Dear freshman self, it’s time to embrace the embarrassments

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It was a few weeks into freshman year, and I was sitting in my assigned study hall. The room, per usual, was dead silent, and our study hall monitor sat perched at the front, passing judgement on how hard each of us seemed to be working.

Staring at my iPad, I wondered if he could tell that I wasn’t actually reading an online textbook, but rather taking every Buzzfeed quiz from “Make a burger and we’ll tell you which One Direction member you are,” to “Which Spice Girl are you based on your zodiac sign?”

The stress of the quizzes got to me, so I came up with a new genius method of procrastination: Webkinz. I was thrilled to see that a Webkinz app had been created, and I immediately logged on, still knowing my username and password by heart. I roamed my Webkinz house, took a trip to the Curio Shop, and then decided to visit my old friend, the Wheel of Wow.

It all happened so fast. Somehow, my sound had been turned on, and our entire study hall heard the blaring noise from my iPad as it shouted, “ratatatata….Wheel of Wow!” I tried to immediately turn it off, but the damage was done. Any self-respecting teen knows the Wheel of Wow noise from a mile away. They knew that I had been spending my study hall on Webkinz.

When thinking about what advice I would give to my freshman self, I tried to remember the major failures in my life and what I did to overcome them. However, I quickly realized I haven’t experienced any gigantic failures. But rather, my entire high school experience has just been a series of embarrassing events.

As a freshman, I didn’t have much of a thick skin. I sat in study hall mortified, and I spent the rest of the day running the series of events through my head. What I wish I knew then was that my entire life would be filled with these embarrassments. Learning to laugh at myself would be my greatest weapon in the battle to get out of high school in one piece.

So, if I could have a chat with freshman Mia, what would I tell her? I wouldn’t warn her about the numerous times she would mistake “circumcised” for “circumscribed” in freshman geometry. I wouldn’t stop her from going to LifeTime Fitness after eating a lot Mexican food. And I definitely wouldn’t remind her to turn off the sound on her electronic devices during study hall.

I would tell her to keep doing exactly what she’s doing. Because she may not know it then, but these embarrassments are the reason that I write today, the reason that I have stories to tell. They are the reason that I feel comfortable being bold, since I’ve lived through the answer of, “What’s the worst that could happen?” These embarrassments are the reason that I can publicly discuss a class of 20 freshman finding out that I still play on Webkinz. Because next to all the million others, it doesn’t seem so bad.

Next year, I will be a freshman again. But I will not be the same freshman that I was walking into the halls of New Trier, vulnerable, self-conscious, and intimidated. Because I already know that the years to come will be a stream of embarrassments. But I will laugh, I will lead a light-hearted life, and I will remember to feed my Webkinz every once in a while. They’re probably dying.

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