15 Things I Am Learning to Tell Myself

Credit: Ellie Bednall

1. Don’t apply to jobs just because you need a job. Identify what you are comfortable doing and do it with intention — what will I gain from this experience? Why am wanting to do it? Is consistent with my values/interests that I am working toward every day? Why do I want to work here, honestly? Am I excited? Intrigued? Or convincing myself?

2. Don’t hang around people who have done bad things to you. Who has always been there for you? Who is proving themselves a good friend? Who makes you feel good to be around? Who enjoys your company? Makes an effort to make plans with you? Understands your situation? Who is consistently disappointing you?

3. You can’t convince people of things — changing, acting a certain way, wanting to be with you, wanting to put in more effort, wanting to better themselves. Respect people who’d rather stay in their own lane. Pay attention to yourself. How am I feeling? What am I thinking? Am I being treated how I’d want to? Am I treating them how I/they would want to be treated? Learn when to back off and not push further.

4. Practice cultivating a support system. Who do you want on your team? Who can be a second family? Seek out these spaces. If you’ve tried and it’s not meeting your needs move on. What places are you excited to go to and meet people you identify with. Try not to be intimidated by cool people — you like them for a reason. Maybe they’d like you too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for companionship, friendship, and/or help.

5. Spend time with yourself. Be a friend to yourself. Be a Sol or a Scarlett to yourself. You are the shit. Other people like you. Other people know you’re smart, have ambition, are loving, caring, funny, and cute too. Own that soft-spokenness. Make people listen to you. Know what your worth. Make people regret what they’re missing out on. Say or don’t say what you will and keep it moving. Don’t compare yourself.

6. Your family is never ever going to change. Don’t be so disappointed or surprised. Learn to expect these things and plan accordingly. Leave situations, back down from arguments, and 
stand up for yourself. But you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself. Spend time with them. Do what you can to be there for everyone. Hang onto your siblings. Protect mommy. Learn history from daddy. But even if it’s hard to swallow be cognizant of the volatile, broken structure.

7. Don’t isolate yourself. Just don’t. Don’t stay alone with an unhealthy mind. Mental illness is a high propensity to unexpected breakdowns, a vulnerability. Yes, you need alone time. But spend the energy to spend quality time with people in your life. Though do not feel forced to. Just be aware of the pattern that can accumulate when you are alone for too long. Leave the door open, spend time in other common spaces, not a closed space. Not your room. Do not live your life in fear.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t be afraid to ask for anything. Asking saved your life. Asking stimulated your mind, has sustained your growth. Asking got you your best friends. Asking got you into and through Smith. Asking is a part of daily life. Asking has gotten you love. Don’t be afraid to ask.

9. Listen and heed others advice. Seriously. Time has proven that you don’t know everything. Blazing your own trail is fine. You know you. But others can look at a situation with a perspective you don’t have. Everyone needs guidance, you can’t do it all alone.

10. Do not overextend yourself. Do not take 5 classes, 19, 20 credits in one semester. Yes, you love everything. Be grateful for opportunities, keep loving to learn. But it is a stress to you and you can’t handle it, plain and simple. Know your limits, don’t test them. Stay comfortable, you’re still working hard. Focus on integrating one thing at a time.

11. Try to stay busy. You need a routine. Pick up a few activities — volunteer, organize, advocate, exercise, do projects, go meet people, work in field you like. Know that when you casually say you’re bored it’s an alert: you are growing depressed, you are growing restless, you are uncomfortable staying idle for too long. You are your best self when you have things to motivate you.

12. Girl, sometimes you are too sensitive. Sometimes you cry too much. That’s ok. But mood instability is a bitch. Breathe into the pain. Don’t swallow your tongue, don’t dwell in it, don’t ruminate on it, and don’t waste tissues on it. Breathe into the pain. It’s not normal to be sad all the time. Yes, take agency in your depression. Life is suffering. But suffering is a choice. It’s not normal to be happy all the time. You will have ups and downs. Be prepared for the downs. Do not spend too much time there. You are not condemned to a diagnosis.

13. Don’t be plagued by Eurocentric beauty standards. Your lips are perfect the way they are. Fall in love with your kinks and coils every day, your hair can do anything. Those deep brown eyes look good on you, the color is mesmerizing, and the shape has just the right curves. Black is beautiful. Brown is beautiful. Never look up colored contacts, lip liner strategies to make your lips smaller, ways to lighten your skin ever again. Never wish to be someone else. Love your curves. You look damn good at any size. Love your big thighs, they’re strong. Love your sexuality, and those kinks too. Embrace the culture of comparing leg hair you learned at Smith. Stay furry or don’t, no big deal. Love the woman your becoming, love the little girl that’s still there. Your black is beautiful.

14. Surround yourself with people of color. Join activist spaces, queer spaces, dis/abled spaces, feminist spaces. Learn from those who are marginalized. Listen to their stories. Stand up against institutional racism; the school to prison pipeline; trans deaths that are all too common; dis/abled people who die at the hands of police brutalities. You really are Sandra Bland. Say her name, say all their names. “You’ll never be seen as unarmed when the color of your skin is seen as a weapon.” Native Americans died in genocide. South East Asians need affirmative action too. Rape culture is real. The story of Columbus is a myth; there’s so many well placed myths throughout history. Colonization is erasure; your parents can barely write their own language. Kevin Quashie is a genius. Gloria Anzaldua. Grace Lee Boggs. There are so many spaces that weren’t built for you. Make your 
own. Demand a space. Never lament the critical mind you’ve grown into. Thank Carro; thank Kendra; thank Kim; thank Sol; thank Ana and Abby; thank Monica; thank Elaine.

15. Keep making art. Keep writing. Keep journaling. Keep track of your thoughts. Don’t stop going to therapy. Keep being vulnerable. Keep reading. Don’t stop creating, it’s where you feel most free, most fulfilled. You’re not just “the art girl”, you are multitude of things. Break that cycle. And in some way be proud that what you’ve made and what you love has branded you. Always listen to Krystle about your passions. Your creative mind is worth something. Someday you’ll sell something or go far in the art world. Even if you don’t, the small amount that resonates matters just the same. Be grateful. 
Stay alert. Keep positive reinforcement around. Do nice things for yourself. Do nice things for others. Don’t ignore people who love you. Keep reflecting, keep learning from mistakes. There are no mistakes only unexpected outcomes. You are not a failure. You are not a loser. You are not an idiot. You are not boring. You’re just Freda, in a process of becoming.

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