What do you want to be remembered for?

September 11th, 2014



New year, new you – right? Maybe not.


Let me tell you, the whole “nervous pit in your stomach feeling that you’re going to spill your cookies the night before classes” still exists senior year. Oh yes, believe me. And, it’s perfectly acceptable to slam a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby in an act of extreme stress eating. There’s no shame. I repeat: there’s no shame.


After all, you’re a senior now. The big cheese. The wise, old Buddha. The next ones to get thrown headfirst into “the real world.”  You start questioning everything. Is it too late to change my major? What is the meaning of life? Will four years of cafeteria food give me life-long digestive problems?


Yet, the number one question the “elders of college” deal with is the same question we’ve pondered for ages: “who am I?” If you haven’t asked yourself this, you’re in denial.


So, why not reinvent yourself? In fact, maybe this is the first step on the quest of finding the real, true you? If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “It’s a new year – reinvent yourself,” I’d be a rolling in the dough. From firsthand experience, reinventing yourself is simply a recipe for disaster. You may disagree, but hear me out.


In grade school, I was Princess Mia from “The Princess Diaries.” No, not Anne Hathaway. No, not Princess Mia post-makeover. I was the awkward, frizzy-haired, plaid skirt-wearing, clumsy dork who would start babbling incoherent sentences and then run away in a state of panic if a guy even glanced at her. Oh yes, it was a dark time. The resemblance was uncanny. (However, I’m pretty sure I burned all the pictures so good luck finding the evidence.)


In high school, I vowed that these days were over. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to string together at least a three-word, coherent sentence if a boy approached me. I was dreaming big.


So, I did what all sad, desperate high school freshmen do: I reinvented myself. I looked like Blair Waldorf in “Gossip Girl” (or at least I think I did). I wore decorative headbands that rivaled the funny hats from the royal wedding. I accessorized my uniforms to a T. I quickly associated myself with the “in-crowd.”  On the first day of high school, I was glowing. I had pretty, popular friends. People wanted to hang out with me. I finally achieved what I was so desperate to attain my entire life: the feeling that I was liked.


However, this new “popular girl” shimmer didn’t last. I hated sitting at the popular girls’ table eating nothing but rabbit food.  I hated tagging along on our giant group visits to the bathroom, picking apart our appearances. I hated being tapped on the shoulder in my Honors English class during our group discussion about Richard Connell to gossip about our classmates. For starters, I didn’t want to get in trouble with the teacher. And secondly, “The Most Dangerous Game” is one of the most brilliant American short stories ever written. I didn’t want some petty girl’s addiction to gossip to ruin my nerd moment.  I hated following the crowd.


So, I quickly reverted back to my old ways. Sure, I was no doubt at the bottom of the high school food chain, but I was content. It was natural. Every year since then, I’ve had this grand ol’ idea at the beginning of the school year to reinvent myself and finally discover who the real “Alexandra Elizabeth Higl” actually was.


Usually, this ended with me falling on my face two weeks out into the school year and then reverting back to my pre-makeover Princess Mia ways (except I’d like to think that my appearance has improved a bit). In college, I became content with who I am. Okay, at long last, the search for the true me was finally over – right? Wrong.


During the summer, I had a breakdown, as do many students entering their senior year. It’s not uncommon, I swear. On one of my morning walks at our family’s vacation on the lake, I stumbled upon a flag draped across someone’s home with this philosophical question: “What do you want to be remembered for?” It wasn’t until later on when I was sipping on some adult grape juice (relax, people – I’m 21) that the gravity and relevance of this phrase hit me.


“What do you want to be remembered for?” Not to get all morbid, but when I die, I don’t want to be the person who followed the crowd, or was fake, or didn’t eat carbs. I want to be remembered as authentic.


In this day and age, there is nothing more terrifying than standing alone and breaking off from the clique.


But then you realize, as cheesy as it sounds, there is nothing more important in this lifetime than just being you.  (Sorry to go all Dr. Phil on you.)


And, if we can all remember that this school year, we’re going to be just fine.