Dear freshman me: nothing will turn out like you thought (and that’s okay)

When I started at Auburn in August 2016, I was like most other college freshmen: 18 and ready to take on the world, sure that I knew everything, vehemently independent. I saw the statistics about how often people change majors; but that was never going to be me. I knew most people gained the freshman 15; but that wasn’t going to be me. I had been told how many people struggle with depression in college; but even with my mild depressive and anxiety disorder diagnosis, that wasn’t going to be me. I was ready for the new phase of my life. I was nervous, excited, every emotion you can name. I was going to thrive.
And then, in April of 2017, I lost my dad.

It was sudden and unexpected; I went home on Good Friday for Easter and walked in my house to find that he had passed away from a heart attack. It threw a wrench in the rest of freshman year. Suddenly I had to get a job, settle an estate as legal next of kin, figure out how to navigate a world that was missing the best man I’d ever known. That eager, go-getting, ready-to-take-on-the-world 18-year-old girl was gone. In her place was a 19-year-old college freshman who had to grow up whether she wanted to or not; who felt utterly, completely lost.
Now, 22 and a month away from graduating college with my public relations degree, there are so many things I wish I could tell that girl. More than anything, I want to tell her that it’s all going to be okay; but I know at the time, that kind of vague moniker wasn’t what I wanted to hear. So if I could see her again, somehow, this is what I think I’d say:
1. Grief is a hell of a thing…
…but it’ll teach you who you really are. If I had the choice, I would, of course, bring my dad back. I think about him every day and would give anything to see him again. But the grieving process taught me so many valuable things about myself. For instance, I learned who my real friends were: not just the ones who sent me texts saying how sorry they were for my loss or who liked my Instagram post, but those who checked in on me every day, who brought my family food, who asked their parents to donate to the American Heart Association in my dad’s honor. I also learned that the boyfriend I thought I was going to marry was not, in fact, the one. I learned who was important to me, what was important to me, who I wanted to become. I really believe it made me who I am today.
So, young me, if you’re reading this, lean into it. Don’t suppress it; don’t try not to feel it. It feels so big, so hopeless, but believe it or not, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
And he’ll still be with you, I promise. You’ll feel him in the summer breeze, in the sound of the ocean; and especially every time you open a Budweiser (but only when you’re legal, of course).

2. Embrace change.
And, young me, I don’t just mean losing Dad; I mean all of it. Remember that insistence that I was never going to change majors? I started college as a creative writing major; somewhere along the way that became philosophy, and then finally public relations. And that dedication not to gain weight freshman year? I started sophomore year 20 pounds heavier than I came. And I don’t have to tell you that there were more than a few periods where depression and anxiety took over. There were quite a few times when I looked a little too much like this:

But I’ve come to realize that, cliche as it is, change only makes you stronger. I spent so long resisting it, but in the end, I’m thankful for all of it. That’s not to say that it wasn’t sometimes unpleasant. It was. But unpleasantness and discomfort are essential to growth.
So stick it out, sweet girl. I promise you’ll be grateful for it later.
3. Don’t rush it.
From my first day of college, I was already looking forward to graduating. I’ve always been a dreamer; I’m very ambitious, very driven, always thinking about what comes next. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. It’s kept me focused and ensured that I’ll be graduating summa cum laude next month. But it has meant that I spent so much time focused on what was coming next that I missed what was happening in front of me.
And now, because of the pandemic, it’s gone, two months earlier than I expected.
I didn’t get to get a Toomer’s lemonade one last time, or take my mom to Skybar after graduation, or even really say goodbye to my friends and roommates. I didn’t even get to take my grad pictures on Samford lawn. I was so ready to leave, but now that it’s happened, I keep wishing for just one more day.
So my biggest piece of advice, younger me, is to slow down. Be present. Appreciate the late-night homework grind, the days after Skybar when you swore you’d never set foot in there again, the game days and the rainy days and everything in between.
It’ll be gone before you know it, and you’ll be left reminiscing for days like these.

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Alexa, play “All I Do is Win.” 🐅

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It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I’m struggling to feel fine

This pandemic has been hard on everyone. I won’t pretend for a second to be the most affected or the most at risk; I’m young and healthy, my mom kept her job and even though I lost my internship because I had to move home, I got a hefty tax return I’ve been living on and I have money in savings to get me through until something else comes along. I’m undoubtedly one of the lucky ones.

And despite all that, I still spend every day in constant anxiety because I’m not sure how to find a job during the pandemic.

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It’s no secret that businesses are struggling. Already, I’ve gotten numerous emails regarding job applications I’ve sent in which I’m told the companies are instituting a hiring freeze and have no idea when it will be lifted. In every one of them, I’m told something like: “Best of luck to you. I hope something works out.”

Not the most encouraging thing for someone who graduates in a month to hear.

And it’s not just the uncertainty that I’ll be able to find a job during the pandemic. It feels like everything has been taken away from me: my last two months at Auburn, my graduation ceremony, my graduation trip. I won’t even be able to take grad pictures because I can’t get my cap and gown or my honors cords or even feel comfortable being around a stranger until long after I’ve graduated.

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So yeah, I’m one of the lucky ones. But it still sucks. Big time.

I have no idea what the future holds for me when all this is over. If you know anything about me, you know that that’s one of the most terrifying realizations I’ve had to come to in my life; I’ve always been a dreamer, a planner, someone who had big aspirations and has always focused on what’s coming next. It’s terrifying to know that I might not be able to find a job during this pandemic. It feels like everything I’ve worked for, these past four years of working so hard for the promise of a fulfilling career, was all in vein.

I really am trying to stay positive through all this (I know it doesn’t seem like it; you’ll just have to trust me on this one). I know this will pass eventually, that things will return to normal eventually, that I will get hired by someone eventually. It’s just hard not to feel jipped.

I don’t want to make it seem like I think everything is hopeless. I know there are companies that are still hiring, or ones that will resume as soon as they can. I even got a message from LinkedIn the other day with helpful tips on how to find a job during the pandemic. I know all is not lost. I guess I’m just having trouble adjusting to this new normal.

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I suppose it’s just like any grieving process—I’ll have to go through denial, anger, all that before I get to acceptance. I imagine it’ll be a long road. No journey is linear, but I’m foreseeing a lot of twists and turns in this one in particular.

So to any fellow college seniors: I’m right there with you. It really, really sucks. I don’t have any answers. I just have to believe that we’ll get through it somehow; and I’ll see you all on the other side, hopefully at a brewery or a restaurant or anywhere but my house.

It’s almost spring break: and for once, I know exactly what to do with myself

Spring always seems to come early in Auburn, particularly because we have such an early spring break. This semester, it’s March 9-13: two weeks away. Hallelujah, right?

I definitely need a break from the hustle. Between school, both of my jobs and trying to train for a half marathon, I feel like I never really have a free minute.

But this is also my last spring break. Ever.

You read that right. EVER.

And that’s a little terrifying.

I’ve spent most of this semester so far vigorously applying for jobs for after graduation. And when I say vigorously, I mean VIGOROUSLY; I’ve applied for so many that more than once now I’ve tried to fill out an application only to discover I’d already sent one in weeks before. It’s a constant source of stress in my life, so bad that I’ve broken out into hives once or twice. God bless my friends (and my trusty therapist) for attempting to keep me sane. It hasn’t really worked, but I appreciate the effort.

So at first, I told myself I was going to spend my spring break doing one thing and one thing only: job searching. I was going to use my week off to schedule interviews (provided someone called me back by then), meet people at agencies I want to work for and stay holed up in my room in a LinkedIn rabbit hole. After all, all my sources have told me that it’s never too soon to start applying.

But then, after my second round of hives and what seemed like the millionth anxiety attack, I decided I needed a new goal for my spring break: to chill.

Yes, finding a job is important. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to start listening to what my friends and boyfriend and mom and therapist have been saying: that everything is going to work out, and if I don’t slow down, I’m going to drive myself nuts.

Being an aspiring PR professional, though, I couldn’t stop there. I had my goal: now what were my objectives?

After some careful consideration, I came up with three.

1. Increase time spent with family and friends 50% from the last three months.

Every time I’ve been home lately, I haven’t really been home. I’ve just popped in for a day or two to go on some job interview for companies I don’t even really want to work for. So this spring break, I’ve decided to be more intentional about the time I spend with those I love. My carefully-devised plan is to:

  • Spend at least 3/7 nights at my mom’s house instead of with friends
  • Have dinner/lunch/drink dates with at least three people I haven’t seen in a while
  • Go on a nice dinner date with my boyfriend

I’m hoping this will make my spring break look a little more like this:

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We eat the Green Wave for breakfast. 🐯

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And a little less like this:

2. Increase the frequency of my exercise by 25% as compared to last spring break.

I’ve been guilty in the past of throwing my exercise routine to the wind when I’m on a long break from school or work. And don’t get me wrong, there’s something to be said for taking it easy; it’s a mini-vacation, after all. But as we all know, exercise has been proven to release endorphins into the brain, and it’s a really good reliever of stress. So I set out to find ways to exercise while also having fun this spring break:

  • Attend happy hour yoga at Good People Brewing Company
  • Take my dog on a run somewhere we’ve never been before
  • Take a Taekwondo class with a friend at my old studio

If I can’t make it to happy hour yoga, I plan to just drink a beer while I do one of these Yoga with Adriene videos at home.

(Don’t judge. It’s vacation.)

3. Get 25% better sleep as compared to the month of February.

Just as exercising is a good way to release endorphins, not getting enough sleep is the quickest way to amplify stress and anxiety But I can’t just say I’m going to get more sleep; I’ve said that a million times before and always fallen back into my bad habits. As with most things, I need a strategy:

  • Have a set bedtime every night
  • Have a set time to wake up every morning so I’m not oversleeping
  • Make sure my surroundings are comfortable so I’m getting good, restful sleep

This will be tough to stick to, perhaps more than the others. It’s easy to get a taste of that spring break freedom and want to break all the rules. But it’s good for my health to keep my sleep schedule consistent, and that’s what I’ll keep telling myself.

So this spring break, catch me like this by 10 every night:

All of that is great; but of course, my PR plan wouldn’t be complete without evaluation. So finally, I thought about how I’ll measure the success of my plan when I find myself back in Auburn on March 15:

1. Am I refreshed?

Do I feel better than I did when I left, if even just a little bit? Do I feel ready to tackle the rest of the semester and produce the best work I can so I can graduate with style?

2. Am I more self-aware?

Did my spring break plan help me to listen to my mind and body and let myself rest when I need it? Am I better prepared to take care of myself than I was?

And, finally:

3. Am I content?

I know doing all of this won’t magically take the stress of job-hunting and starting life in the “real world” away. I know I’ll still get myself down those LinkedIn rabbit holes and spiral about having to live in a box under a bridge from time to time. But if I can bring myself to be more intentional, to live in the moment instead of with my head three months into the future, I’ll count it as a win.

It’s like the old saying goes: “Just take one step a time, there’s no need to rush.”

(Yes, it’s a Jordin Sparks song. Let me live.)

Adobe Illustrator—the easiest way to design a personal logo, even for design dummies

Let me start this out by saying I am 100%, certifiably, most definitely not a graphic designer. So you can imagine the horror on my face when, a few weeks into my Style and Design class at Auburn, my professor assigned us a brand identity suite, complete with a personal logo, a business card and envelope, a resume and a cover letter.

I thought, “This is it. He’s going to take one look at my lack of design skills, give me a zero and email the dean to recommend I be removed from the public relations program because it’s surely by some mistake that I got here in the first place. I better start looking into other majors.”

I am happy to report, folks, that that isn’t what happened. Why? Because I have an anxiety disorder and tend to overreact, sure; but also because I discovered Adobe Illustrator is the easiest way to design a personal logo.

Don’t believe me? This is the logo I made with Canva at the beginning of this assignment when I was trying to figure out if my professor would be able to tell the difference (spoiler alert: he definitely can).

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I guarantee you the first thing you thought when you saw that was: “Well, it’s…fine.” But as a public relations professional, “fine” doesn’t cut it. Taking a good, long look at that logo made me realize I was going to have to bite the bullet and learn Illustrator.

Remember what I said: I am a design novice at best. But even with my minimal design skills, I was able to create these two logos on Illustrator.

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I know what you’re thinking—“That’s great for you, but every time I open Illustrator, I have no idea what to do. There’s too many buttons and I don’t know what any of them mean.” Believe me, I felt that way at first, too. But here’s the good news: YouTube is a thing.

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of Illustrator tutorials on YouTube. Once I watched a few of them and got the hang of the basics, I realized that Illustrator is, without a doubt, the easiest way to design a personal logo—even for me, the self-diagnosed “design dummy.”

The best thing about Illustrator is that I was able to make both of my personal logos in less than half an hour. How, you ask? Because Illustrator has some amazing, easy-to-use tools that make logo building possible even for the design illiterate.

My personal favorite tool, and the one I used the most when building my logo, is the shape builder tool. It’s not the sexiest tool, but it’s important—you can’t have a logo without a shape, after all.

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I also like it because it offers a bunch of different shape options. The default is a rectangle, but there’s also ellipses (which I obviously used), stars and even polygons, where you can create everything from triangles to hexagons to whatever is in between (don’t judge my lack of geometric knowledge—I’m not a math major). The world is your oyster in Illustrator, so to speak.

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I’m also a big fan of the gradient tool. It’s how I made the circle that encompasses my name in my logo into a semi-circle, which is an integral part of my creative vision for the logo. And just like everything in Illustrator, it offers a wide array of options to make your logo (or anything you’re designing) your own.

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And there you have it. Two tools, two colors and half an hour later, I had two logos I was actually proud of. Who would’ve thunk it? (The guy who created Illustrator, that’s who).

So if you’ve got a will, a logo idea and an attention span long enough to watch some YouTube videos, then Adobe Illustrator is the way. Don’t just take my word for it—go give it a try. I’ll be here, waiting and listening for you to start shouting from the rooftops that Adobe Illustrator is the easiest way to design a personal logo that you’ve ever seen.