Stop Following the Leader and Just Do You

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I’m that girl who didn’t peak in high school—I had my “awkward/ ugly stage” from fifth grade until freshman year of high school. I remember the first day of high school vividly. When it came time to choose a high school, I knew my parents wanted to send me to public school, while all of my friends decided they would go to Catholic school. You can say I felt nervous.

I literally Facebook messaged any and everyone that I thought or knew would be going to the same school as me. In other words? I started off high school as the weirdo. Great move, Bri.

My anxiety levels had risen so high that I shook as I opened my locker. Everyone knew each other, while I remained the outsider as the new girl, or the “Catholic school girl.” But by the end of freshman year, I had a great group of friends. Fast forward to junior year and I thought I’d reached my peak. I did well in school, joined the cheer team and was in my first serious relationship with a cute boy who I thought was the greatest thing to happen to me. I thought I had it all. When senior year rolled around, I not only felt empowered as oldest in the school, but I also had my sister, a freshman.

But this isn’t a Disney movie. Regardless of my success, I was not the truest form of myself throughout high school. I did what everyone else wanted of me. I did the bare minimum. In reality I had the potential to accomplish so much more. I kept to myself and tried so hard to keep up with the “popular” girls.

I needed so badly to fit in, I did things that didn’t bring me happiness. For example, I joined the cheer team, when I really loved volleyball. I craved attention. I wanted acceptance so much that I was willing to do anything for this to happen.

Once I graduated and decided to go to Iona College, only knowing one person, I felt like I was in the same position I was in my freshman year of high school. When my family dropped me off in August 2015, I was hysterical watching them drive off.

The first semester of my freshman year went pretty rough (seems like a pattern, doesn’t it?) I remember the day after I moved in, I wanted to go day drink, but my roommates went home (on the second day, really?). I sat in my dorm alone, not knowing one single person.

I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t have a purpose being at this school. I wasn’t a part of anything and had close to no friends. I came very close to transferring to my community college.

Things did turn around, of course. The day of that day drink, my one friend from home, LeeAnn, brought me with her friends and soon enough they became mine as well. She, along with the friends I made through her, encouraged me to go out for Greek life. As I mentioned, I don’t like change, so going to events and meeting these beautiful, intimidating girls, was way out of my comfort zone. But I sucked it up and did it.

Now, almost halfway my junior year, my life has turned a complete 180. As cliché as it sounds, joining Greek life was one of the best things that could have happened to me. It changed my whole college experience. I met my best friends, the girls who I trust, lean on and have lived with for the past two years. I am independent, confident and involved in numerous extra-curricular activities. I’ve held positions on e-board, interned for a PR firm, written for the Iona newspaper and have been on Dean’s List, consecutively, since my freshman year. I’m a busy girl, and I’m a determined girl. But I’m a happy girl.

Going away to college has pushed me to become the person that I never thought I could be. They say college will help you evolve into a better version of yourself. To say the least, college has done that for me. Coming to Iona and engaging with some of the most amazing people here encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone, do things that make me happy and not fear cutting people out of my life that serve no purpose being in it.

College has made me a leader, whereas when I was in high school, I was the follower. All I cared about was pleasing everyone, not myself. Don’t get me wrong: I still have my moments. If I sat here and told you that I didn’t call my parents and break down every now and again, I’d be lying. Life gets overwhelming and as much as I’d like to think that I can handle everything on my own, it’s simply impossible.

Over the past few years I have learned that high school does NOT matter in the slightest. That conversation you had in the hallway with a boy you swore was your soulmate doesn’t matter now. The fact that you got chosen last in gym class? Who cares?

Today, I am the girl who found herself in college. College is where you grow, learn and find yourself. I am still learning and making mistakes, but I do this with a clearer, stronger head on my shoulders. Do something that scares you, focus on bettering yourself and make the most of your time. You won’t regret it.

Hi! My name is Brianna and I am currently a Junior at Iona College in NY. I am majoring in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations.

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