Utterly and Exceptionally Average

Utterly and Exceptionally Average

If you can't make an A, make the class your B.

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I don't mean to brag, but I've always been a pretty exemplary student. Student government, honor council, secretary of NHS, top 5% of my class - you name it, I could claim it (I see it, I like it, I want it… you get the point). When I say that I was success-obsessed, I'm not kidding. From sixth grade to senior year, I don't think I had a class average lower than a 95. I gave myself stomach ulcers in seventh grade from stressing so hard over a fall exam worth *fifteen* percent of my grade. I cried in the floor at the very thought of making less than an A on individual assignments. I never left the house. I studied to the point of exhaustion. I was so wrapped up in my school that I never did anything fun. I was an absolute wreck, but my methods worked. By the end of my high school career, I felt like I was set. Straight A's, good entrance exam scores, accepted by the college of my choice. UGA was not ready for me.

Okay, now here's the joke. UGA was more than ready for me, and it had been ready for people like me for a long while. A key piece of information that I left out previously is that I attended a private school. My class was composed of sixty people. Sixty. One thing I didn't think about before leaving for college is that it's pretty easy to be "exemplary" in school when your entire graduating class could literally fit into another school's janitor's closet. I was a big fish in a tiny pond, which means that, upon arriving at UGA, I found that I was actually completely and utterly (DUH DUH DUHHHH) average.

"Average" is perhaps the worst quality to be discovered in a girl who had worked tirelessly for seven years to preserve her academic prestige. Everyone in my new college classes was better somehow. They were more confident, more intelligent, more prepared, and I felt like my acceptance into the university had to be a fluke. To make matters worse, my very first semester at my new university handed me my very first B in a class. I could hear my GPA crying, but just barely over my own sobs. What had gone wrong? How had this happened? I texted my friends and gave them the coordinates to the dumpster I would be sleeping by for the rest of my life in case they wanted to visit. They promised to bring me their aced exam papers so I could rest my head on something more substantial than the trash I was bringing home.

Seriously, though, I was having a first-semester crisis. I didn't understand how I could go from being so motivated and successful in high school to praying for at least a C on the test I had forgotten about until four hours ago. I thought it over and discovered that the cause for my so-called failure was, unfortunately, completely my fault. And it's called "I wasted a crap ton of time on things that were not school related." There, I said it. I goofed around with friends in their dorms instead of doing my work. I went on late night adventures on weekdays. I sat at The Grill laughing and talking. I went to spur-of-the-moment concerts. I drove to Dahlonega with my friend at two in the morning when I had an exam the next day, just for the heck of it. Yeah. I wasted a lot of time, and my grades showed it. But I kept thinking. And I realized that I didn't regret any of it. Nope, not a thing.

All those memories that I can now recount with a smile were completely worth the tomfoolery, and subsequently, completely worth the B. To me, school had never been anything but the hated, necessary means to an end, and suddenly, I was loving where I was and who I had and what I was doing. I was finally living instead of just existing. I finally had a social life that I loved, and I was going to take advantage of it. A lot of the things I did were admittedly very irresponsible. Since then I've (kind of) learned to strike a balance between work and play and to prioritize what's most important. However, the first semester of freshman year was something I really needed to go through. It showed me that life is more than the means to an end. School is more than the grades I receive. I am more than others' definition of success. Sometimes, the experience is more valuable than the letter you see on a paper. So even if I never get another A in college again, you can be sure I'm gonna make the whole experience my B.

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If You Knew You Could Control 40% Of Your Happiness, Would You?

Inspired by two of my favorite books: The How of Happiness and Eat, Pray, Love

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That question may seem like a silly one considering everyone is constantly striving to be happy. But it isn't as simple as you may think. It takes time and effort to really achieve optimal happiness. Therefore the secret to happiness is having the drive to actually pursue our desire to become happier. After reading Sonja Lyubomirsky's book The How of Happiness, I learned that 50% of our happiness is our set point or what we are born with, 10% is circumstances or what we face, and finally that last 40% is what we do and how we think.

The four main categories Lyubomirsky touches on coincide with Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love memoir. Gilbert discusses how eat represents enjoying life, pray represents devotion, and love is a balance of the two while building relationships. Both happiness and mental health are concepts close to my heart. The World Health Organization predicts that by the year 2020 depression, affecting 30% of all adults, will be the second-leading cause of mortality in the entire world. With that being said, take the time to make your happiness a priority by finding time to turn these skills into habits.

1. Practicing Gratitude And Positive Thinking

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Every day write down three to five things that you are grateful for. It can be as small as "I am so glad it stayed sunny all day." It may seem silly or unnatural at first, but the more comfortable this becomes the quicker you can graduate onto the next step. This involves showing others gratitude directly. Once you accomplish showing thanks daily, start thinking long term and set goals that align with your strengths. Don't stress when things don't go as planned. When something happens that seems like the end of the world, ask yourself "Will this matter in a year?" Put things into perspective in order to avoid overthinking. Overall, strive to make out the positive side of your situation.

2. Living In The Present

Photo by Kylie Finkbone

Flow is being totally involved in the present moment. Keep your challenges and abilities high so you are never bored. This means being open to new experiencing and learning. While doing all of this remember to savor life's joys. Lyubomirsky's living in the present goes along with Gilbert's concept of eating. While you eat, you are being enriched in a moment and enjoying the little things in life.

3. Taking Care Of Your Body And Your Soul

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Whether it is meditating or exercise, this time for yourself acts as a time-out from your stressful day. You probably won't be able to clear your mind for more than a second or run a marathon the first time you do these things. Both take practice, but seeing yourself get better boosts your self-esteem. Of course, meditation and exercise are very different experiences with one being low on the energy spectrum and the other being high. But both make you feel good and take your mind off the things that don't. And yes you guessed it, this one is pray in Gilbert's account.

4. Investing In Social Connections

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That leaves us with love. Love can be for non-romantic relationships as well. It's no secret that relationships are all about give and take. What may not be as obvious is the fact that relationships have an emotional bank account. When you give time and effort to a relationship you are making a deposit; therefore when you take it you are making a withdrawal. Just like an actual bank account, you have to be careful not to withdraw what you don't have in order to keep the account afloat. In order to ensure that you are depositing enough into a relationship, you need to make time, communicate, and be supportive. And don't forget to hug. Seriously though it helps relieve stress and makes you feel closer to someone, so don't be shy!


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5 Stores Essential To Stepping Up Your Summer Look

Do we have money to spend on more clothes? No. Are we going to spend money anyway? Absolutely.

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As this school year came to a close, I realized that I seriously needed to go shopping. Okay, maybe "needed" is too strong a word. I wanted to go shopping, and badly. However, my usual stores were not cutting it for me. Through trial and error, I finally found 5 stores that never fail my shopping needs; here they are:

1. Shein

Shein is an online-only store that boasts $1 deals, tops for $5 or less, and bathing suit sets for $7 and up. The kicker? Shein ships from China, meaning it could possibly take two weeks for your order to arrive on your front step.

Keep an eye out for: the super inexpensive swimsuits! These run small, though, so be sure to size up.

2. DressUp Boutique

This awesome boutique, which has 19 locations across the Southeast, is super trendy with an affordable price tag. If you don't live in the Southeast, fear not! Their website is just as good as their physical store; more often than not, their newest arrivals will be made available online first.

Keep an eye out for: their trendy tops and dresses.

3. American Eagle and Aerie

American Eagle and Aerie can be pricey at times, but Aerie's swim collection and American Eagle's denim is enough to keep me coming back. Another selling point: both Aerie and American Eagle have underwear deals that rival Victoria's Secret-- make of that what you will.

Keep an eye out for: denim, denim, denim! This is a great place to get a new pair of cutoffs.

4. Target

Other than being a place where you walk in with money and walk out with several home goods you don't need, Target has seriously stepped up their fashion game recently. New brands seem to appear every time I walk in there, and don't even get me started on their amazing shoe selection. If there wasn't a reason to go to Target before, there definitely is now.

Keep an eye out for: the shoes! So many of them look much more expensive than they actually are (how's $20 sound?) and there's a giant selection.

5. Lulus

For every formal event I've ever attended, Lulus has been there for me to offer a ridiculously large selection of any dress I could ever ask for. Long, short, cocktail, sundress: you name it, they've got it. It's #weddingszn, people! This is the perfect place to get a dress if you're going to be a guest of a happy couple this summer.

Keep an eye out for: the cocktail dresses. There are so many options; seriously, SO many.

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