Dealing With Envy: a Flowchart

Sometimes you come across a person who seems to have exactly what you’re missing (e.g. shiny hair, shiny GPA, shiny job offer, shiny boyfriend, etc.)–that (non-gender-specific) bitch!

If you’re like most people, your default reaction is to A) Hate that person, B) Hate yourself, or C) Pretend to do A while actually doing B. But there are probably more productive (or less destructive) ways to deal. Here’s a flowchart of suggestions (click to see full-sized):





Journal Bits: Life-(is always)-Changing

In honor of #ThrowbackSunday I thought I’d post another journal bit from my Paris trip:

It’s a cliche to call study abroad experiences “life changing.” The more cynical types would roll their eyes and call that an overstatement. I would just call it redundant. Life is always changing. 

Every moment, every choice inevitably alters the course of what comes after it. Maybe not a lot, but a little. Big, pivotal moments matter, but so do the little choices, the little micro-turns you make everyday until you find yourself headed in another direction.

I’m thinking about this as I’m reaching the end of my time in college and getting ready for life as a real person/professional/adult/whatever. I used to assume that my life trajectory would be shaped by “big” decisions–what school to go to; what major and career to choose; what city to live in–but it has been and will be shaped just as much by the little choices that accumulate day after day–whether to show up for class; whether to warm up; whether to stay and talk; whether to ask that question; whether to go out; whether to sleep; whether to make one more little dance or write one more little thing.

For what it’s worth, I guess that as much difficulty I’ve had with declaring the “big” choice to “be a dancer,”  I’ve been pretty unwavering about my daily choice to dance, as much as I possibly can. I think that matters.

Anyway, what I think I’m saying is that being in Paris is life-changing, and so is being in school as usual, and so is being at home, ridiculously bored, thinking about where I wish I was, what I wish I was doing, and what the hell I’m going to do with the rest of the day.


Academia: a Fairy Tale

Once upon a time there was a princess who lived in a shiny white tower which stretched above a big forest called The Real World. She had entered the tower when she was young so that she could escape from the scary market forces and tax monsters in forest.


Of course not everyone could get into the tower. To get through the gates, she had answer a very long set of riddles sent from voices higher up.

Every so often, she would have the opportunity to climb one story higher in the tower if she followed the rules. And she did. She would answer more long sets of riddles. She would do a special kind of magic, turning very small ideas into very big books. She would create perfect illusions, appearing to know everything when she didn’t. She would learn to speak in peculiar tongues so that no one below her could understand. And of course, she would worship the voices above her. And so, over the years, she steadily rose higher and higher.

Each story of the tower was narrower and narrower, and fewer and fewer people would rise each time. Sometimes, people wouldn’t pass the tests, or the magic drained all their energy. And some would choose to leave. Either way, they would be sent tumbling down, scraping their skin as they brushed the thorny treetops of The Real World and bruising their bones as they found themselves at the very bottom.

But those who rose had their eyes on the tower’s tiny top floor. If you made it to that level, the prize was that you got to stay there forever and never leave.

The towers had windows where the princess could look down upon the people in The Real World. With each level she rose, the people became smaller and more distant. The higher voices said that the further away you were from people, the better you could understand them. This seemed true enough: she could see wider and farther than ever, noticing their numbers and patterns in ways she never did before. But most of all, she could see how small and faceless these people were, and feel bigger herself.

columbia princess

But one day, as she looked out the window, she could no longer see people, only a mass of tiny dots. She thought about the floors above her with fewer people around and tinier people below. She was starting to miss seeing faces.

She began to sit on the windowsill, thinking about what it might be like to live outside. One of the voices above warned her: “When you’re down there, you’ll be just as small as all those people. They won’t care about your crown or your magic tricks, and they won’t listen to your funny words. But if you stay here and keep climbing, I think you can make it all the way to the top.”

But as she imagined getting higher, lonelier, and further from the ground, she wondered if she should make the jump before it got too far.


She hit the bottom and it hurt. The market forces blew away her crown and the tax monsters chased after her. She started crying “Take me back to my ivory tower!”

Yeah, I guess I’m feeling kind of cynical right now. 

To (Some) High School Seniors:

This is for everyone who is freaking out about college decisions right now, whether you’re anxiously waiting for that yes or no from your dream school, or just waiting on yourself to figure out which of your current options you should be dreaming about. Maybe you feel like your whole life hinges upon ending up at that “best school,” or even the more feel-good but equally elusive “best fit.”

Of course it seems like a really big deal. Everyone has been making a really big deal out of it. For some of you, getting into college has been framed as the end goal throughout most of your academic life: if not the final destination, then at least an essential rung on the all-important universal ladder of Life Success.

And of course it’s not getting any easier now. Everyone wants to know where you’re going so they can publish it in a fancy alumni list, offer their congratulations, gauge their own chances, or quietly judge. The next few months are going to involve many instances of you saying or writing your future school right after your name, so it’s easy to feel like it defines you.

But here’s the thing: just a few more months later, the college you go to is going to be the least interesting/impressive/unique/defining thing about you–because it will be exactly the same for everyone else there. What will differentiate you is who you are and what you’re doing. 

I’m not trying to argue that all colleges are the same–I’m sure you already have plenty of evidence to the contrary from your Googling and/or touring–or even that everyone can be equally happy at any school–I know enough transfer students who could speak against that. But for all the differences between schools, there is just as much variation in student experiences within each school. 

There are people aiming for big future salaries, people aiming to change the world, and lots of people who don’t really know what they’re aiming for. There are people who spend their time writing apps or writing poetry or directing musicals or conducting research or bringing down the system or protecting their pristine GPAs or watching Netflix or getting really really drunk. There are people at parties at 3 am on a Saturday, people in the depths of the library, and even some people who are asleep. There are people who are counting down the days until they get out of college and people who never plan to leave.

So even after that all-important moment of truth, when your fate is (more or less) sealed to one school you’ll still have all these options (the good, the bad, the ugly, and the not-yet-determined) and many more ahead of you.

So I understand your nerve-wracked anticipation–these letters and decisions are important–but try to believe me when I say that they are not the defining moment of your life. Your whole life is the defining moment of your life.

College is important, but lets not make it more important than it has to be.

Note: I know that not all high school students have had these same expectations and experiences with college, but I do think this applies to a big subset of people who might find this relevant.