Seniors Speak: Embrace It.

Life at IMSA can be a blur. Running from class to class and meeting to meeting can distort our perception of time and impact the meaning we construct from our lives. What’s the solution? In our eleventh Seniors Speak entry, Itzel Lopez gives us one. 

Embrace It.

By Itzel Lopez, Washington University in St. Louis, Class of 2017

Think back to the time of your childhood: simplicity, laughter, and juice boxes. Do you remember how it was the end of the world when you lost your favorite toy? And how little scabs were your battle scars that you showed off proudly at recess? And how your mother’s arms after a long day at school were one of the safest places you could be and you knew that everything was going to be all right?

As I am ready to take the next step–college, adulthood, the rest of my life– I find myself scared and excited. Excited for all the new experiences and people that I will meet. But scared to say goodbye to some of the best years of my life, scared to grow up, and scared to leave behind my childhood ways and enter the world of adulthood and responsibility.

It is scary to think that just 13 years ago I rolled in (literally, I had one of those backpacks with wheels– I know, I was so cool) to my first year of education. If I look back and think about it, I wonder if I ever thought that this would be the person I wanted to be, that these would be the things I wanted to accomplish. I wonder if past me would be happy with present me and who I have become.

In a nutshell– yes. Yes, I’ve made mistakes and done bad things but, overall, I wouldn’t change a thing.

So this is my advice: embrace it.

Embrace what you may ask? What the heck is Itzel talking about?

I’ll explain.

Embrace the simplicity.

Don’t over-complicate things. As people, we tend to make things a lot more difficult then they need to be. But why? Do we like to see ourselves struggle more than we have to? Well, I don’t, so stop and listen. Take a moment out of your stressful day, out of your everyday checklist and listen. Listen to the beauty of nature that we seem to ignore everyday (which technically isn’t our fault since there are no windows at IMSA). Listen to the stranger in the old caf– maybe you might make a new friend. Listen to your friends. Sometimes with our day to day checklists we forget that there are other people out there that need a shoulder to lean on, and if you have homework, who cares? There are some things that are more important in life– the test that you will take, you won’t remember, but those moments late at night when the moon is full and your heart is open to your friend will leave footprints in your heart for a lifetime.

But most importantly, listen to yourself. Listen to what you want and what you need.  If what you need is to dance in the rain and jump around the puddles, then do it. Life is short and you can’t dwell on what could have been. Life is simple– we just tend to over-complicate things.

Embrace laughter.

Laughter is the best medicine. I know that we have all had our doubts, our moments of stress, our moments of ‘giving up and calling it quits’. But laughter will get you through it all. People always ask me, “How are you so happy? how do you do it?” I smile through it all. I am not going to lie; I have been down, upset, and frustrated. But why worry about the things you can’t change? Those moments where you are upset are minutes that you will never get back. So why waste them? Why waste them with self pity, with sadness, stress, and  all the negative things you can think of? Don’t waste them- embrace them. Smile and laugh through the pain– okay, don’t fake it; find a reason to smile.

There are a myriad of reasons to smile – from the awkward thing your friend said or did, to the smile that stretches on your face due to the happiness and love that you feel being surrounded by those you care about. Yeah, life is tough, but that doesn’t mean we have to cry about it. Find the reasons to laugh, to smile, to embrace the good moments in your life, the people in your life, and the reason why you get up every morning– even Monday mornings. Embrace the silliness in your heart, the child in your mind, and the laughter in your belly and you, my friend, will lead a happy life.

Embrace juice boxes.

Say what? Yes, juice boxes. Why? Well, every time I needed a late night I drank some juice boxes. But seriously, embrace what juice boxes stand for: food. Feed yourself. In our hot mess of lives we need to take care of ourselves. Which means we have to eat healthy, exercise, relax, and sleep a good amount.

But that’s hard here at IMSA, so take the other lesson of juice boxes. During lunch time as little kids, when that one kid didn’t have a lunch or a snack, we would share without thinking twice about it. What is it with little kids that they automatically have selfless hearts and don’t question helping others, that they don’t think twice about giving up something of theirs, that they don’t hesitate in serving others?  Now I am not going to force you to serve others. Instead, I will share why I serve.

My why is essentially because I can. I do because I question, and I question because I dream, and I dream because I hope. I hope that there is something bigger than all of us. A bigger picture, in which we all play a part and we all can impact in our own little way. I look at the world and I see it not only for what it is, but what it could be. I see a world filled with violence, injustice, kids who only care about the next IPod, people who are hungry, and pain. But I also see the possibility of a brighter future, a better tomorrow by working on it today, a chance at equality. I see kids who care about the world and what they can do, I see hope in each corner and everywhere that the sun’s rays reach. And to be honest I want to be a part of that world, a part of the solution.

To me, service is about giving back to the community and helping those who cannot help themselves. It is about the bigger picture and the role that we, as individuals, play in it. It is about selflessness and pushing the community forward. And that is why I serve and what I dream for. I serve because I know that for someone out there, my worst days are some of their bests, and I want to change that. Sometimes my efforts seem miniscule in the grand scheme of things; and maybe I won’t change the world. But if I can change one person’s life, that’s enough.

Embrace passion.

So why did you cry when you lost your favorite toy? Because you loved it and you couldn’t imagine life without it. Even as a little kid you had sparks of passion, of sentimental attachment to ideas and figures; you had love. Here at IMSA, we throw the word around, and sometimes I am not even sure if we know what it really means. I know that we know what it’s not– but do we know what it really means? Well, I am not going to define it for you. Instead I am going to urge you to define it for yourself. Life is a quest but the ultimate destination is up to you. We have our free will to determine who we become and what we do with our lives. But I urge you to take a pit stop or a detour to passion and love. Figure out what it means, and what you love, what you are passionate about, the very depth of your core and what you stand for. And once you find it, use it. Use it as the compass to your ultimate destination, use it as fuel, use it as purpose.

Embrace your past.

Embrace the battle scars and the scabs of life. When thinking of the future, where you want to go, what you want to be, what you want to accomplish, don’t forget to remember where you came from, the people who touched your lives, the individuals that have supported you through each step and even the individuals you proved wrong when they told you that you couldn’t do it. Don’t lose sight of who you were, of the sacrifices others made for you to be able to be here. Your past made you stronger, made you who you are today– pay tribute to it.

But beyond that, don’t forget that others also have scars. Others have stories to tell. Don’t be judgmental and keep an open heart and mind. Take them for what they have, for what they are, and for their flaws. We all have our scars.

Embrace the people that love you.

Like my mami has held me when I cried, I have had others hold me in times of need and desperation. The people you meet here will be unlike anyone you will ever meet. These friendships, these moments, these conversations from the small talk  in the hallway to the heart to hearts at 3 in the morning are irreplaceable. IMSA has a set of individuals that are incomparable; their character, their spunk, their entities cannot be explained with words. If I had to explain to a stranger just how much my friends and family mean to me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. These important people in my life cannot be described by a mere summary of words or a long list of attributes and characteristics. Describing the meaning of my friendship and the individuals in my life is as complex and as difficult as describing the color red to a blind person. Friends are not a mere string of words placed together in a coherent sentence. The idea of friends and their importance is far more than that; they are the emotions that they made me feel, the experiences we shared, and the love that unites us. Since I lost someone special to me at a young age I always had this fear that the last moment that I would spend with someone would not be one of love. That they would die without knowing that I loved them. Embrace the moments you have with those special people. They will never return, and as always let them know that you care, let them know how important they are, let them know of the love you feel for them.

Embrace this moment- it won’t be back and  it will be gone in the whisper of the wind. Embrace the impact you can make- the power you have as an individual, the power of inspiration. Embrace the journey to self discovery, hit a few speed bumps and maybe crash once in a while but make it there safely. Embrace the now- it will be gone in a flash, but don’t forget the past. Embrace yourself and don’t forget the lessons you learned as a child: simplicity, laughter, juice boxes, special toys, scabs, and the safety in a hug.

Embrace your life.

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