how to lose yourself

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Call me foolish, but I tried to reinvent myself over spring break. Not a complete overhaul—there was no Mean Girls montage, just a little sprucing up. I tried to get lavender highlights and ended up with blond ones because the lavender washed out (I still like them though); I bought a pair of girlfriend jeans tight enough to be stylish, loose enough to be comfortable, and ripped enough for people to comment on; I tried lipstick for the first time this past week, and liked it. It was new, and different, and, quite frankly, kind of scary, but I think I know myself well enough at this point to be able to experiment with my exterior appearance and not feel the need to change anything about my personality. 

In past years, I thought losing yourself meant looking different—as if blonder hair was going to make me a whole new person, or the clothes I wore dictated who my friends were. Part of this was because, in middle school and high school, I actually did want to lose myself. I didn’t like who I was, so I tried buying “popular” clothing in hopes that I’d somehow become cooler overnight. And no. That’s not true. And now I know that I don’t want to lose myself, because a) I actually like myself now, and b) losing yourself means so much more than simply outward appearance. Losing yourself is the easiest thing you can do in college, mostly because whether or not you lose yourself boils down to the individual choices you make—namely, with time.

People tend to get swept up in the novelty of their new living situations. I know I did—meeting new people, making friends, going on midnight adventures, agonizing over schoolwork, getting food, doing your own laundry. These kinds of activities seem to eat up your time—I thought they did, at first, although in fall quarter, I was taking three classes, had one remote internship, and wasn’t doing much else. But when I really wanted to, I wasted time pretty well, using YouTube, books, and even people as distractions from what I actually knew I should be doing, which was writing.

The summer before I entered college, I told myself that even though I wanted to mainly experience things and have fun, at least in fall quarter, I didn’t want to lose sight of the things I love to do most: reading and writing, but mainly writing. I spent much of the summer reading writing books and trying to improve my craft—funny as that sounds, literature is an art, and learning how to write is hard. In order to self-teach yourself, you have to read about writing, and you have to write with intention. It’s always been my dream to write for a living, and so, even though I’m not nearly as talented or driven as a lot of other young writers I observe, I’m still determined to do it.

At the same time, though, it’s very easy to lose sight of that motivation when you’re living in a literal sensory and social overload and there are many shiny, lovely things for you to pursue and treasure. It was nice to take it easy the first quarter and not pressure myself into doing too much, but after a certain point, I realized that what you do with your time eventually becomes so ingrained in your identity that it becomes who you are, whether or not you intended to be that specific kind of person. I may not have set out to be the typical college student who doesn’t do her laundry for two weeks, submits her homework minutes before the deadline, and lives on caramel macchiatos and two hours of sleep—but it would be very easy for me, or anyone, to fall into that. I have, actually, a few times, before realizing that that wasn’t who I wanted to be, and that I would have to work to make sure that wasn’t who I was.

Thoughtlessness breeds lack of intention, and lack of intention enables you to lose yourself in the flow of everything everyone says you should do or be. It’s tempting to leave yourself behind in the wake of everything shiny, new, and glorious, but Past You wouldn’t appreciate Future You leaving him/her in the dust. Past You got Future You into the position you’re in now. If there was ever a time to take advantage of that, it’s now.

So yes, I write to keep myself. I write to remember the little girl, age twelve, who wrote stories on her clipboard with sparkly gel pens. I write to do honor to the high school freshman, age fourteen, who woke up at four a.m. to write her book, even though she literally had no idea what she was doing. I write to comfort sixteen-year-old me, a lonely junior, who documented her misery while simultaneously trying to push through it.

And this is how I will capture eighteen-year-old me, exuberant, joyful, thankful, grateful, young, dumb, naïve, overconfident, selfish—but oh so, oh so happy—and keep myself, so that when the time comes, I can tell myself that the efforts of those younger versions of me were not in vain, and that I worked, despite the pressure and the looming Spanish literature quizzes and the urges to be professional and smart and career-oriented, to keep this little piece of myself that I refuse to change. 

It ultimately comes down to choice. What are you here for? Will you or won’t you? Why? Why not?

My hair is a little more blond, yes. A pair of jeans that looks like it was macerated by a tiger now hangs in my closet. But, despite these minor differences, I choose to remain here, eyes glued to the screen, fingers typing, mind whirring—and, once again, I choose to write.

- watch the vlog below!


  1. RACHEL you always say relatable things and always say them better than I could possibly (that said, I have a blog post semi-inspired by your blog post about your thanksgiving break that's scheduled for a few days, because I just had my first mid-semester break of university). ANYWAY, I think I'm kind of in the new-shiny-no-sleep phase now, but also finding it hard to make studying a priority, because that's what I'm here for.
    The main conclusion that I'm still getting used to is that university is way way way better than high school, where I was often pretty miserable tbh, even though it's not perfect or easy and making a whole set of friends takes a lot of social energy. Mostly I just love all your posts <3 <3

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