Taking control over my eating disorder

Getting dressed has become such an ordeal lately.

I moved back to Guam with just one suitcase with all my belongings (clothes, shoes, and books included), but I’ve bought a few tops and bottoms over the past year.

Since last September, I’ve gained at least 10 pounds. I probably lost 10 pounds of muscle and gained 20 pounds of fat total, because I stopped working out and I used to be on a fairly strict workout regimen in 2016.

Now the clothes I brought over from California don’t even fit me anymore, and I’ve had to give away a few pairs of my favorite jeans because they can’t possibly button around my waist.

I feel bad every time I need to get dressed because almost nothing fits me right anymore. I end up changing clothes ten times before going anywhere, scrutinizing myself in the mirror. I often just give up and wear the same outfits repeatedly, usually the ones that hide my stomach most.

By no means am I the slightest bit overweight — I’m average for my height now, for the first time in my life.

But the problem I came to terms with four years ago has crept back into my life, this time stronger than I’ve felt it in years.

It’s no big secret that I had (and still have) body dysmorphic disorder, and am recovering from anorexia nervosa. I wrote a blog post about learning to love my body in 2013 after I realized I had a problem and I was underweight. I shared about my body dysmorphia on Instagram last year, while I was coming to terms with my changing body after college.

In 2013, I realized I had body dysmorphic disorder and had been starving myself for a year or so to stay thin. I was so scared to weigh over 100 pounds, so I checked the scale obsessively to make sure I was at 99 at the most. I weighed about 97 pounds and I’m about 5’4-5’5 in height.

What I considered a scary time in 2012.

I took pleasure in buying XXS clothes. I was so proud of myself when I bought a 00 pair of jean shorts at American Eagle (I’d be surprised if I could fit one thigh in it today). Some days, I’d work out at the gym and my only meal that day would be a couple of Hot Cheetos and Sour Patch Kids.

It’s weird because I’m never really aware of it or in control of it. It’s kind of like the voice in your head that tells you to do any task, like when to brush your teeth or when it’s time to go to bed.

It tells me not to eat because it knows I’m going to get “fat.”

When I look down at my stomach, it tells me I’m disgusting.

When I wash my body in the shower, it tells me my mid section is too big and soft.

When I look at myself in clothes that don’t fit right, it tells me to lose weight.

When I look in the mirror, it tells me I’m ugly.

And I listen. Every time.

Over the years, I’ve gotten better at telling myself it’s wrong. I don’t know why it’s there or how it came to be.

But it gets worse when I’m going through periods of high emotional stress — like difficult breakups in the past. Now I think it’s back because of work stress, anxiety, and other personal issues.

I let myself go a bit over the past year, eating whatever junk food I want, eating socially (because it’s Guam, and that’s what you do), and snacking like crazy at night.

Left: summer 2012; Right: summer 2017.

So now the voice has gotten meaner than ever.

I weighed myself at 119 last month. I couldn’t believe it.

I told myself it was fine. I mean I’m average now. Is that really so bad? I’m still skinnier than a lot of people my age, so it isn’t a big deal. And I’m getting older so my metabolism is slowing down. It’s normal.

Still, I found myself measuring my waist every day in the morning (since you’re supposed to be your thinnest when you wake up).

Almost 29 inches. You fucking fat bitch.

I pinch my rolls and feel devastated.

The following weeks:

Still too fat.

27 and three quarters of an inch. Better. But still too fat.

I’ll be happy when I’m at 26 again, I tell myself every morning.

I nod with affirmation at the mirror thinking, yes, then I’ll be happy.

But another voice in my head (damn I sound crazy with all these voices) says softly, but when you were a 25 waist, were you happy?

I pause to listen.

No, I wasn’t happy back then. I was hungry.

Not just for food, but for satisfaction with myself.

After staring at myself tonight in old clothes that are too tight, examining my belly profile from different angles, I finally told myself, fuck it.

Even if I did it the healthy way by eating right, cutting out snacking before bed (which I should still probably do because it’s a bad habit in general), and exercising, I would still be measuring myself. Even if I hit 26, hell 25, would I really be happy?

I know if I monitor myself thinking that being skinnier will make me happy, instead of dealing with the anxiety, stress, and insecurities I have internally, I will never be happy.

I need to throw out whatever unrealistic expectations I have for my body.

I’m 24 years old. I’m not 19 anymore.

I have belly rolls, stretch marks, and cellulite.  I feel my fat shake on my body when I walk. I feel my thighs rub together.

But is that all really so bad? And who said it was bad to begin with?

For the first time in my life, I’m finally able to wear my bras without a huge gaping hole at the top. I’m finally fuller. I’m not stick-thin and my teenage body wouldn’t be attainable even if I threw up every day and starved myself.

I finally look full and healthy.

I look the way Woman Chloe should be, and I need to stop hanging onto Teenage Chloe.

I need to let go because the only person standing in the way of me feeling beautiful and happy is me — and that tiny mean voice inside that tells me I’m not enough.

Left: 2011; Right: 2017.

What I learned from my three-year long distance relationship

After three whole years spent living in different apartments, cities, then landmasses, I’m finally nearing the end of the long distance chapter of my relationship.

Finally.

My partner Nate and I met in college in December 2013 (we say “partner” because we’re ~mature adults~ and equals). After I sat next to him in class and we talked briefly, I stalked him on Facebook, he asked me out a bunch of times and showed up to my social events until my friends checked him out and I got jealous and realized I liked him, and the rest is history!

We fell in love quickly, and even during the first month of our relationship, I knew he was the person I wanted to marry someday.

The only problem was that he’s a few years older than me and was graduating in a matter of months. We dreaded talking about the future and letting the reality of our inevitable long distance or breakup set in.

The week before he graduated, we finally sat down and had the talk: what was going to happen when he moved back to Orange County and started law school, while I was continuing college in Santa Barbara?

Among the many qualities Nate and I share that make us a great couple is our ability to openly talk to each other and solve our problems rationally — and most importantly, as a team. We’re also both relatively narcissistic (if you couldn’t already tell by reading the previous sentence).

We sat down and talked through every one of our worst fears about the outcomes of both a LDR (long distance relationship) and breaking up. We discussed every possible aspect of LDR we could think of and how we’d each like to handle it.

I visited him every other weekend during my senior year — I came to him because he needed to focus on studying during his first year of law school. Also, I loved coming over because his parents would feed me and I was broke as hell (and his mom’s homemade pho ga is the best ever).

After I graduated, I moved back in with my parents in Davis, California and we flew to each other every three weeks between NorCal and SoCal for over a year.

But during that last year, I battled with insecurities, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction with myself while I worked in retail and lost a lot of my confidence.

I relied heavily on Nate to be there for me when I needed encouragement, validation, and friendship. I got frustrated with him often because I didn’t have anything else in my life going on and focused mostly on him and our relationship.

I was desperate for something in my life to change and get me out of the rut I’d been in for over a year.

I ended up choosing to take a job in journalism back on Guam, where I was born and raised. I knew it could mean the end of our relationship eventually as I accepted a yearlong contract across the world from him, but I needed to do it for my own happiness and professional success.

We ended up breaking up only two months after I left California. We were both so heartbroken because we still loved each other deeply, but I wanted to stay on Guam with my new life and he was too scared to move and was still in the middle of his last year of law school. (Don’t worry, this story has a happy ending — we got back together!)

Nate and I are excellent at many things, but treating each other like normal exes isn’t one of them. We ended up still texting every day, we said “I love you” for months, and continued to be best friends who supported each other.

I can’t say I ever imagined my life (and our relationship) to unfold this way when I first sat down next to this random (well-dressed) dude with glasses and poofy hair in class, but no matter what happens in the future, I’ve changed and matured so much in the past three years we’ve been together.

These are a few of the most important lessons I’ve learned during three years of long distance (from a three-hour drive, to a one-hour plane ride, to an ocean apart):

Being alone is actually really great (and healthy).

When Nate and I first started dating, we spent allllll our time together. We took another class together, we ate lunch together between classes, we walked home together and watched TV shows in my bed for hours until he went to bed late, then we met up again in the morning in class and repeated the whole thing every day.

I got so used to spending every waking moment with him (and bailing on plans with other friends and extracurricular commitments just to be with him) that it physically hurt to be apart when he moved.

Eventually I just learned to distract myself and count down the days until we could visit each other, but it wasn’t until I moved far away from him and my family that I actually learned how to live my life fully for myself.

I cultivated a group of close friends who I hung out with every weekend (and during the week too), I grew closer to my coworkers and went out with them after hours, I made time to reconnect with my extended family, I went to the beach and tried new things on my time off. I grew so much getting thrown into new environments every day for work, too.

I actually had a full life for the first time since we started dating (maybe even for the first time in my life), and I absolutely loved it. I loved it so much that I chose this life for myself instead of putting romance first, for the first time ever (I’ve been boy-crazy since elementary school, unfortunately).

Living very far apart forced me to grow like crazy. Even though I love Nate so much, I’m grateful I got the chance to go somewhere on my own and figure my life out for myself. We had a rough half year when we broke up, but I still wouldn’t change it if I could because it made me into the independent, self-sufficient, and happy person I am today.

It also worked out best for our relationship too, because I needed this growth to be a better partner to Nate, instead of getting mad at him for every little thing because I was unsatisfied with my own life. Going through this rough patch also strengthened our relationship so much, and now we’re even more connected and smitten than we were during the honeymoon phase. #smitten4ages

It’s easy to take each other for granted, but make sure you don’t.

I can’t stress how important it is to remember how much the other person is right for you and is there for you, even when you’re not physically together.

After he goes to bed and can’t text me for the rest of the day, I think about him a lot. We’re apart all day, but when I can’t even talk to him, I take some time to sit and actively think about him, our future, fun times in the past, or why I love him so much. (This is all so sappy, I usually don’t write this many nice things about him all at once)

Having a period every day when I can’t talk to him makes me even more grateful for his presence when we get to text regularly during the time we’re both awake.

Don’t sweat the small stuff — but the small stuff also matters so much.

This sounds confusing, but these are two different definitions of “small stuff.”

I used to nitpick every little thing Nate would say to me and get irritated if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. If I texted him something fishing for a compliment and he didn’t praise me the way I wanted, I’d get upset and sometimes ignored him or gave him a bad attitude.

Since we got back together, I try not to to read too much into the wording of his messages (plus I just stay too busy with work and my social life to over-analyze as much as I did when I had no job/friends). Texting is a difficult and ambiguous form of communication, and getting mad about it just creates more tension — and it’s already hard enough not seeing each other in person.

But it’s also hard not to read closely into texts when texts are sometimes all we have to connect in a LDR.

Even though I’m busy with work most of the time, and I end up texting a bit mindlessly sometimes, I try to make time to be thoughtful about my messages to Nate. If I’m busy in the moment, I hold onto a thought and bring it up to him later or if it’s a serious topic I make time for him.

It’s easy to let things fall through the cracks, but it’s important to make time for your partner and let them know they’re worth it.

You need to treat it like a real relationship even when you’re not physically together.

Even though we can’t actually sit down to dinner or show physical affection, we try our best to show each other we’re still each other’s priorities.

When I first moved to Guam, sometimes we’d have to cancel or delay Skype dates last minute, because other things got in the way of our face-to-face time. If he didn’t make time for me, I felt hurt because I didn’t feel like I was important enough to him. And if I didn’t make time for him, I felt like our connection was becoming less tangible and we were fading out of each other’s lives.

Now we make time to Skype every Friday or Saturday (my time), which is a lot easier now that Nate is done with school. It takes some rearranging of our schedules, and sometimes I have to turn down plans with friends or family in person. It’s easy to cancel a Skype date since we’re not physically together, but the time commitment and effort made to be available for the other person are still real.

People aren’t static.

When Nate and I first got together, I thought he was this cool English major who loved writing and reading fiction (basically I thought he was just like me). For his birthday, I even bought him a book with hundreds of writing prompts because I thought it’d be fun for him.

Months into the relationship, I learned he didn’t like writing for fun at all (besides getting some enjoyment using flowery language for his school assignments). He’s a nice person so he thanked me for the gift, but it’s still sitting on his bookshelf, untouched. Instead, his interests were mainly basketball and poker. He also didn’t reveal he was a huge anime geek until half a year into our relationship — maybe that was my bad for talking about how weird anime lovers were, before I knew his true nature.

About half a year to a year in, I realized he wasn’t the person I thought I was falling in love with at all.

But that was okay, because I loved the person I was getting to know even more than the fantasy I made him out to be in my head.

During the course of our relationship, we’ve both changed a lot from who we were when we met. I’m not the same 20-year-old campus activist and he’s not the lazy party animal he used to be (jk, the lazy part is still somewhat true). But we’ve changed so much, together.

Three years in, we’re starting our careers, he’s done with law school, I’m more self-assured, he’s more liberal than he used to be, I’m less religious than I used to be. He wrote a chapter for my LDR advice book and had fun with it. And I even started watching anime with him! Now that’s true love.

We’ve both gotten to know each other so well that we can handle any problem together and know what to say to make the other feel better.

I used to be sad that the honeymoon phase was over, but sharing lifelong mutual growth and support is so much more fulfilling.

If you’ve found someone you can grow steadily with over time and encourage each other, even with the difficulties of distance keeping you apart, you’re incredibly lucky. I know I am.

Being a grownup

Despite going to one of the most highly-ranked party schools on virtually every list online, I was never much of a party animal in college.

My ‘going out’ phase hit me later, after I spent a year with no friends, living with my family after I graduated. Since I moved to Guam, I’ve spent almost every weekend out with my childhood friends.

I’ve also been eating way more than I used to in California — I can’t help it if all the food here is delicious and everyone offers food all the time!

Nine months into my new life back on Guam, my age is finally starting to hit me.

I’ve gained at least 6 lbs (and 3 or more inches on my waist), I look tired most of the time, I haven’t blogged at all, I don’t exercise nearly as much as I should, and I eat terribly (and eat way more than my fill).

I’m realizing I’m not 18 (or 22) anymore. I can’t eat cake for breakfast, candy and Hot Cheetos for lunch, and ramen for dinner like I used to in college.

I need to put in a lot more work to take care of my body, my health, my teeth, my skin, and my mental health. This is even more difficult working a high-stress full-time job (usually with a lot of overtime).

After battling a cold, a bout of terrible indigestion, and an even worse fit of vomiting and a hangover on my trip to Thailand this month, I’ve decided now is the time to finally get my life on track.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a vegetarian, cook my own meals, do yoga or another form of exercise regularly, and write for myself — I just kept thinking Future Chloe would figure this all out (when she’s in her mid-20s and has her life put together).

So here I am at 24, finally ready to embrace the transition from reckless invincible youth to Responsible Adult™. And it feels really good.

These are a few changes I’ve made over past weeks. I’m trying to stick with them while staying flexible and treating myself with compassion when I mess up:

Staying in

I was notorious for canceling plans and staying home in college. I’d pick a night alone with Netflix over any party.

But when I got to Guam I wanted to take full advantage of my time here, so I made a point of pushing myself to go to everything anyone invited me to (also so as not to be rude to people who were nice enough to ask me to hang out) and I got used to it.

I still have a difficult time saying no now (which is largely driven by my overwhelming FOMO) but after a few times of turning down plans, I got more used to it.

Letting people down sucks, but most of the time they probably don’t care enough about whether you’re actually there or not.

Taking some time for rest and mental health is so important — even if it doesn’t make for a fun Snapchat story.

Although the Myers-Briggs test says I’m an extrovert, I still have introverted tendencies and need time to recharge alone in my room. Also I hate people when I’m around them too much, so spending a few nights in solitude is best for me and everyone around me.

Making time for my passion

As you can see on my blog, I haven’t posted anything since before I moved to Guam last year. I definitely have a lot of personal issues I could have posted about, but I find myself wanting to keep them private now that I’m older. I tried working through them by writing, but never felt like they were good enough to post.

I’ve decided I don’t care if it’s not good enough anymore.

My love for personal writing is too important to leave dormant.

If it means missing out on parties or hanging out with friends, this is the price I’ll have to pay for reviving a skill and a huge source of joy and satisfaction.

I’m usually too exhausted to write for myself because I write every day for work, but I’m determined not to let that stop me from keeping my own voice alive. I rarely get to write in the first person perspective as a reporter, which is my natural writing voice, so it’s difficult to maintain.

My writing voice isn’t the same now as it was in college when I first started Lovescrewed.

Maybe I’m a different person. Maybe I’m out of practice.

But I’m going to push through writer’s block and my uncertainties and create my new voice — even if I suck at first or it sounds unnatural. I’ll find her again eventually.

Not responding to everyone all the time

Every time someone messages me and I don’t respond, I feel terrible. Every single time. I carry that with me for days, but I just don’t have the time or energy to reconnect with every old college friend, family member, or acquaintance who reaches out to me through social media or texts (not to make myself sound like I’m oh so popular and turning away hundreds of messages).

I care about all of them, but I need to sacrifice some of these interactions and connections for my own mental health. I feel bad about it, but I hope they understand and I still wish them the best.

Eating healthier

This life change is twofold:

1. Actually going grocery shopping – Instead of eating out every meal, I started buying frozen vegetarian/organic dinners at the grocery store for every day of the week.
It’s this lazy girl’s way of avoiding cooking but still eating healthier than fast food or eating out at restaurants. I know eventually I’ll transition into cooking healthy food for myself when I’m ready, but das not today.

2. Not buying shitty food – This sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s actually hard not to do this! Ever since I started buying food for myself in college, I filled up my cart with chips, candy, and those Totino pizzas that cost $1 each.
Now when I go to the grocery store, I buy more fruits and veggies, healthy juice and kombucha (which I still think tastes like carbonated ass), and real cheese. This way when I inevitably get the munchies, I have nothing but healthy food available.

Exercise

I still need to work on this. I’ve been swamped with work over the past few weeks and haven’t made time for exercise since I work early and come home late and exhausted. But my grandparents bought an exercise bike so I try to do a quick 5 miles, 10 if I have more time (and 12 for the first time today!).

Now that my work schedule has freed up a bit, I’m going to try to make time to go to the gym once or twice a week after work for cardio and light weights. I was dedicated to taking yoga classes every Friday from January to April this year, and I want to get back to it.

Drinking more water

This may be TMI, but when I came back from Thailand my pee was radioactive yellow for like two weeks. I think I drank too much juice and too little water (I hate paying for water and all they have available is bottled water there). It was pretty scary.

I try to drink two fills of my 32 oz Hydro Flask (I looked up how much water I need to drink every day to stay healthy). This isn’t always doable, mostly because I’m too lazy to get up and refill my bottle at the water cooler across the office space (hey, are most of my problems rooted in laziness?!), but I try to do it for the sake of clear skin and non-radioactive pee.

Skincare

I’m #blessed not to have too many blemishes, but living on a humid tropical island leaves me naturally much oilier than I was living in California so I have to try harder to get a glowing complexion.

Healthy liquids 

Drinking more water definitely helps. I also find my skin is better when I eat less sugary or fatty foods (what a revelation!), but those are the best!
When I have time, I drink a mix of 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, sprinkled cayenne powder, a squirt of calamansi (lemon/lime), a little less than a tablespoon of honey (I’m trying to cut this down, but ACV tastes like ass, much like kombucha) and water.

This is supposed to help improve skin, along with a bunch of other health benefits, and I *think* it works for me. Or it’s the placebo effect, in which case I’m still happy.

Facial skincare routine

I’ve been sticking to a routine of washing my face with a mild Dove face wash in the morning before work, then applying combination skin formula Neutrogena moisturizer. Then at night, I use an exfoliating St. Ives natural scrub, put on the moisturizer, and apply tea tree oil to acne spots with a q-tip. I’m still experimenting with tea tree oil, but so far it’s been useful with minimizing tiny pimples.

I have a Nordstrom gift card so I’m looking forward to treating myself to some Fresh face masks. I got the rose petal mask sample a couple years ago and absolutely loved the smell and effects on my skin.

Natural deodorant

I also started using natural deodorant, so I wouldn’t have to use one with aluminum or chemical ingredients anymore and clog up my pores. I bought Schmidt’s rose vanilla deodorant at Simply Food on Guam for about $10 (which isn’t much more than they sell for on Amazon) and it smells heavenly! It smells like some kind of pretty rose oil and stays on all day, even when I sweat and work out.

My Post-Grad Experience: Abandoning the safety net of love

For months, I’ve been struggling to write a blog post about what I’ve learned since I graduated from college (15 months ago—I still can’t believe it). I came up with a draft about how I felt stagnant for months, worked in retail for half a year, and interned at a local newspaper (but didn’t get any experience with hard news; even if I did cover hard news, I live in a small college town where the most exciting event is the Farmer’s Market—but hey, the white peaches and freshly-popped kettle corn are amazing).

I realized I couldn’t produce any meaningful writing because I hadn’t really suffered or taken any risks—I didn’t get a low-paying entry-level job in my field, move out on my own and struggle to pay rent in a tiny apartment in San Francisco with 5 roommates, or spend a year teaching English in Thailand (all of which are paths that people I know took after graduating). I also hadn’t progressed much either. I didn’t even bother to apply to graduate school (let alone establish connections with my professors or try hard enough to get straight A’s) or apply to any jobs at all for months.

I settled into the uncertainty of post-grad life that had stressed me out all of senior year, but I got too comfortable. I lived in an upper middle class suburb with my parents, I lifted weights three times a week in our home gym, I binge-watched way too many new shows (I’m ashamed to admit I spent two weeks doing nothing but watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians), and my only friends were my kid siblings and my cats. It felt like college never happened at all. I looked through my old photos obsessively and posted them on Instagram, not ready to move on from the past (the #tbt sadness is real). I missed the freedom to be out at 2am without having to answer to anyone (but to be honest, I spent most of college in my room watching Netflix), I missed being able to hike alone to the beach, I missed having friends I could watch scary movies or dance in clubs with, I missed walking around campus and feeling like I belonged when I ran into people I knew. I missed going to meetings and having discourse and educational presentations about social justice issues, and believing that the non-profit organizing I did mattered. I missed having the drive and pain to write raw pieces about self-love and heartbreak for my blog. I missed having an identity outside of who I was when I was back home with my family.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m incredibly grateful for my parents for taking me back in after I graduated and allowing me the time to figure out my own path. I’m especially grateful for how much they supported my decision to quit my part-time job in retail to focus on writing a self-help e-book. I know I’m very privileged, and the fact that my biggest problem is that my life is too comfortable has held me back from writing anything at all. I almost feel as though I don’t deserve to share my voice because my lack of struggle makes me boring and whiny.

Maybe I’m a masochist, but I’ve always believed that pain creates the most meaningful art (my late grandfather, the artist Jose Babauta thought this too). I started Lovescrewed post-heartbreak and my most powerful pieces were about jealousy, breakups, and an abusive relationship. But since I got into a healthy long-term relationship (damn you Nate for making me so happy!) and moved back in with my parents, I’ve been fortunate enough not to have any hardships to write about, besides my long distance relationship (which isn’t that bad either—we only live an hour-long plane ride away and visit each other every couple weeks).

About a month ago, I decided to apply for a job at the newspaper on Guam where my great-grandfather, grandmother, and dad all have worked. Guam has always been like a security blanket for me—I know that if I absolutely can’t find work or can’t afford to live in California, I can always come back home and look for a job. My worst case scenario is to return to a beautiful tropical island where all my childhood friends, extended family, and goddaughter live, and I can get paid to write (yeah, my life sucks). After a few interviews and my first time negotiating salary (I’m a big girl now!), I landed my first adult job, as a fourth-generation legacy at the newspaper that brought my family to the island in the first place. My heart swells just thinking about spending time with my baby first cousins, living at my grandma’s house where her backyard is literally a waterfall, reconnecting with all my friends from growing up, and most importantly eating at Jamaican Grill and Capricciosa (the list of foods I want to eat on Guam is much longer than the ones of people I want to see and activities).

Despite all the awesome positives of moving back to the motherland, I’ve been staying up past 3am and sleeping in almost till noon—as I always do when I’m depressed or going through a big life change. Taking this reporter job and living in paradise for a while seems like a no-brainer, but all I can think about is saying goodbye to my four parents, my younger sisters and brothers, and my boyfriend of two and a half years. I know my family will be here when I come back (not knowing exactly when I’ll return makes me feel even more anxious) but I’ve never gone so far away from them for so long. It hurts just thinking that I could possibly lose a whole year of my little sister and brother’s lives, and they’ve already lost their baby voices and are catching up to me in shoe sizes. And it scares the shit out of me thinking that I could risk ruining a happy relationship with the love of my life for a job I don’t even know if I’ll enjoy yet.

The fear of change and loss is so crippling to me that when I first got my job offer to stay for a year, my first instinct was to say no and to just take my safer path and become a teacher. I could probably be happy getting my master’s degree, living in Southern California, and teaching middle school, but my dad asked me: which option excites you more? Undoubtedly, the idea of working in journalism and getting out of my comfort zone (admittedly, into another comfort zone, but without the safety of my immediate family with me) is more exciting to me. Settling into my backup plan, albeit a great one, feels like I’m lying to myself about what I really want. I told him that I felt selfish for choosing a job halfway around the world, especially while I’m in a relationship, but he told me that it hurts to feel like I’m not choosing my partner, but it would be even worse not to choose myself.

I don’t know if this job will make me happy. I don’t know if I’ll love living back on Guam as much as I’ve romanticized it in my head after being away for the past six years. I don’t know if my relationship will stay just as solid while we’re 17 time zones apart. But I do know that if I stay comfortable, if I let my parents take care of me forever, if I don’t take a chance on myself and do what scares me (but ultimately excites me), I won’t get back the drive to write like I had before. I’m afraid of losing the safety net of my parents and the security in my romantic relationship, but I’m even more terrified of how much of myself I’ve lost since college—the pieces of my individuality that keep me staring at old photos of myself from when I knew who I was—and how much more of myself I could lose if I don’t take action by pushing myself to grow more. Things could go wrong, but for the first time in over a year, I’m betting on myself.

Why Getting into a Long Distance Relationship is the Worst Thing You Can Do in Your Teens

This post is an excerpt from a self-help e-book I’m writing about long distance relationships.

The reason I started blogging in the first place was because I felt like I had gone through so much in my own relationships, so I wanted to put advice out to everyone that I wish I could have given my past self. And if I could borrow the DeLorean from Back to the Future to save young Chloe from making the biggest mistakes of her life, I’d go back to my senior year of high school and then my freshman year of college to urge her not to get into two separate long distance relationships (why didn’t she learn from her mistakes the first time?!).

The big sister personality in me makes me want to save everyone I possibly can from the kind of heartbreak I went through when I was a teenager, because the bad things that happen to you as a teen can stick with you and haunt the rest of your future relationships (if you let them). I wrote this chapter specifically to let any teen readers who might be considering long distance know how difficult it is—and more importantly, to try to tell you why I think it’s a terrible idea, even if you go into your LDR with the best intentions and are madly in love with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

I’m going to get very real with you and tell you that you’re almost guaranteed to break up if you get into a long distance relationship in your teens, and more often than not, young people’s LDRs end up bitterly.

As a teen, you’re probably more insecure now than you will be when you’re an adult—not being very confident in yourself is less than ideal for a relationship, and is even worse for a relationship when you’re far apart. Although girls nowadays seem way more put together than my friends and I were in high school (I barely knew how to put on eyeliner, let alone how to contour my face or put on false eyelashes, and we had no filters besides generic websites like PhotoBucket!), teenage years are often filled with a lot of insecurities about looks and self-worth in general. Even if you’re using MAC, your foundation right now isn’t going to be great (a little makeup humor for you!). At this point, both of you probably haven’t really tried dating anyone else yet either, and I’m sorry to say it, but this could make you or your partner more likely to cheat. If your partner cheats on you, it’s probably not because you weren’t good enough for them, but that they haven’t tried being with anyone else besides you yet (or they still want to try dating everyone they can).

This could go both ways too, where you feel like you want to hook up with other people around you, or you start crushing on someone new, because it’s natural to want to try new things when you’re young. Instead of hating yourself for wanting to explore or potentially hating your partner for fooling around behind your back, it might be a better idea to just let each other go so you both have the freedom to do what you want, especially since you won’t be able to see each other anyway—and what’s the point of being in a relationship when you’re young if you can’t do the basics together like going to the movies, going on dates, or just hanging out (not to mention satisfying the urges of your ~raging hormones~).

When I was in LDRs when I was 17, then 18-19, my then-boyfriends hadn’t dated (and just as importantly, hadn’t had sex with) anyone else before me, so they ended up talking to a lot of different girls behind my back while we were dating. While I was an ocean away from them in California, they felt free to flirt with girls through Facebook messaging and one of them went on dates with other girls while we were still in a LDR (he even sexted someone else).

Five years later, I don’t have any hard feelings toward them because, although nobody should be excused for being a huge asshole to the person they’re dating, I know we were only 17 and didn’t know better. My ex was too immature to grow some cojones and tell me he wanted to see other people, and I was so naive that I thought I could be with my first love for the rest of my life.

In my ex’s defense, it’s difficult to commit to one person when you haven’t even seen for yourself what else is out there—especially when you’re only 16 years old and haven’t made out with more than one person in your life. Even though he shouldn’t have had a bunch of side baes behind my back (that slang didn’t even exist at the time; I’m old), I now understand why he would want to date around when we couldn’t see each other.

You can definitely be in love with someone while they’re around you and have a meaningful relationship, but it’s hard to keep it going when you’re both going through so much in your own lives apart from each other. When you’re young, it’s even harder to keep your connection strong when you’re separated because you’ll be growing and changing so much (especially if you’re going to college).

A lot of teens (my younger self included) get into LDRs going from their senior year of high school to college because it’s so hard to say goodbye, and if you’re in love, you want to keep this good thing going for as long as you possibly can. It’s important to follow your heart and do what feels right to you, but your heart will thank you later if you don’t drag out your relationship with someone because you’re too afraid to make a clean break or too naive to think you’ll still be with someone you chose when you were 17 when you’re in your late 20s.

What you want when you’re 18 (in life, but in this case in a partner) isn’t going to be the same as what you want when you’re 22, or 26, or 30. Before you really commit (please please please for the love of god, do not get married) remember that you are young and will definitely change, and your tastes will change. Think about your taste in music when you were 14, or even 16. It’s not the same as your taste in music at 18, right? Unless you’re still into Green Day and My Chemical Romance, or other variations of the middle-school-punk genre. If your taste in something as important as music changes drastically in a few years, imagine how much your taste in romantic partners will change (this will likely change even more and is way more important).

Bonding over things like going to raves together (contrary to popular belief, couples who rave together do not necessarily stay together), or both being obsessed with The Office, or flirting in Trig for the whole school year won’t be reasons for you to stick together for the years to come. And 22-year-old you will want to kick 18-year-old present-day you’s ass for wasting time on someone who won’t be worth months pining over each other in a LDR, once you’re graduating from college and looking back on everything you wish you could re-do about your glory days (geez Chloe, tell us how you really feel!).

Also, you might want to ask yourself why you want to get into this serious of a commitment now when there’s so much to see and explore while you’re young. I know how annoying it is when older people tell you this (I hated how condescending it was when family members talked to me about relationships while I was in high school or early college, and how it made me feel like my feelings didn’t matter), but it’s true—you really do have the rest of your life to settle down and be monogamous if that’s what you want, so why start so young when you haven’t even figured out what you want for yourself yet?

Right now, you can save yourself the trouble of getting cheated on, or ruining someone’s life (not to sound melodramatic), or wasting the most fun time of your life worrying about your long distance boyfriend or girlfriend; just let this relationship go peacefully. If it turns out that you’re both single at some other point in your lives and live in the same area, then that’s awesome and you can give it another shot! But right now, as someone who has been in two messy LDRs in her teens, I can tell you that the best thing for both of you is to just live your lives separately and enjoy yourselves while you’re young—trust me when I say that you have plenty of time for grown-up relationships, cheesy declarations of love on Instagram, and all the serious commitment you could ever want in the future. What you won’t have in the future is the chance to do whatever the hell you want whenever you want, and live out your bildungsroman as your own person, without being tied down.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record and probably pretty cynical too, but I promise you I don’t hate love! And even if I don’t know you, I care about your happiness and personal growth very much. I don’t have many regrets in life, and I know if I went back and made better decisions, I might not have grown into the person I am today, but I do think that I could have avoided a lot of emotional stress, tension with my family (arguing about how serious my LDR had become while I was only 19), and trust issues I have now because I had bad experiences with long distance while I was younger. I also think I could have enjoyed myself more in college (and when I moved from Guam to California in high school) without having to worry about my basically virtual boyfriend. The worst part about long distance is that if you let it, it can make you live more for someone you’ll rarely ever see, and neglect the people who are actually around you, and all the awesome things about where you are in the present. Long distance usually only works out and is bearable if you’re able to come back to each other at least semi-regularly and know that you’re going to live near each other eventually, but when you’re in high school or college and one of you moves away, you don’t have the luxury of knowing when you’ll finally be together again (and might not have the freedom or money to visit each other enough).

You might be thinking, “oh, she just went through two crappy relationships and my boyfriend/girlfriend and I aren’t like that!” Even if you two are cuter together than Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, the strain and stress that comes with a LDR can drastically change your relationship. Your dynamic will be totally different when you go from seeing each other every day at school to having to rely on Skype dates (while getting cut off every few minutes through the spotty Wi-Fi connection in the dorms) and texts to keep you together. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the exception to the rule, but it’s really hard for any couple to still feel close to each other when they’re separated for weeks or months at a time.

I know how heartbreaking and terrifying it can be to say goodbye to someone you love so much (and I don’t think you ever love again as intensely as you do when you’re a teenager, so it’s even harder), but if you really love this person (and really love and want to take care of yourself), the best thing for both of you ultimately is to try to be happy with all the memories and good times you’ve had together, but agree that your happiness and futures are more important than hanging onto a relationship that will almost definitely end eventually. It’s going to hurt like hell, but after many pints of Ben & Jerry’s and binge-watching Gilmore Girls a few times over, in the long run this will be the best decision for both of you.

How to Deal with Instagram-related Jealousy and Insecurities

Let me just start off by saying that in my logical, reasonable mind, I trust my partner with all my heart. He’s been perfect, never makes me feel worried about the possibility of him cheating, and reassures me that he cares about me by texting me constantly throughout the day and giving me his full attention when we’re together.

But no matter how much I love and trust him, the less rational part of my mind still worries occasionally (which I think is natural for everyone). When I look through my Instagram newsfeed when I’m bored, I’m afraid I’ll see that he liked a hot girl’s picture and I’ll discover that the happiness I had was all temporary. It’s like I’m just waiting for him to prove that my worst fears are true: that love doesn’t work out and that I shouldn’t trust anyone. I feel incredibly petty worrying about something so superficial as a “like” on Instagram—I know deep down that it’s 100% harmless. And I can’t really get mad at him because I follow way more pretty girls and models than he does, and he never says anything about it (but in my defense, I follow them 50% for inspiration and self-love by seeing more beautiful brown women who make me feel better about myself by extension… 50% because they’re hot as hell and I like to admire them).

When I see he “likes” some girls’ photos, I get this painful feeling in my gut. I imagine him fantasizing about how much happier he would be if they were his girlfriends instead of me. I worry that he is comparing me, with the mole on my face, the rolls on my stomach when I bend over, my meager B cups, to this image of a girl with a perfectly contoured face and a push-up bra.

I know none of this is true. Anyone who uses Instagram scrolls through basically mindlessly, “liking” pictures in a second, then instantly forgetting the previous post once it leaves the reach of their thumb. These worries are part of a story I’ve made up in my head that is a manifestation of all my insecurities and trust issues I’ve developed from past relationships, with exes who had wandering eyes. Seeing the person you love give validation and attention (even in the smallest form, a “like” on social media) feels like a betrayal, in a world where a large part of the construction of self-worth relies on how many “likes” you get and who gives them to you—as much as we’d like to think we’re disconnected from social media, it affects everyone.

When I stop and think about it, my worries have nothing to do with my partner. He could tell me he loves me every day, never hang out with any other girls, do literally everything right, and I still would feel this way (and it makes me feel terrible that I do).

At our very core, when we feel jealousy, it’s not about our partners being disloyal about something so small—it’s about our deep need to be loved and to be given attention and loyalty from the person we love. The jealousy stems from the small child in each of us who needs love and worries that the flaws we see in ourselves will prevent other people from loving us (sorry, I know I sound Zen-y like my dad here, but it’s true).

The best solution when you’re feeling insecure about your partner “liking” other people’s posts is to realize and remind yourself that your relationship with a person is much more than what goes on in social media, and shouldn’t be defined by “likes,” especially if it’s with someone you have a deep connection with personally. You shouldn’t compare one “like” on a picture to the weeks/months/years of getting to know each other that you’ve had with your partner (and if he/she really wanted to be with that other person instead of you, don’t you think they would?).

Don’t compare yourself to others, especially not you in real life, right now, vs a staged photo. I feel like shit when I compare myself to a picture of a girl with her makeup done, while I’m lying in bed wearing my oversized “I [heart] gays” t-shirt and no bra. Your partner doesn’t love you because you look on point all the time, they love you because you have a real connection and because of your personality. Plus there’s no way those girls online look like that 24/7. Instagram is performance (repeat that to yourself 100x every day and you might turn out okay).

Some steps to take when you get into a negative mindset with these insecurities:

Get off Instagram! Be productive, take a walk and enjoy nature and keep your phone on “do not disturb” if you use it to listen to music, interact with the people who are around you in real life, work on a project. Create, don’t get into a negative spiral.

Do something that makes you feel good about yourself. Don’t base your self-worth off of whether a person double taps on an image of you. Remind yourself why you are a good person, why you are beautiful, and why you are attractive and worthy of love—most of all, your own love.

What I do:

    • lift weights (makes me feel strong and proud of myself)
    • go for a walk (sunshine makes me happy, gets my sun-kissed skin back)
    • put on a little makeup or curl my hair (doesn’t take that much effort and ends up making me really happy and feel pretty)
    • wear something I wouldn’t normally wear (anything besides work/bum clothes)
    • write (makes me feel smart and capable)
    • tidy my room (makes my living situation more comfortable)

Also, it’s hard to be in a happy relationship with someone who is insecure and doesn’t see their own self-worth (me at times, in this case). You need to remind yourself why you are valuable as an individual and as a partner, both for your own mental health and for the sake of your relationship.

Talk to someone (or at least write it out to yourself). Saying your fears out loud makes them sound a lot less real and will show you they aren’t actual reasons to worry. It helps a lot to get out of your own negative self-talk and train of thought if you have to explain it to someone else, and they can tell you you have nothing to worry about.

Make a list of things to be grateful for in your life. You have more going on for yourself than just one person, anyway!

Make a list of ways your partner has shown they love you. If you’re in a good relationship, these will outweigh the minor slight of Instagram “likes” by far. After I write my lists, I feel so much happier, more in love with my partner, and appreciative of what a good person he is.

Overall, the best thing you can do is to just not look at the feed.

The urge to prevent your partner from looking at anyone else but you (which is impossible) is possessive, and makes me feel small for being controlling in that way. If you want to keep your relationship healthy, you need to just trust that your partner is a good person who does not want to hurt you.

Even more importantly, you need to trust that you are a good person who deserves to be with someone who loves you and will be loyal to you (even if you don’t always believe it, it’s true). The stress of stalking your partner online constantly is bad for the skin anyway, so don’t detract from your physical beauty, and in turn the source of your value as a person (just kidding! internal beauty all the way! *smirking emoji*).

Rituals of Self-Care in My Post-Grad Life

If it wasn’t already apparent in my other posts or depressing Facebook statuses, I haven’t been having the best time in my post-grad life. Though I am fortunate enough to have my parents support me and let me live with them while I figure out what the next phase of my life will look like, it’s a struggle every day for me to be happy. I often have anxiety attacks and breakdowns worrying about how I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, for the first time in my life. It’s difficult, but I’ve been trying to be patient and gentle with myself as I’m going through this confusing in-between stage. I’m trying to focus on taking care of my physical and mental health while struggling with post-grad depression.

Diet

When I lived in an apartment with my friends and had to take care of my own meals for the first time, I spent most of my grocery money on sour patch kids and party-sized bags of hot cheetos. I ate at McDonald’s or Costco at least a few times a week because they were a 5-minute walk from my place. Eventually, I got sick often and couldn’t get the taste of salt out of my mouth for days.

Since I moved back home, I made a few changes to my diet. I stopped letting myself eat so much dairy because I became lactose intolerant, and tried to just push through the pain whenever I had a milkshake before. I created a ritual of drinking tea in the morning, which makes me happy by doing this small act of self-care. I started switching out sugary cereals for oatmeal for breakfast. If I add some walnuts, cinnamon, and banana slices to it, it’s a lot more filling and tastier than cheap cereal. I also eat a lot less junk food, which is a luxury because now I have my parents to either cook or provide food for me, and don’t have to fend for myself like I did while I was in college.

Exercise

This is what made me feel the best about myself as a person since I graduated. For my whole life I felt like I was weak and couldn’t lift anything heavy or protect myself. I saw myself as frail and clumsy. And while I am still a bit of a klutz, I no longer see myself as a weak person. Lifting weights and seeing how much I can handle makes me realize how strong I truly am, and gives me confidence in other areas of my life. I started getting scheduled to work shifts in the back room at my retail part-time job, and before working out, I wouldn’t have thought I could hold my own in there and would have been really nervous. But since I know I can lift 100 lbs, I’m not afraid to carry heavy boxes, although I still ask for help when I need it.

Beauty

I wear less makeup now that I don’t go to school—I used to wear lipstick, mascara, and do my eyebrows almost every day last school year. Living in Davis, where—let’s be real—people don’t really care about their appearance and walk around wearing spandex and North Face jackets, it’s much easier for me to let go and not keep up my appearance. I go for days now where I stay in gray thermal pajamas (much like a tribute from The Hunger Games) and don’t put effort into my looks.

However, I try to make a point every now and then (at least once or a few times a week) to do the bare minimum of curling my lashes, swishing on some mascara, and fixing my eyebrows. Taking just 10 minutes of my time makes me feel better about myself for the rest of the day.

Social

Before I left Santa Barbara, I was worried about how I wasn’t going to have any friends when I graduated. It was scary to think that I would go from having all my closest friends live within walking distance of me, to having nobody to hang out with when I moved back home with my parents. When I moved to Davis in 2010, I came to a new high school during my senior year not knowing anyone, and spent the year eating lunch alone and reading Harry Potter or studying for the SAT. I dreaded coming back to this, especially since my new skill for making so many friends in college had become one of the qualities I liked best about myself.

While I enjoyed the fact that I couldn’t walk through campus without seeing at least 5 friendly faces, I did miss my family terribly sometimes. Moving back home gave me the opportunity to spend time with my kid siblings, who are now my best friends since I graduated. Driving my 17 year old brother home from cross country practice, we got to talk about his feelings about going to college and growing up, which I’m grateful for because we barely spoke when I was in college (besides a few short texts now and then about Game of Thrones). Helping my 9 year old sister write her blog posts, watching Tangled with her, and cuddling makes me happy and fulfilled with my social life in a different way from hanging out with my college friends did. Being back home gives me the chance to reconnect with my brothers and sisters and with my identity as an older sister and mentor.

Reading List for 2016

Seeing as I didn’t finish a single book for pleasure this year, this list is pretty ambitious. In my defense, I did have a lot of reading to do for school and I also started a lot of books and read many of them about halfway through.

I doubt I’ll read every book on this list, but here are some that I’m excited to start (and hopefully finish):

    • Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling. As per my mom’s recommendation, I borrowed this book from the library and read a couple of her short essays on the last day before I had to return it on a 7-day loan. I wish I’d started reading it earlier because her writing style is personal and funny, and her sense of voice is great. Reading her writing makes me want to write and develop my voice to be as good as hers.
    • Modern RomanceAziz Ansari. I loved Master of None and his stand-up, so I figure this book will be a fun read and insightful.
    • The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath. I’m ashamed to admit I was supposed to read this for an English class and never got around to it, but I liked what my T.A. said about The Bell Jar in our discussion section, so I made a mental note to get around to it. Then at the end of Master of None, the quote Aziz used from the book stuck with me. Fate brought the book to me at a used book sale at the library (thank baby Jesus everyone in Davis is so well-read and discards treasures like The Bell Jar).
    • Lair of Dreams – Libba Bray. My step-mom introduced the young adult novel The Diviners to me in 2013 and I loved it. The story follows a New York City teenaged socialite in the 1920s who can touch an object and divine information about its owner, and communicate with the dead or with spirits. The sequel finally came out this year and I haven’t gotten around to reading past the first chapter.
    • Truth and Beauty – Ann Patchett. I’ve been half-reading this book for over a year now and am afraid of finishing it because I know Lucy will eventually die, and I’m not emotionally prepared for that. But reading about Ann’s (I notice I refer to her as Ann even though I refer to other writers on this list by their last names because I feel so familiar with her and her writing. Plus I was fortunate enough to meet her after a talk she held at UCSB this year!) post-grad life makes me feel more hopeful about mine. If she can become a best-selling author after having to spend an off-year waitressing at a T.G.I. Fridays after she completed her graduate writing program, then there is hope for me too. All I need now is her talent…
    • Patron Saint of Liars – Ann Patchett. I’ve read a few of her other books and her writing style is beautiful. Ann Patchett is easily my favorite fiction author.
    • One Hundred Years of SolitudeGabriel García Márquez. I picked up a copy of this at a tiny bookstore in Madrid over the summer!
    • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – Patrick Süskind. Yet another half-finished book I have sitting in my room. I bought this one at Shakespeare and Company in Paris.
    • A Spy in the House of Love – Anaïs Nin. Love me some erotica (just kidding. Kind of). Bonus books: Delta of Venus and The Diary of Anaïs Nin.
    • The Time Traveler’s Wife Audrey Niffenegger. I’ve already read this two years ago, but it was so interesting that I’d read it again.
    • The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt. This was recommended by both my grandma and my dad, and the first chapter was immersive and emotional.
    • The Blind Assassin, The Edible Woman – Margaret Atwood. Feminism! I read an excerpt of The Robber Bride in my fairy tale literature course in 2014 and found it intriguing.
    • Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami. They say judge a book by its cover, and I do so with the unique, aesthetically pleasing artwork on Murakami’s novels. The cover of Norwegian Wood stood out to me at City Lights in San Francisco, and the first few pages hooked me.
    • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – J.K. Rowling. I’m not sure if these count because I’ve read them several times before, but they’re of my favorites and I’d love to reread them at this point in my life, and see what new meaning I can find.
    • A Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling. If this book isn’t about Harry as  grown-up, I’m demanding a refund.

Image credits

Goals for 2016

  1. Get a real grown-up job (making more than minimum wage, please) and hopefully in an area that interests me—anything dealing with writing.
  2. Save up enough money to feel safe living on my own and move out of my parents’ house.
  3. Read at least one book a month. This is so embarrassing as a former English major, but I barely read any books for pleasure this year (although I read long-form articles daily, so at least I’m learning…), and now that I have a lot of spare time, I can use my post-grad transitional year as an opportunity to get back into reading. I’m sure I can do this if I just go to bed a little earlier and read, or substitute an hour of reading for an hour I would’ve spent watching TV. Here’s my 2016 reading list.
  4. Keep working out at least three times a week. I’m not going to set any lofty goals for fitness that I can’t meet, but staying consistent with exercise is a difficult task in itself. Luckily my parents are all fitness nuts and lift weights with me or try to get me to run or do yoga with them.
  5. Deadlift my own body weight—which is an increasingly difficult task because the more weight I can lift, the heavier I get. I just recently started lifting 100 lbs and while I assume that’s pretty light for people featured on fitness Instagram accounts, I’m still really proud of myself for getting this far!
  6. Blog consistently throughout the year. At least one post a week would be great.
  7. Start writing a book.
  8. Spend less money on things I don’t really need. I’m going to start keeping a running Google Doc with all the items I purchase with rationalizations on why I bought them so that I can be more conscious about my spending habits—and hopefully guilt myself out of buying unnecessary things.
  9. Try to slowly transition into eating healthier. This is hard for me because I love sweets so much. I highly doubt I’ll be anyone’s vegan clean eating inspo, but I’d like to at least eat more fruits and vegetables, and a little less processed food.
  10. Spend more quality time with my younger siblings. They’re only going to be kids for a little while longer, and I want to take advantage of living near them for the first time in 4 years to hang out with them more, especially if I’m planning to move away for a job eventually.

What I would do differently if I could go back to college

Last week, I had dinner with two of my good friends from college—which was the first time I met up with any of my friends from UC Santa Barbara since I graduated in June (besides hanging out with my one friend who also lives in Davis now). One of them asked us if there was anything we would do differently if we could go back to undergrad. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in SB, and most of the mistakes I made turned out for the better, because (as cliche as it sounds) they helped make me who I am today. But in retrospect, there are a few things I wish could advise 18-21 year old Chloe about, and would extend this advice to anyone new to college too. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned during my few months of post-grad life, it’s that you only get to experience that part of your life once, and it can suck living the regret of knowing you could have gotten more out of that special time.

  • Branch out and join more clubs, especially starting in freshman year, or actually stick with the clubs you check out. This was probably my biggest mistake (as I wrote about in my post with advice to my 18 year old self).

  • Make use of the unique resources your school has to offer. I’ve wanted to get scuba certified for a few years and went to one class in a series offered by my school’s recreational center, but gave up after I didn’t pass the swimming test on the first try. I regret not going through with the classes or going surfing at least once, especially since I so fortunate to go to a school that was literally on the beach.
  • Put yourself outside of your comfort zone as much as possible.

  • Live as close to campus as possible. It’s a drag having to take the bus to class and either having to stay on campus all day or go back and forth and take up hours of your time.

  • Don’t just choose your acquaintances you met on your dorm floor to be your roommates for the next school year—chances are you won’t even be friends by the end of winter quarter.

  • Stop worrying about getting a boyfriend—love will find its way to you eventually. When you’re focusing on becoming the best version of yourself, people will notice and be attracted to your positivity and ambition. As soon as I stopped looking for a boyfriend and worked on figuring out who I was as an individual, that’s when I seemed to get asked out the most, and in a few months I met the guy who I would date for the next two years (and counting).

  • What you want at 18 will be completely different at 22 (and at 26, and 30, probably). When I was planning to marry my boyfriend in freshman year (I know, what was I thinking) I read this in an article and I couldn’t imagine wanting anything else. This piece of advice made more and more sense every year throughout college as I noticed myself changing as a person, and is still changing to this day. It’s hard not to, but you should try to focus on enjoying the good things you have in the present instead of constantly worrying about the future, because you’ll never enjoy yourself that way, and you’ll be disappointed when the future comes and it isn’t everything you expected.

  • Take advantage of every free event possible—and standing in line for a couple hours is worth the memories you’ll have forever of the concert you went to by waiting for those tickets. I missed out on some cool free events in my freshman year because I lived in the farthest dorm from campus and didn’t bother to go out very often.

  • Get over your lazy tendencies and go out with your friends. I barely drank at all until I actually turned 21, and even then, I hardly went out to parties or the clubs with my friends. Although I enjoyed my nights in my warm bed at night when the idea of a night of taking too many shots and vomiting outside after dancing in a room full of sweaty strangers didn’t sound appealing, the individual nights of binge-watching my favorite shows don’t stand out as clearly in my mind as the ones when I actually went out with my friends. I didn’t enjoy getting my toes stepped on by sloppy drunk girls’ stilettos on the bus home at 2am, but I do remember having fun dancing to Taylor Swift’s “22” on my birthday and the time my friend and I saw our 40-something year old Spanish professor at Tonic Nightclub.