As I finish out my four years of undergrad, one of the most salient and powerful relationships I have with this campus is the one I hold with Her Campus at SLU.
I wrote every week for Her Campus at SLU this fall semester. And though only one article I have written since September was turned in on time, much was accomplished. As the founder and former President and Editor-in-Chief for Her Campus at SLU, it felt only fitting to continue keeping HCSLU in my life in ways that would continue to absorb my calendar and creative surplus. This is my twelfth article in twelve weeks.
I signed up for this weekly task via email one sweaty August morning as I tried to figure out what my senior year of college was going to be. There was an energy backing this decision. It wasn’t the manic kind, but rather a sort of lively glow that told me to act and push myself. I wanted to do something challenging by writing in ways I wasn’t used to. In short – I was attempting to trial run something that I want to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something in the name of learning outside of a lecture-based environment.
I wanted to do something challenging.
On top of being a full-time student with two majors, working from 16 to 24 hours a week, and being a DJ and Editor-in-Chief for SLU’s college radio station, mustering more words from my brain quickly became a challenge. Everything I was doing became a challenge.
I didn’t know if anyone was reading anything that I had published. I was shouting into a void, and it weighed on me as nights in the library got longer. What was I doing this for? Why was I adding another thing to stress about, on top of everything going on in my life?
I have an insatiable itch to refuse to look up directions. Thinking the roads will cue me to where I need to be when I’m ready to read them, I stumble in late to each and every appointment. This habit disappoints those expecting me as it loosens my grip on myself. This practice reminds me that I am allowed to take time and space. This route, the winding kind, is something I’m prone to choose. The only clues to what direction we’re going are the hints we’ve left so far, buildings recognized along the way. We are constantly looking for sneak peaks. With a mindset of adventure, path-finding advice blindsides me.
I witnessed a white man vlogging with an iPhone half a mile outside South by Southwest in March 2019. AirPods in, he was posed in front of a “love wins all” rainbow mural in the Tom’s Coffeeshop patio, a space used exclusively to create an illusion of cool. He prophetically gestured into a camera lens smaller than a pinkie nail with a Laura Dern-esque bravado. Austin, Texas was his paradise.
Truth erupted from him.
I feigned ignorance as I furiously scribed his impromptu manuscript. I have never been more surprised by an epiphany in my life. Nine months later, and I’m still scouring the internet to bear witness, once again, to his internet sermon.
There is a vast difference between manic action and inspired action, he said. Manic action spills from a place of anxiety, a need to fulfill something in an attempt to feel better. Inspired action comes from a place of fullness inside you.
As everything relatable goes, I immediately pasted his words to my past, to my college experience, and to the things that I am prone to do.
In the Spring semester of my first year of college, I applied to found the Her Campus chapter at Saint Louis University. To begin the onboarding process, I accumulated supporters, wrote my resume and cover letter, drafted sample articles, had several phone interviews, filled out dozens of forms, and submitted every other thought to drafting an idea of what the group could be. This energy was chaotic, unsustainable, and destined for collapse. I wasn’t creating Her Campus to grow. Her Campus at SLU was crafted from a space of anxiety: that I wasn’t enough on my own.
Months later, HCSLU published its first article on September 12th, 2017. I had never been more nervous about my capacity to lead and create my entire life. The days leading up to the first publish filled me with dread. Her Campus took up hours of my already belligerent schedule before articles were even up. That number and time commitment only grew throughout my year as Campus Correspondent. Even when not drafting emails, making presentations, building agendas, and editing articles, my mind always circled back to Her Campus. What was my leadership strategy? Did I explain this detail enough? Did this member feel seen and heard? Was I speaking too much? How many times did I tokenize members for their identities? Was I colonizing this space? These were questions extrapolated constantly for a year and a half, and I gave myself no room to make mistakes or to commit to anything that wasn’t already perfect. By refusing to take a risk, I stifled my own growth.
Of course, things have changed since I stopped leading Her Campus in May 2018. I know how to say yes and to commit. I know how to cherish something. I know how to devote myself to myself. I know how to write in a way that was foreign to me before, and I wouldn’t have learned it if I had not chosen to pick it up.
I will not understand the breadth and extent of what I learned from this experience for months and months. Though this realization is frustrating, I am coming to terms with the way that growth works. I didn’t sign up to write every week to boost my resume. I didn’t sign up to write every week for a class. The only reward for this endeavor is a strength within myself. I’m writing every week because I wanted to show myself that I could do something for me and me only.
There is nothing that we learn from refusing to engage when we have the capacity to. Outside periods of rest and burnout, this world is ours to challenge. We are driven to reach in directions that fit with where we are at. Say yes if it sounds good, and keep saying yes for as long as it rings true. Maybe we can all learn from trying something out.
I don’t know a soul that doesn’t struggle to navigate commitment. Devotion is a kind of ethereal word that we are taught is both natural and accessible. Our grip runs from us.
We are called to love all things that are good. That which is good requires focus and care. We commit to things for both sustainable and chaotic reasons. Many folks I love are graduating with me from 16 consecutive years of school in five months. When this happens, we will be suddenly enveloped into a decades-long symphony of choices. Many of these choices will require some amount of commitment, and we will strain to understand what it means and if it’s healthy.
However, we are not unpracticed. We have been choosing this entire time in and out of school. We have been advocating for ourselves, critiquing leadership, and communicating within each and every platonic and romantic relationship. We fought for and at each other, wrote for hours in the dead of night, cried in public, tripped on flat ground, danced in private, sang off-key, and said things we’ve regretted. These experiences, the small ones that fill our hours, are not without value.
Something is carrying us to where we need to be. We can say yes to something, give it some time, and then go back to the drawing board. If the choice made doesn’t fit the path, we can say thank you and move on. Pass what is held to someone who wants to carry it. If it’s good, and if you can take care of yourself while the thing can be done with pride, keep it.
In the end, there is so much left unsaid about the world and how we fit under its sky. Look into something that intrigues you. Move from there.
There is so much more to write.