Dear University Students,
As our days get filled with a seeming never ending list of assignments, quizzes and midterms, the less time we have to ourselves. We struggle to find time to cook, so we eat campus fast food. We struggle to find time to workout, so we avoid seeing our own reflection in mirrors instead. We struggle to find healthy coping mechanisms for mental health issues, so we keep to ourselves and sulk in solitude. All of this has become the norm for most of us to a point where half of the jokes we tell are actually not so subtle dark hints to cope with how we’re really doing. The worst part is that these “jokes” aren’t ever met with concern from our peers, but are instead are met with responses such as “same” or “relatable”.
When we finally get a second alone to ourselves, all the little voices of reason in our head can no longer be suppressed and we realize how concerning our “normal” tendencies have become. During these spirals, thoughts of comparison always make an appearance as well. Upon talking with other university students, especially women, I’ve learned that the majority of us always end up comparing our current selves to our 16 year old high school selves. We often compare ourselves by focusing on the fact that we aren’t getting high ‘enough’ grades, aren’t as mentally well, and especially that we look different. This is why I’ve decided to write this letter as a reminder to us all that we aren’t in high school anymore.
When I look back at who I was when I was 16 and in high school, it’s very different from who I am now. Back then I was on almost every school sports team, I was a competitive dancer who frequented the gym regularly, lived at home where I’d have meals made for me and most importantly wasn’t nearly as stressed. My typical week would always be school, then after sports team practices or games, then I’d head off to dance practice later that night.On days when I didn’t have double practices, I was at the gym. On top of all this, my weekends looked very similar since I danced all day Saturday and Sundays as well. All of this activity combined with my lack of eating a proper amount of food resulted in me being in a much fitter state than I am today, and I’ve come to learn this is also the case for almost everyone. Although I’m still very active since I still teach dance and am on the school’s dance team, it’s still not even remotely a comparable quantity of hours.
This is especially true considering that women go through more than one puberty. In case this is news to you, it’s very common for women to go through a second puberty around the ages of 18-20. During this there’s always hormone imbalances, changing bodies, all the fun stuff our moms told us about that made our 12 year old selves grossed out. So naturally, when your body goes through it, there’s immense change and struggle. Therefore, your body won’t and of course shouldn’t look the same.
Now, it may be a habit to beat yourself up over the fact that you don’t look the same; even though in the back of your mind you’re aware of all these extremely valid reasons as to why this is the case. But it’s important that you remember to take a step back and realize how proud 16 year old you would be of your current self. Think of all the things that made you anxious back in high school that’s no longer an issue today. Maybe you got into your dream program, or had the courage to pursue a degree you truly love that was against your parents wishes. Perhaps you left a toxic friend group, or that you have found some amazing life long friends in university. It could also be that you’re still bestfriends with your childhood bestie, or that you’re still keeping up with hobbies you’ve always loved. All these accomplishments, big or small, make you who you are today. And yeah, maybe that means other things have changed, but they don’t outweigh the positives. Some sacrifices are worth making, and for me personally, I’m much happier in my current state than returning back to high school. I’m 20 now and very much not 16 anymore, and I’m ok with that.
Not a 16 year old