Dear Freshman Harmeen,
The past four years have gone by so fast and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few regrets.
A lot of recent graduates can probably relate to this, yet I can’t help but feel gratitude. I’ve had a lot of mishaps and opportunities. I’m proud of us for getting through my undergraduate with flying colors, supportive friends and semi-stable mental health.
My health and self-love journies have been the most difficult yet rewarding experiences. During freshman year, it was so hard to find good food, eat on time, eat healthy, all while having a student budget. I tried rationing my money with certain meals and had to eat at odd times daily because of my class schedule (since my classes were chosen for me as a freshman). I felt mentally and physically weak and by the second semester, I tried to get groceries with my parents each time they visited. With food readily available I was able to get back on track and take care of my physical health.
Unfortunately, my diet changed quickly and the weather at school was a drastic change for me, so my skin freaked out and I got cystic acne. After a few months on prescription medicine, my skin was finally healing. Yet my insecurities with my skin became a more prominent part of my life, and there was only one moment where I can clearly say “yup that’s when my self-love journey really started!” It was the summer after freshman year and I was scrolling through my Instagram explore page one day. Most of my acne was gone at this point and my skin was healing, when I saw a video of this woman showing off her adult acne with no filter, no makeup – just her.
She went on to say how she loves her skin no matter what state her acne is in and that she doesn’t always need to hide behind a mask. I’d never used makeup as a mask before and I never intentionally hid my features with layers of concealer, until my acne showed up. Then I would feel so embarrassed about it, I felt like I couldn’t go to class or work without it! It didn’t feel right and I was using makeup for the wrong reason – to hide, not to show off my creativity like I usually do. I felt guilty, embarrassed and insecure. After watching that video and for the first time in months, I decided to stop wearing makeup to cover up my spots. I decided I was being hypocritical of my own mentality of beauty standards and was misusing makeup. I’ve since experimented a lot with eyeshadow colors, different liners and now use a light layer of BB cream or tinted moisturizer occasionally, while still choosing to go makeup most days to let my skin breathe.
Throughout my years at university, I made sure to spend time being alone too. That may sound weird because it’s not that I always wanted to be alone, but I realized that a majority of my life won’t be spent with friends or family – it will be spent with myself. I wanted to be better at knowing myself and improving certain habits. Finding time for myself by staying in and doing a skincare night, talking night walks around campus, doing yoga or even Facetiming with my friends helped me to take care of my mental health too. I have social anxiety so I learned to separate my time on the weekends between friends and myself too. I’ll always give myself time now after hanging out with friends, to rejuvenate and cleanse my mind.
This is also a boundary I had to set with new friends I made. Joining Her Campus gave me opportunities to make new friends, but I needed to be careful to not make the same mistakes I did before in high school. I didn’t have a supportive friend group in high school, so I wanted to make sure I can surround myself with supportive people going into college. Though there were some trust issues with a few people I befriended, I decided to be selfish and protect myself against people like that because honestly, I’m my first priority. So as I became more comfortable in my own sense of self, I got friends who I can trust and support, and I’m confident that those feelings will be reciprocated.
Now that I’ve got a more solidified support system, it makes me comfortable knowing that I’m graduating with such content. A year has passed since the COVID-19 pandemic has started and I feel anxious and thrilled about the future. I don’t know what kind of lifestyle I’ll be living, what kind of apartment I’ll have, where my friends will be moving to, but I know one thing. I know that the next part of my 20s will be exciting and forgiving. I’m allowed to make mistakes and I know that I’ll learn as much as I can from them. I also know that, as much as I want to be in control, I can’t always plan for the future. Opportunities will come knocking at my door, and I won’t know in the moment if I can take them or if they are even meant for me, but I consider them. Our 20s are supposed to be unexpected and thrilling, so why not take a few chances and try out a few new things? I hope I and the rest of Class of 2021 do well. We have a bright future ahead of us.