To My High School Self

To My High School Self, There Are Some Things You Should Know Before You Grow Up

College isn't always what it seems, girl.

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If a miracle occurs and you can read this before you go to college, please do, and if not, this is the perfect excuse to let some thoughts out. High school may seem bland, boring, and lonely, but you'll miss it sometimes. Yes, college can be great, and you meet some awesome people, but it is harder than anything I have ever done. That doesn't mean to not attend college but to be aware of what you are getting yourself into.

Science courses are challenging and at times, even with hard work, it seems like you still aren't working that hard. This may seem bad, but it builds toughness and character, if only I could control it better. But don't worry, everyone has demons and struggles; some are better at hiding it than others. Take science APs — yes, it will be a pain, but it'll help you out so much during college and you won't be wondering why you never did.

Be proud of yourself for dreaming bigger than the Sunshine State for there are great things here. You are so close to NYC (even though I never go) and live in a state where the weather is always changing. I have seen snow for the first time, and let me tell you, while getting your feet wet with snow isn't good, it is so beautiful and fun to walk on. I have even gotten into my first snowball fight, although I think I lost.

Most of my classes are great and interesting, but there are a few that are unfair. Luckily you will meet someone amazing that will be really helpful (more on that later). Oh, and remember how you wish you had a larger Jewish community? Well, look no more. Here at Stony, there is an amazing Jewish community with some of the best people you will ever meet and people I hope to never lose touch with because they are so special. Without these people, I don't know how I would survive college.

Many of these people have become friends and mentors which is amazing when you have a class with them. No matter what, stop chasing and flirting with guys that are long distance and aren't interested in you. I'm not going to reveal any details, but you will meet a man that is special. While he is not perfect, he is an incredible man and even with all the stress still finds time to help me out and make me feel like a queen. We have our ups and downs but we complete each other so well.

One last thing: don't forget to read your books because you won't have time in college. I love you. Remember that you are amazing, beautiful, smart, and please keep on being you. Try to like veggies and working out.

Good luck.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject. It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease. The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own. We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time. Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death. However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me. In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident. A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life. I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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4 Things I Wish High School Me Knew

Every day has a purpose.

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People don't give high school enough credit for having the ability to shape your life. It can build you or it can break you and often times there is no in between. As I enter into my senior year of college I have reflected a lot on my college career and how it really has been the best years of my life up to this point, but I know that without a doubt my life would have been so different in I would have known these things as a high schooler.

1. Your life is valuable

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-7

2. You aren't defined by your singleness. 

Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires. - Song of Solomon 2:7

4. You aren't going to fit in

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. - Romans 12:2

4. Your clothes aren't going to fit forever, don't spend all of your money on them 

Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions." - Luke 12:15

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