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The End of an Era

As many of you know, I didn't allow myself to write the last couple of months so I could finish out my LAST semester of college. Well, I graduated today, so I'm excited to continue to share my thoughts with you about my sustainable journey.


My last couple of weeks of college required a lot of self reflection. I had to take many surveys about my time at my university and I had to write about how I've grown these past 4 years. Man, how different your life can look in such a short period of time. Since I am closing such a monumental chapter of my life, I thought I would share my college story in a nutshell.


I will never forget the day I moved into to college. While so many of my peers were SO excited for this new stage of life, I was completely dreading it. I've always been such a confident person, but when I was 18, things just seemed different. I saw everything in such a hazy lens. In my eyes, all of my friends were prettier than me. My boyfriend at the time was incredibly smart, which in my eyes meant I was stupid. I was going to a small liberal arts school in Arkansas which in my eyes made my college experience irrelevant. The list went on of all the things that made my life unworthy and unfulfilling. (This story doesn't stay sad forever, but this is an important part).

Low quality pic of my low quality dorm!!

I think many agree that freshmen year is an incredibly difficult transition, and I just took it pretty hard. I worked all the time to avoid the pain I was feeling, and I cried any time I was in the car for an extended amount of time. It's like I didn't know how to be happy in this new stage of life. It was that weird stage where school didn't feel like home, but home didn't feel like home either. How is college so fun for everyone?? But something clicked with me in January of my freshmen year, and that's when it all changed. I decided that it was time to create a life that I LOVED. I was convinced I could make it happen. So in January, I began to make some changes.


First and foremost, I cut out relationships in my life that were no longer flourishing. Me and my high school boyfriend broke up who I desperately held on to in fear of change. Change was so scary to me. I knew that we simply didn't bring out the best in each other, and I knew we were both capable of having a beautiful relationship with someone, just not each other. This change helped me realize that it was time to keep pushing forward and doing things that challenged me, helped me grow, and made me happy.


I knew I wanted to study abroad, but I didn't know how to make that happen. I went to the Dean's office and he said there wasn't anything available for a semester abroad opportunity, but there was a trip to Japan in May and the deadline to sign up was in 48 hours. I signed up that night. I had to make $2,600 in 2 months. So I started to wait tables to help pay for this random yet incredible opportunity in my life. I worked HARD to make this happen and I still see this as one of the best things I have ever done for myself.


An old friend of mine had transferred to the college across the street. His name is Houston. We hung out the first week he moved and almost instantly we knew there was a special connection between us. Houston is everything I could ever want in a life partner and more. I could go on for pages about how much I love him, but since I'm doing an overview of college, I'll keep it simple. Our love story is insane and absolutely perfect. He told me he was in love with me on our third date. Within a month, we knew we were going to get married. My first semester of college was one of the darkest times of my life, and second semester was filled with overwhelming amounts of joy because that is when I started to live life with my favorite person on the planet. This all started with us showing each other our favorite bands in my freshmen dorm, and now we're getting married in 2 weeks.




That summer was filled with a crazy amount of adventure. I road tripped with some my best friends to Maine. I went on a life changing trip to Japan. I road tripped with Houston and some friends to Montana. But what's weird about it all, is I realize now that the most uneventful trip that summer ended up being one of the most life changing. I went on a trip to Mexico with my friend Lindsey for her sister's wedding. It was so chill and fun, but after doing some traveling abroad and learning my love for cultures, I experienced a new passion of mine: language. Being in Mexico, I realized how many people across the globe try to learn English because of its perceived importance. I wanted to pay my respect to those wonderful people who have tried to learn my native language. So I decided that one day, I want to be able to talk with someone in their native tongue, and in my second language. This "uneventful" trip to Mexico is when I decided that I want to be fluent in Spanish.



That second semester of college, when I decided to dream big and do what I love, set the stage for the rest of my college career. I'm a dreamer with my head constantly in the clouds, while Houston is a perfectionist always paying attention to detail. He helped me make the decision that if I wanted to pursue Spanish, I needed to major in it. So I declared a double major in Marketing and in Spanish. Because of my inability to see the detail, he would help me figure out what needs to be done for me to move forward with this massive goal. I had times set up weekly where I would force myself to study Spanish. It started as studying my vocab sophomore year, to writing sentences junior year, and senior year I watched TV in Spanish. Yeah, I know there's a huge learning gap in there. How did I go from writing sentences in Spanish to watching TV in Spanish?? I studied abroad in Chile for my J-term!


One of the biggest goals I have had for myself since I was about 15 was to study abroad. As I said earlier, my school didn't have many options for studying abroad, so I made my own. I found a Spanish immersion program online, presented it to my Spanish teacher, and just like that I was on a plane to Santiago, Chile by myself. Chile is another part of my college experience that changed me as a person. I learned so much about my love for languages and cultures that I simply could not have learned within the barriers of a classroom.


Chile was hard. It was uncomfortable. I lived with a Spanish speaking family and actually could not speak one sentence in Spanish. My first night I didn't know how to ask for a towel, so I dried off with my T shirt after my shower. I had to walk to school every day and got pick pocketed twice. But not only was this a challenging trip, it was incredibly rewarding. I met some of the most amazing, most genuine people I have ever met. We traveled around Chile together and would try to speak Spanish to people and cheered when we did well and died of laughter when we failed. Learning Spanish is the most difficult task I've ever set for myself, but the journey has been amazing.


Junior year was a year filled with hardship and growth. This was the semester where I started to learn about the "disposal stage" in marketing and I became obsessed with learning about why we throw things away so often. That semester was the first time I watched The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. This is when the connection was being made for me that business has a massive impact on the environment, and that carrying reusable bags to the grocery store simply wasn't enough to solve the pollution epidemic of our time. I started to learn about the power of the individual through consumption. I never EVER thought I made a difference as an individual, but suddenly I was realizing that all of my purchases are tracked by businesses to watch the buying behavior of their customers. It was ground breaking to me. I was starting to understand the importance of sustainability, but I had way too much on my plate to realize what this would mean for me. This semester was filled with presentations in English and in Spanish, endless anxiety attacks, failed exams, all while my grandmother was dying of brain cancer in the hospital. I had reached a breaking point for stress. There were so many late nights filled anxiety and trying to stay above water in class. I see now that I grew so much from that semester of failures and sadness, but at the time it seemed like I would live in this thick fog forever.


I feel like the personal family hardships I was having is what stopped my momentum on thinking about sustainability. While it was important to me, I still did nothing about it at that time. All of my friends knew how much it mattered to me, but my actions just didn't line up with my values yet.


It wasn't until I saw the brand Life Without Plastic on Urban Outfitters' website that I decided to read a book about sustainability. I read Life Without Plastic's book and once again, my perspective had completely changed. I had no idea what to do. Plastic was EVERYWHERE in my house. I didn't even know where or how to begin to rid of the plastic in my life. I had no idea that plastic leached harsh chemicals into the air and gets in our bloodstream and in our waterways and so on. My world was rocked. I was completely overwhelmed, so I started small. I bought some bamboo toothbrushes, straws, and produce bags. I took one step at a time, and soon enough, I was living with less waste.


Between learning marketing and learning about the destruction we are causing to the planet, I felt like I was at a crossroad. I felt like I had to choose marketing or sustainability. I felt like I couldn't like marketing anymore because I could only see it as a source of destruction to our self esteems and to our planet. We aren't happy with what we have, so we buy more, throw away more, and then we still aren't happy. But on October 9th of 2018, I had the perfect idea.


"What if I marketed sustainability??" I asked my roommates. "What if I could learn how to show this way of living as accessible and fun while educating others about the importance of buying less and choosing well."


I called Houston to tell him the idea and all he said was "Oh, this is going to be huge."


So, Impact for Good started. I was scared and had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to tell others about how much I love the planet and what we can all do to protect it. Since I love business, I began to read books about building a business. I wanted people to know that I had so much passion and so much to say. Inspiring others is something I realized I'm good at, and somehow through inspiring others, it circles back and inspires myself to keep trying to be a better version of myself.



So again, my perspective shifted. I not only cared about sustainable living, but it was my job to show others my sustainable life and to prove that they could live it to. It's like all of my passions started blending together. I get to work on marketing every day because of Impact for Good. I now work for Seed Phytonutrients on their social media team. A lot of my followers know I'm working on my Spanish, so I have conversations with people in my dm's in Spanish. It's been a ton of hard work to get to where I'm am today. I've had so many long nights and summer classes. I've had countless talks with my professors, parents, friends, and fiancé about the passions in my life and how to implement them into my career.


Last week while filling out my senior survey to receive my cap and gown, I couldn't help but be in awe over how my life has turned out. Entering this stage of life, I was so unsure of myself. Life seemed overwhelming and growing up seemed horrifying. Now, I'm 22 years old. After my epiphany during my second semester of freshmen year, I was done not having goals. I was done being sorry for myself. And I was done thinking that I couldn't achieve big things. In college, I traveled to 10 countries. I road tripped allllll over the United States with my friends. I studied abroad by myself. I decided to start learning a language. I started my own business. And through all of these big decisions, I've had the strongest group of friends I've ever had in my life. I've had the most amazing boyfriend (now fiancé) to share all of life's beautiful and hard moments with.





I'm so happy that my university survey asked me to self reflect on the past 4 years of my life.

For years it seemed like I have tried to figure out what held me back when I was 18. It turns out, I can blame me feeling inadequate on a million different factors. On my horrible first semester of college, on the guy who told me I would drop out when I was in High School, on my lack of motivation to succeed, on my anxiety when I take standardized tests, but really one factor is what held me back.


It was me.


Once I started to treat myself with love, I realized the joy I could have in my life. Once I told myself I could achieve big things, I was able to push myself to go on great adventures around the world. Once I told myself that I am smart and I am capable, I allowed myself to flourish into a successful, motivated student. I was the one telling myself I was not smart. I was the one telling myself that my small college is irrelevant. I was the one letting myself believe that I could not have big dreams simply because I could not achieve them.


Now, I treat myself a lot differently. I know I am capable of many things. I know I have potential to achieve big goals. I know the proper way to measure my success is by measuring my personal growth, not comparing myself to others. At my graduation, I got pretty emotional. It was as if I was watching my 22 year old self graduate from my 18 year old body. I watched a joyful, confident, successful student receive her BA in Spanish and BBA in Marketing. I watched her thrive in the midst of her huge milestone that she has worked for years to accomplish. I watched her comfortably sit in her own skin for she knew that she was capable of so much.


All these years, and I know now that the only person holding me back from this amazing life was myself.


Here's to the end of an era. 4 incredible years of perseverance, deep friendship, love, challenges, to do lists, and constantly working toward a better self and a better world.


If there's anything I want you to remember from this post it's this:


I can make a difference- and so can you. Let's stop holding ourselves back and achieve great things for ourselves and for the world around us.


Jessica

Impact for Good



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