truth is, it’s nearly impossible to block out outside influences, but we can try to focus less on what others think of us and more on what we think about ourselves. I am so tired of being hyper-critical or unkind to myself, and I know that many students are tired of this unnecessary, unproductive self-loathing too. I am a firm believer that until you can treasure and be confident in who you are, you can’t really let other people in to love you. I know it’s hard, but instead of thinking about all of the things we do wrong, we need to switch gears and think about all the things we do right.