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“College will be the best time of your life”, often accompanied by the warning “Being a grown-up is hard” is something I hear over and over from the various adults in my life. It’s true that for many people college is a time of fewer responsibilities and many opportunities. If you listen to Buzz feed, college mainly consists of drinking and napping. During midterms and finals (and by midterms I mean most of the semester, because let’s be real) most college students would probably rebel against the notion that college is care-free.
Our experiences in college are hopefully a good balance of hard work and fun times. But I don’t get annoyed at those well-meaning adults because I think they undervalue the stress finals cause. I just don’t want college to be the best time of my life. I would hope that every part of my life is meaningful. I don’t want to peak at the age of 22.
For me part of wellness means investing in my health. I like to eat healthy and move my body not only because it helps me feel great now but because it will keep my body in shape for the future. But part of wellness is also always seeking to enjoy life. I went to an activist meeting the other week, and I was the youngest one there by a good 5 years. It was great to see people in their thirties, forties, even seventies and all the ages in between try to untangle themselves from a human knot before sitting down to plan action on something they cared about. Doing crazy things doesn’t stop when you graduate college.
Don’t believe me? Check out some of these awesome “old” people.
Even in her eighties, Bette Calman is still practicing and teaching yoga.
Machsom Watch is a group of elderly women activists who hang out at Israeli checkpoints to prevent human rights abuses. The idea is that a person is less likely to treat someone badly if they feel like their grandmother is watching.
Daphne Self is an 80 year old model who still graces fashion shoots.
In honor of Body Positive Week, I wanted to share something that has helped me tons in my path to body acceptance: fat fashion.
First, let me start by saying that I’m not using the word “fat” as negative, though it’s often used as such in mainstream vocabulary. Rather, through using fat simply as a describing word, like blonde, we try to re-appropriate the word as our own–not negative, not positive, just our own.
Fashion is an area that tends to marginalize those that don’t match the look of tall and thin. To dress in a way that expresses who you are and might make you stand out isn’t something that’s encouraged for fat people–rather, we’re expected to remain the invisible, not inconveniencing people by taking up extra space. Fat fashion is undoubtedly political.
I discovered the realm of fat fashion through a livejournal group that isn’t super active anymore, but played an important role in encouraging people to be visible through fashion, officially introducing fat fashion into the blogosphere. I’d just like to share a few personal favorites.
Gabi Gregg, of gabifresh.com, is pictured here wearing a “fatkini” that she actually designed last summer. From her bio on her blog: “If you love fashion but you’re sick of being told to wear A-line skirts, wrap dresses, boot cut jeans, and slimming prints, this is the blog for you.”
Peggy Jean of ontheqtrain.com
Nicolette Mason of nicolettemason.com
If you’re interested in more blogs, most bloggers will post other blogs that they read–it creates an awesome, supportive community that’s pretty easy to navigate. Fat fashion has inspired me so much, and I’m so excited to share with other people the influence it’s had on my life.
Until next time!
A few weeks ago I was at a panel on mental health and one of the student panelists had a great line: “At college you get assigned an RA, an academic adviser, and even a personal librarian. What they really should assign you is a therapist.”
My personal librarian was assigned to me, and I knew that she would be glad to help, and that everyone else in the class had either seen her or wished they had the time. I never thought like I would be a burden for asking for help when it became too hard to find information, and I certainly didn’t think it made me any less of a student. Yet when it comes to going to a therapist, there’s a lot more hesitation. People have less of an idea of what it means to go to a therapist than they do to go to a librarian. So to clear up some common misconceptions, I present “Why Therapy isn’t so scary… as explained through 30 Rock gifs.”
When you think of someone who goes to therapy, most people think of someone like this:
You don’t need to be “crazy” to go to therapy, and going to therapy doesn’t make you crazy. Therapy is a place to explore your past, to figure out how to solve things differently, or to have an objective observer listen to your day. Everyone could use a pair of trained ears, and you don’t need to have a problem to benefit from therapy.
Some people like to take pride in their struggles.
But going to therapy isn’t going to negate that. Instead it can help you learn how to turn your experiences into the person you want to be.
Does this mean I’m suddenly going to have to confront all my deepest, darkest fears?
Maybe. But what’s super cool about therapy is that YOU get to control what happens in it. Want to go deep and unpack your childhood trauma from when the teacher ran out of horse stickers right when they got to you- go for it. But you can also use the space to decompress about what is going on in your life and the best strategies for handling right now.
But doesn’t going to therapy mean I’m not the superstar everyone thinks I am?
Nope. Going to therapy doesn’t mean you can’t still be a role model. It doesn’t mean you can’t still be there for friends, or that you can’t talk to your friends about your personal problems. And it doesn’t mean you need to become a therapy advocate. It just means that you are choosing to take some to take care of yourself in a particular way.
How can I be the super-awesome, taking 10 classes and involved in 16 different clubs and go to therapy?
That’s why the resources we have at Barnard are so wonderful! We have so many different options, that one should fit into your schedule. Check out the bottom on the post for the entire schedule!
I still don’t think therapy is for me.
And that’s ok! A lot of people can benefit from seeing a therapist, and it may be right for you at a different time in your life or not at all. You also don’t have to stick with the first therapist you see. Just like we don’t instantly click with everyone in a class, you might not like the style of the first therapist you get assigned. Don’t be afraid to speak up if it’s not working, or even to request one that specializes in specific issues/identities.
Regardless of how you feel about therapy and if it is right for you, remember to make self-care a priority during the semester. Everyone’s self-care is different, and don’t force yourself to do something because that’s the “only” way to relax or care for yourself. Do what makes YOU feel happy and healthy.
Furman Counseling Center Hours:
Mon – Fri: 9am – 5pm
Phone: (212) 854-2092
Location: 100 Hewitt Hall, First floor
Pre-scheduled evening appointments:
Mon-Thurs: 5pm – 7pm
After-hours Psychological Help LIne
Listening Hours: (Walk-in sessions available in the evenings)
Plimpton Hall: Mondays, 7-9:30 pm
Elliot Hall: Thursdays, 7-9:30 pm
My favorite spring event at Barnard is the Athena Film Festival, which celebrates film portrayals of women in leadership roles. This year, there are a bunch of great movies, shorts, documentaries, and panels on the schedule that feature strong, complex, and overall pretty awesome women who work in front of or behind the camera. It is apparent to even the most casual watcher viewer of American movies that there is a serious gender imbalance; only one in three women in these films hold speaking roles, and 78% of the protagonists are men. Behind the camera, the picture is pretty bleak too: 16% of all directors are women, and the proportion of female writers, cinematographers, and executive producers are not only similarly low, but have even shrunk since 1998. (The Celluloid Ceiling, an annual report on women in the film industry, found here has even more information). The Athena Film Festival is a great way to get to see stories about women that aren’t infuriatingly one-dimensional and meet the people behind the films. There are classes, panels, and workshops with lots of women prominent in the film industry like Debra Martin Chase (producer of The Princess Diaries, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and more), Callie Khouri (producer of the TV series Nashville and writer of Thelma and Louise), Laura Karpman (an four-time Emmy award-winning music composer), and Leymah Gbowee, 2011 Nobel Laureate. Overall, it seems like a great way to spend the weekend – more information about the movies can be found here!
These are a few films that peer eds recommend/ are interested in seeing:
Filly Brown: Filly Brown is an inspiring portrait of a young artist striving to seize her dreams without compromise.
Rebel: Shrouded in mystery and long the subject of debate, the amazing story of Loreta Velazquez, Confederate soldier turned Union Spy, is one of the Civil War’s most gripping forgotten narratives. Who was she? Why did she fight? And what made her so dangerous she has been virtually erased from history?
In a World: In A World… brings its viewer into an idiosyncratic world where one woman fights the odds and finally finds her voice.
Farah Goes Bang: Awkward twenty-something Farah Mahtab hits the road with her buddies K.J. and Roopa to stump for John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, hoping the trip will also be her opportunity to lose her virginity.
The Book Thief: Based on the bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany.
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs: Grace Lee Boggs (BC ‘35) is a 98-year-old Chinese American woman living in Detroit. A writer, activist, and philosopher rooted for more than 70 years in the civil rights movement, she has devoted her life to an evolving revolution that encompasses the contradictions of America’s past and its potentially radical future.
Trigger Warning: Body image issues, eating disorders I love to move my body. Like many people, I’ve often struggled feeling comfortable with my body, and it brings me happiness when I’m able to find a point where I am able to embrace the strengths that my body has and not focus so much on how little it resembles the bodies of women in the media. I love to practice yoga and work out because it makes me feel strong and happy, not because it makes me look conventionally beautiful.
This is why I feel so uncomfortable when I come across those “thinspiration” photos on the internet. It’s an extreme version of the “No pain, no gain” that many gyms seem to thrive on. As someone who has struggled a lot with body image issues, it scares me how they glorify starving your body and conforming to a societal idea.
Memes like this just make being skinny and enjoying food seem mutually exclusive, which isn’t the case at all. Shaming people because their bodies are conventionally beautiful is still problematic.
And while I appreciate posts like these:
While I’m happy that Kat Dennings is proud of her body, anorexia isn’t something you “try” out for an afternoon. It is a very real mental health issue that has as much to do with control as it does with food. Framing any mental health issue as a choice only contributes to stigmatizing treatment. Anorexia isn’t a diet plan. It’s a controlling force that slowly controls your whole life.
Which is all to say I was so happy when I found Fit and Feminist. I finally found a site that approached fitness as way to be healthy, and didn’t shame anyone. It wasn’t about pushing yourself, it was about enjoying yourself. They even have a whole series of memes that address those thinspiration photos like this:
Do you also often have trouble finding fitness places that are body positive? How do you deal with it?
To all the adventurers and study abroad returners this semester or friends of those who just returned:
Here is a great article by Morgan Hite to help with the transition back to life in the big city. This article was given to me by my instructors on my Baja Coastal Sailing NOLS course (National Outdoor Leadership School– http://www.nols.edu/ –highly recommend checking it out!) Be well y’all.
Much love, Steph
After the Adventure by Morgan Hite, 1990
After the adventure, I am expected to go home.
I arrive there, carefully carrying the thick, tattered wed of bonds I had with my fellows, torn apart and divided up too hurriedly at the parting. All their ghosts are still with me, as they will be for days, and the lot of us are barely fitting through the door together. My family and friends look somehow wrong, as if they are being played by actors. I go to sit down, but old chairs do not feel the same with all my new parts, new muscles. I greet my old lover and silently wonder, alone, if this is the correct universe.
As I eat, I cannot help but compare the foods with what I ate there. As I cook, I cannot help but remember the equipment that I used there. Unconsciously I contrast the smell of night air, the bed here with the places I slept there, and the person lying next to me with the person who lay next to me there. Night after night I wake up convinced that there are two or three people in bed with me. Waking in the dim hours of the morning, I move freely back and forth between two worlds, unsure of where I really am.
I find myself thinking constantly of those I was with, but afraid of using the phone to contact them lest in this world they too should turn out to be played by actors. I know that they are thinking the same thing about me. I reread Tennyson’s Ulysses. That old fucker knew what he was talking about.
I remember: be kind to those who welcome you. They have been expecting my old self and are a little afraid that this is not the person who has arrived. Their world did not move in the short time that I have been gone forever. There was no rift in reality here; nothing occurred that did not already have a name. Their eyes do not see into the place from which I come. They will listen eagerly to my story, but then excuse themselves.
My time spent in the other place has resulted in a finely tuned competence that is still present, but goes unrevealed. My muscles are ready for the long days. My mind seeks the next step on the route. My voice stands by to speak truths and concerns. I efficiently note the weather changes through the window and mentally inventory my gear, but my team is not there. Times of sunrise and sunset, temperature patterns, and amounts of food and fuel carefully remembered have become mere trivia. The name which, as Ulysses says, “I am become,” is not spoken in this place.
I weather the test of cynics. They come out of the woodwork, some disguised as the people I once trusted most, like moths drawn to something invisible I now radiate. They eagerly share with me the adventures they once had; but they are not so interested in hearting my tale as in an extinguishing my light, which drives them mad. I observe them carefully. They say jolly but subtly seductive things such as, “Welcome back to the real world!” They do not accept dissent on my part. They use concepts such as “financial stability” and “settled down” as keys to try to open my doors. They act like they have a right to this access. But I have changed the locks ahead of time. I remember: never give up what has happened to you.
As hollow and lonely as my soul is, ultimately I have a choice to make. I have two options to ease the pain. The first is to actively forget. It was just an adventure. It wasn’t relevant. I may retire happily, as a cynic. There was no point in that new name.
The second is that bundle I carried in the door, the thick, tattered web of bonds with my fellows. It is not to be discarded in a corner; it is to be used. Whenever the aloneness comes now, I write. Whenever I feel the insanity, I pick up a pen and put it down on paper for one of the others. I do not write to some person I am supposed to write. I just write the person I long to write. I write all day and all night, whenever the pain comes.
In doing this, I begin to retrieve the story. I begin, in the days after the adventure, to cement the two worlds together. I enrich this place with the distilled essence of that place, drop by drop. The passage of time can work for or against me: I must not drop the ball, and I must keep my name, so painstakingly discovered.
Listen! I know that something similar will happen to you someday, for in our wide world there are many goings home. We must hold onto our dreamings, all of us, now that we have earned the right to dream.
I hope that everyone is having an easy transition back into the swing of school and all.
With the new semester beginning and everyone coming back to campus, or starting new adventures elsewhere in the world, I have been thinking about new year’s resolution.
Now, I have to state off the bat that I am not a resolution keeper. I have fallen back into old habits far quicker than I ever hold on to a resolution.
This year, instead of thinking about any sort of resolution while I was back home, bumming around with a lot of time and no stress yet, I decided to address any “resolution” when I do not have hours to spare. Now that a week of school has passed, I can see that any resolution I will approach will have to be small enough where it won’t feel impossible, yet big enough where I will actually stick to my decision to go through.
Over the weekend, I decided to make a small (to make it less daunting) list of things I want to improve. On this small list I put some things that I know will be far easier than others… like “prepare bag the night before, not in the morning.” Things that I know I can accomplish, simply to have one more check mark off my list.
I know resolutions are not for everyone, and certainly are not needed when they cause more pain than gain. However, if you were considering modifying, continuing, or starting a resolution of some sort, maybe this method will be helpful for you!
Hope all is well,