An Open Letter To High School Seniors

An Open Letter To High School Seniors

Remember to take a minute and slow down.
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Dear High School Seniors,

Congratulations, you're almost done with arguably the best and most difficult 4 years of your academic life! As the school year comes to a close and you become anxious about starting the next chapter of your life, remember to take a minute and slow down. Take a minute to be present in these last few weeks and reflect on the wonderful friendships and memories you've created over the past 4 years.

You have worked so hard to get to this point, you've worked so hard to graduate and start a new chapter in college. You have earned the satisfaction of knowing that the stressful nights of studying and finishing your homework that didn't seem very necessary are finally paying off. You are finally being rewarded and seeing your hard work come to fruition. You earned this!

You have made some awesome friends that you're afraid to say goodbye to, but goodbyes don't have to be forever. You've made memories with people you love and care about that will last you a lifetime and all the little drama of high school will soon be forgotten and a distant memory that doesn't matter anymore. What will matter is the friendships you made with people who uplifted you, supported you and stayed by your side. Those are the people and the memories that will matter.

While starting college and moving away from home is arguably one of the biggest change in your life, it's an experience that will allow you to become the responsible, independent young adult you've wanted to be. You have the opportunity to make something of yourself, to prove to yourself and others you are capable of success. It's time to start a new chapter. Believe me when I say college will truly be the best years of your life. And you'll soon understand why. Seize the opportunities that come your way and make the most out of your college years. College will be a blast, but never forget where you started.

Lastly, hug your parents for a little too long and a little too tightly. They've been the biggest supporters in your life and have spent the last 18 years helping to shape you into the best version of yourself that you can be. They have made countless sacrifices that you may never know about, just to give you the life and love you deserve. They're proud of you and all your success thus far, and that pride will never cease. But, you leaving them for college is bitter-sweet. Dropping you off at college will be one of the best and worst days of their life. Remind them that you love them, say thank you to them for all they have done for you, spend time with them before you leave. And please, call them every once and a while when you're in college.

Enjoy your last few weeks of your senior year, spend time making memories and being present with your family and friends and get ready for some of the best years of your life!

Congratulations!

Sincerly,

A College Student

Cover Image Credit: SheKnows

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I'm That Girl With A Deep Voice, But I'm Not Some Freak Of Nature

I have learned to hold back tears when someone tells me that I sound like a man.

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My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be. I joke that rather than getting higher, my voice got lower throughout puberty.

My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be. I have learned to laugh when my family members say "Hi Todd" when they pick up the phone when I call. Todd is my brother. I am a girl.

My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be. I have learned to laugh when I have been asked by other females if they're "in the right bathroom" when I tell them "I'm not in line" or "someone's in here" when there's a knock on the stall.

Keep in mind that in most female bathrooms, there are no urinals present and there is a sign outside the door that says "WOMEN." Quite obviously, they're in the correct bathroom, just thrown off by the octave of my voice.

For the girl who asked me if she was in the right bathroom because she was "caught off guard and thought I was a boy," I'm just wondering...

What part about my long hair, mascara, shorts not down to my knees, presence (small presence, but a presence none the less) of boobs, and just my overall demeanor was not enough validation that you are, in fact, in the correct restroom?

My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be. I have learned to hold back tears when someone tells me that I sound like a man. Or, when someone calls me over to talk to their friends so they can see how "offsetting" my voice sounds to them.

My favorite story is when I was in a store, and I asked one of the women there a question about a product.

This woman had the audacity to ask me when I "went through my transformation."

She was suggesting that I was a transgender girl because of the sound of my voice. Please recognize that I respect and wholeheartedly accept the trans- population. Please also recognize that I was born a girl, still am a girl, always will be a girl, and asking someone if they are a different gender than they appear to be is not the best way to make a sale.

Frustrated, I told her that she should find a better plastic surgeon and walked out.

My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be.

And, to make matters worse, I am not your typical "girly-girl."

I die for the New York Rangers, have maybe two dresses in my closet but three shelves full of hand-me-down sweatshirts from my brother and Adidas pants. I do not own a "blouse" nor do I plan on owning one except maybe for business-casual occasions.

Naturally, when a deep voice is paired with a sports-oriented, athletic short-loving, sarcastic girl who couldn't tell you the difference between a stiletto and an average high-heel, I GUESS things can seem "off." However, regardless of the difference you see/hear, no one has the right to make someone feel bad about themselves.

What I always struggled with the most is how (most, moral, common-sense) people will never tell someone they don't know, who may be overweight, that "they're fat" or that they don't like the shirt that they're wearing. Yet, because my voice is not something physically seen, it has become fair game for strangers and acquaintances alike to judge and make comments about.

I used to break down into hysterics when I heard a comment about my voice, whether I was six years old or seventeen years old.

There are times that I still do because I am so fed up and just completely bamboozled by the fact that at the age of twenty, there are still people who just have a blatant disregard for others' feelings and a lack of understanding of what is okay to say and what is not okay to say.

But, just like I ask those people not to judge me, I suppose I can't judge them on their lack of common sense and respect for others.

I'd be lying if I said that the hundreds of thousands of comments I've heard and received targeted at my voice growing up did not play a role in my life. I used to want to be a sports broadcaster. I no longer want to be heard on the radio or seen on TV; snarky comments about my voice being one of the reasons why (among others, like a change of interest and just overall life experiences).

I'd be lying if I said that my struggle with public speaking didn't partially stem from negative feedback about my voice.

I'd be lying if I said that there weren't days I tried to talk as little as possible because I didn't want to be judged and that I am sometimes hesitant to introduce myself to new people because I'm scared my voice will scare them away.

I would also be lying if I said that my voice didn't make me who I am.

I joke constantly about it now, because half the shit that comes out of my mouth mixed with my actions, interests, beliefs, etc., would sound absolutely WHACK if I had a high-pitched "girly" voice.

My voice matches my personality perfectly, and the criticism I have and continue to receive for my "manly" sounding voice has helped shaped me into who I am today. I have learned to love my voice when people have relentlessly tried to make me hate it. I have learned to take the frustration I felt towards my voice and turn it into sympathy for those who have something going on in their life, and therefore feel compelled to make a comment about me, a stranger's voice, to make themselves feel better.

I've learned that to laugh at yourself is to love yourself.

And, I say this not for sympathy. Not for someone to say, "Wait, Syd, I love your voice!"

I say this because I want it to be a reminder for people to watch what they say, and use that noggin before you speak. I say this because I also want to be the voice (haha, get it, 'voice') for those who feel like they've lost theirs.

My voice is deep. Always has been, always will be. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

So no, I would not be a good alto in a choir because I think I'm tone deaf. And, when you call MY phone number, it is very unlikely that it is my brother or dad answering. Just say hello, because 99.9% of the time, if it's ME you're calling, it's ME that's answering.

Dr. Suess said, "A person's a person no matter how small."

Now I'm saying, "A girl is a girl no matter her octave."

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One Year Later

What a difference a year can make

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This past weekend, my a cappella group had its second performance and the experience I had singing with some of my best friends was like no other. As I reflect on this past weekend, I can't help but think about how different my life is from just one year ago. I thought I'd take some time to unpack the difference a year can make. This week also almost perfectly marks a year since I started writing for Odyssey, so the theme of yearly changes is one that is resonating particularly right now.

Last year, around this time, I was not, in fact, performing with a group I love so much. I was still transitioning to college, struggling to find my place, dealing with "rejections" from things I had wanted so badly to become involved in, the biggest of these being a cappella. During this time, I wrote an article titled, When One Door Closes, Do You Find Another Door Or Knock Again?, which I think fully encompassed how I was beginning to reshape and redefine my experiences of "rejection" as experiences of opportunity, experiences that would push me to create new beginnings for myself and continue to follow my passion.

One year later, and I can confidently say that I am now part of so many groups and organizations on campus, doing things I love.

I think a big part of this shift to finding my place at Villanova was, in fact, Odyssey. I have said this before and I will say it again and again: writing for Odyssey has given me a means to share my voice, to process things going on in my daily life, to unpack the complexities of my emotions and experiences.

Taking on the perspective of a writer has made me more inclined to treat everything in my life as an opportunity to gain new knowledge and to continue to grow.

Looking back on the "rejections" of last year, I realize that I am here today not despite of but because of everything that set me off that first semester, and I think there is something beautiful in the fact that it is because I was turned away from certain programs that I am now a part of what I am.

If I had made an a cappella group first semester or been able to be an LPH for Special Olympics or Sidekick for NOVAdance, would my Freshman year have been any less fruitful? No, of course not. If I had been accepted into any of these programs, I know that I would have grown and gained experiences from them.

However, if all of those things had worked out, would I know what it is like to be create a new a cappella group on campus, would I know the overwhelming feeling of joy one gets when being accepted into a service fraternity after applying a second time?

Would I know the feeling of deep gratitude one gains in knowing that through everything, they can persevere and shape their life as they wish?

I struggle to use the word rejection in this piece because I think it focuses too deeply on the negative. What I ultimately want to voice is that it has been a year of growth, and I am deeply grateful for all the experiences that I have had.

Besides involvement on campus, in the past year, my connections with others have also proven to be a means to grow. One year ago, I was still finding my people on campus. Today, I can say that while relationships will never be perfect, I have a life filled with deep love and connection, that I have friends new and old that I can turn to. At the same time, I have also learned to turn to myself first and foremost.

My relationship with myself is one that I am continually embracing, but this past year especially has urged me to understand my introversion and need for self compassion always.

Going back to my experience of writing for Odyssey, I feel that my Odyssey articles are the epitome of all that made up my Freshman year. All of my articles are based in topics that are very much real and resonating with me at the time, and if I were to open up any article written last year, I could pinpoint the conversation or moment that inspired the article. I love the fact that I now have a means to look back on the essence of my experiences in the past year. Unlike social media platforms which are made up of pre-mitigated posts trying to fit a certain image, using Odyssey as a platform has allowed me to accurately, and I hope authentically, relay the complexities of life.

A lot can happen in a year, readers.

So take a moment to appreciate where you are right now, no matter what has happened, and realize that you have the infinite power to shape your life however you want.

I have no doubt that each of you could write a similar article about the amount you have grown in a year. We all have that capacity. Here's to realizing that sometimes, good things take time, but for the time being, there is still always good all around us.


Talk soon,

Sam


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