Bittersweet Endings

Endings have always been extremely difficult for me. It started when I was little and attended a day camp, and I sobbed on the last day out of the fear of never seeing the people at the camp ever again. I didn’t even talk to most of them, but just the thought of the possibility that I may never see them again freaked me out for some reason. My mom convinced me that she had the list of everyone who attended the camp along with their phone numbers. This succeeded in calming me down and shutting me up and I never mentioned the list ever again. I imagine it was just the thought of knowing that if I wanted to, I could reach out to the people from the camp.

Another time, I attended a Traverse City Beach Bums baseball game up north, and I was playing with this sweet girl on the playground. We played for hours, and when the baseball game was over and we had to leave I started bawling my eyes out yet again. My mom convinced me once more that she had a list–this time of every single person at the baseball game. My gullible, 4-year old self believed her I never asked to see the list; it just made me feel better that I knew that she had it “just in case.”

More recently, different endings have brought me challenges, like graduating from middle school and leaving summer camp after almost eight weeks.

I really thought I hated middle school. It seemed to last an eternity. While I was there, I counted down the days for it to be over already. Then, all of a sudden, it was June of my eighth grade year. It began to hit me that I would be leaving the people in my grade, many that I had known since preschool, because I was starting private school in the fall. That thought was pretty hard for me to handle. I was so excited to attend my new school, but leaving people who I’d been with since kindergarten and pre-school made me feel extremely upset. This time, though, I had my own list (and it was real, not a lie!) and I knew I could contact any of my old friends at any time. I was still, however, very sad to say goodbye.

After days of crying over the ending of my five great years spent at West Hills, I began to look forward to my summer at camp. I went to camp for almost eight weeks this summer, and I had the most amazing time. I built upon and strengthened so many friendships and had some really incredible experiences that I don’t believe I could have experienced anywhere else. As the last few days approached, I was convinced that I felt ready to leave camp after being away from home for so long. Well, I woke up the morning that we were leaving, went into the dining hall, and I suddenly remembered that I only have one more summer as a camper after this one. At that point, I started sobbing uncontrollably and the tears wouldn’t stop until an hour into the bus ride. And they continued throughout my first week at home.

I’ve learned a couple of really important things through my experiences. One is to really appreciate the present moment. When I find myself wishing that something is over, I will try to remember that, no matter what, I will be sad when it’s over so I will try not to waste my time wanting to be done. I want to learn to appreciate the present.

The other thing I have learned is that with an ending comes a beginning. Middle school ended. Camp ended. Now, I am beginning high school. I miss my old friends and my camp friends and my great teachers and counselors, but I know I will make new friends and have new amazing teachers and mentors. So far, my first few days at my new school have been great. If I stayed at camp, if I stayed at my middle school, if I stayed at that baseball game, or if I stayed at that day camp, I wouldn’t have had even half of the amazing experiences I have had. I realize now that sometimes I have to let things go to allow new, wonderful blessings to come in.

So, high school, here I come! I am so excited to get involved and to learn and experience everything that high school has to offer. And I look forward to the future–to see what other beautiful beginnings will come from my bittersweet endings.

No fake lists needed.

Best of luck with all of your own endings and beginnings,

Jilly

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My Social Media Vacay

Well, I deleted social media for awhile. In our generation, deleting social media is pretty much like cutting off a limb. However, I won’t lie and say that it was that hard of a decision for me, because it truly wasn’t. While on social media, I was starting to see and feel some things that I didn’t like. I was beginning to realize that every time I went on social media, I was becoming really irritated by all of the fake-ness that I was scrolling through. And the worst part was, I was also being fake. I was looking for the perfect picture to post…judging others by their not-so-perfect-pictures…spending a lot of time seeing how many “likes” I was getting… my self-esteem drifting lower and lower…

I started to get a very empty feeling. I was becoming sad and frustrated that I rely on social media so tremendously, and that most of the time that I was spending with my friends was spent scrolling on social media, or posing for pictures to be posted on social media. I began to realize that social media promotes the opposite of “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”, because very few people were showing  their real and authentic selves, including me. I was getting so caught up in all of it…thinking I could really get to know people just by looking at pictures of them, and that they could get to know me, too.  And that just can’t be the case….there is so much more to people other than how they look. I was losing track of what I already knew..that how someone looks does not determine who he or she is….it is simply one small aspect of a person. There is so much more to a person. It’s like reading one page of a book and thinking that you know the whole story. Everyone knows this on some level, but very few people seem to actually remember this when they are social media.

Sometimes I heard people criticizing others’ pictures or calling them ugly,  and it felt awful to me that we were judging people’s pictures. Social media also caused me to dislike myself because of my insecurities about my looks. It caused me to compare myself to others, which is always a dangerous thing to do. In a teenage girl’s world, almost everything about social media is just about the pictures. And there is so much more to life than how someone looks in a picture. So, I thought, why am I wasting so much of my life scrolling through pictures that cause me to compare myself to others and cause me to feel bad about myself? So, one day I just did it. I deleted all of my social media. And I will share with you what I learned from being offline for awhile.

Even after a few hours, I noticed I had far less negative comments about myself floating through my mind. I am very prone to comparing myself to others, so I would become self-conscious when I scrolled through pictures of people. Of course I still often hear those negative voices inside my head about myself  (remember, I am a 14-year-old girl).  However, I realized that when I was in the mood to do something, I began to do other things I hadn’t done in a long time. I rode my bike. I walked my dog. I hung out with my parents and actually talked to them. What I really rediscovered, however, was my love of reading. Reading books rather than going on my phone, I realized, minimized the amount of thoughts I had about comparing myself to others. Books, even though they were fiction, reminded me that people are so much more than their pictures. Characters in books are seen at all angles. You learn about their insides, their feelings, their flaws, their passions… There is so much more depth to them and so much more that I can learn and know about them than I can by only seeing a pretty picture. So, even though the books that I am now reading aren’t real-life, to me, reading feels far more real than social media. I am sure that some teenagers have a higher self-esteem than I do, so maybe seeing pictures of other people all of the time doesn’t affect them, but in the place that I was with my insecurities, scrolling social media was not helpful, and reading was a great substitute.
Also, I noticed how often people were on their phones. Whenever I would be with people, everyone was on their phones, constantly scrolling through Instagram, answering Snapchats, and watching other peoples’ “stories”. During these times, I looked around with nothing to do. I wanted to talk to people, but everyone was very preoccupied with keeping up their Snapchat streaks or deciding which picture to post on Instagram. Before I deleted social media, I was on my phone incessantly as well. Spending time offline made me realize how much of my life I was wasting staring into a screen that might as well be called a time-suck machine because it zapped away hours and hours of my life. This made me really sad, because life is so short; way too short to spend it staring at a screen, constantly comparing myself, and concerning myself with the lives of others.

Well, after all I learned, I did decide to download social media back. I know I just wrote about how amazing it was to live without social media, but I have made a promise to myself to use it differently. I use it much less. I now constantly delete it and re-download it only occasionally, so that I’m not tempted to go on it all of the time. I have also promised myself that I would spread positive messages, and not just post pictures.  I promised that I would be myself, and post whatever I want to post; I will not post what I think other people will be impressed with. I am also going to try to caption pictures with meaningful messages, so that it’s not all about how my life looks on the outside; I can show the world what’s on the inside. And I want to help others feel good about themselves, too. I think that is how I will be able to turn social media into a positive experience for myself, and for the others I am connected to.
I challenge everyone who reads this to try to portray your true life, what is real, on social media. Overall, social media is a wonderful invention that can be utilized to spread beautiful messages and connect us and remind us that we’re not alone, but many of us are missing these opportunities and using it to show our bodies and our prettiest pictures of ourselves. We could, instead , be showing the world the beautiful parts of us that may not be able to be seen in a picture…our kindness, our compassion, our creativity.  In the end, what truly matters is on the inside, so show the world what lays in your heart. Your real beauty is there.

xoJillian