In the midst of breakups, non-stop drama from everyday life, the dreaded sophomore slump, and the quickly approaching future, it can be super hard to be optimistic. It’s difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you feel like the walls are closing in – it seems like there’s no way to control and silence negative thoughts coming from almost every single outlet. It may seem like you’re alone and nobody cares, but believe me, someone does.
I never believed in the concept of sophomore slump until I experienced it.
GRE books, online tests, and study tips suddenly filled my desk. Conversations about graduate school and the future only perpetuated the overwhelming feelings of anxiety and fear. After coming to the realization that change is inevitable, and that you can’t control everything, I decided to find myself again.
Finding yourself can’t be defined – it’s different for everyone. There’s a few steps that I took and have been taking to become happy again. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy – and sometimes the bad days win, but, in the end, it is all about discovering who I was meant to be.
R.M. Drake once said, “Sometimes to self-discover, you must self-destruct.” I believe that getting out of a slump requires starting with a blank slate – getting down to the basics.
This step is mostly characterized by crying, angry rants, and lots and lots of ice cream. There is no way I would be able to get to where I am today without all of the support I received from my loving friends.
After you’ve given yourself the time to wallow in sorrow, it’s time to get up and start being a functioning human again. Time to go about your routine and interact with people, although you may still be feeling pain. This is probably the hardest step, but it gets the ball rolling.
The key here is distraction, but also understanding that it’s okay not to be okay. Rather than repressing emotions that didn’t seem desirable, I chose to embrace them, understand that they were present, and eventually I learned to cope with the feelings that came along with them.
Clearly nobody is perfect, but something that a lot of people (myself included) struggle with is owning up to imperfections. This does not imply that every little idiosyncrasy needs to be fixed immediately, but that those that can be controlled should be worked on.
Something that I’ve learned, especially in the past year, is that certain people may bring out sides of you that you weren’t even aware of. If someone brings out qualities that aren’t desirable and don’t show your true colors – cut them out of your life. Nobody needs toxic people that encourage the worst version of yourself.
This step seems pretty simple – do the things you love. But the beauty of attempting to start from a blank slate is that you might find a few new passions. In the midst of confusion and anger that fraction life crises bring, I decided to travel and visit friends. Driving and escaping every day routines gave me a much needed break from reality, but also people that could listen to me without bias.
While finding newfound beauty and reminiscing in old treasures, it’s also important to avoid toxic people, situations, or places. The most prevalent challenge in this step is realizing that not everything is black or white – not everything or everyone is absolutely good or bad. The key to finding yourself and ending the crisis is reevaluating relationships and seeing how the person, place, or situation helps you grow. There are a few reasons to cut people off: (1) people who do not benefit you in any way, (2) people who don’t give you what you need and deserve, and (3) people who don’t want you anymore.
This goes hand in hand with the first step. In order to become a better person and move forward in a life crisis, you have to love yourself and be confident. Learning to be independent is the first step of many to achieving confidence. This also takes a lot of time – for me, this has been a life-long struggle for me personally. Find what makes you get up in the morning and start appreciating the little things.
While I’m still on the journey to truly being happy and getting out of my sophomore slump, I’ve made huge progress. Nobody is saying that this happens instantly, or that you’re supposed to have everything figured out. I’m on the road to happiness, and I couldn’t be more excited for my beautiful future.
My name is Ashley Olafsen, I am 19 years old, and I literally just published a book!
I’m really excited for you all to read it – It’s called Survival of the Prettiest: The gender, mental health, and sexualization crisis as told by a teenager. I wrote it because it’s the book I wish I had when I was younger, and I basically just talk about body image, media, mental health, relationships, competition, and a bunch of other issues that kids and teenagers face while trying to grow up. I tell my stories and share my friends, and what’s even cooler is that the book is interactive and filled with reflection questions!
Let’s back track:
When I was 15 years old, I became angry about the things my friends and I were going through. We were dealing with low self-esteem, poor body image, mental health issues, unhealthy relationships, and so much more. For example, I was really struggling with my body image. I hated the way my thighs, stomach, eyebrows – pretty much everything looked. My insecurities were truly affecting me and keeping me from speaking up during class discussions, and becoming my authentic self. It seemed like NO one was talking or even cared about what we were facing, and it felt like there was this unresolved crisis going on right in front of my eyes!
I decided that I wanted to get a conversation going. And more than that, I wanted to play a role in helping my friends and myself live up to our full potentials.
So, alongside three friends, I gave a self-confidence empowerment workshop to a group of 8th grade girls. My friends and I shared our personal experiences with the girls, in hopes that it would inspire them. And it did – so much so, that one of the girls decided to create a MOVEment with me.
Her name is Lexie Phipps and the two of us have joined together to create MOVE (Motivate. Overcome. Value. Empower) – Together, Lexie and I spread our MOVEment across the world. MOVE is a program designed to help empower girls into body positive, confident leaders and role models. We also focus on the importance of getting help as well as preventing unhealthy relationships. We give workshops at schools and even direct a 5 day summer program. This year, we had 70 girls!! To check out a video of what happened at the summer program, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
In addition to MOVE, I’m also a TEDx speaker (https://www.youtube.com/watch
And here we are today – with a published book! I worked on Survival of the Prettiest for a little under three years. I researched, wrote, edited, revised, revised again, cited, cried over, drank lots of coffee over, and lost sleep over this book…It was a tedious yet fun, passionate yet LONG process.
I would love for you to be part of the conversation, and I'm hoping that the book will leave you inspired, empowered, and more vocal.
Check out my book, and let me know what you think
Thank you for reading & wishing you all the best!!
So my question for you is do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life?
You do you say? Well, really… Are you sure that even 20 or even 1 year down the line you will still call that your dream job? You see, I am dubious of anyone who says they have their entire life figured out. Not because there aren’t people with genuine passions and skills, but simply because people are dynamic.
And their goals and dreams change with them. I don’t know about you, but I constantly change my mind and have doubts about whether the route I am currently pursuing is the right one for me. To be honest, I don’t know if I have ever been completely sure of my life path.
Here’s an excerpt from junior year of high school to prove my point: “How is anyone supposed to really know what they want to do? There are literally millions of opportunities out there, thousands of colleges, hundreds of majors, and one of me. Sure, there are the things I’m good at, pretty much just school, and the things I sort of like, chorus and softball, but how are you just supposed to know at what you will succeed?
“What if I put in the hard time to become a doctor and find out I’m squeamish or go through dental school to discover I hate teeth? What if I just haven’t been exposed to my true passion? Lately, people have asked me where I want to go, but is that really the question?”
It’s funny to me a little bit because I’m sure to outsiders it looks like I have my entire life figured out. I’m in college, picked a major, and I even have work experience and research under my belt. From my perspective, though, I feel as if I am blindly trucking on, following a slight inclination for which I am not entirely sure about.
It may not even be school-related. Maybe you are with a guy you have been dating for years, but just aren’t sure if he’s the one, or you have the opportunity to take a job or internship in a new city but can’t decide whether to stay or go. These are the times when it really is tough because we are literally making decisions that alter the entirety of our one life we have been given.
Now I haven’t entirely figured out what to do in these situations either, but I will tell you that the only thing that keeps me sane is knowing that I have the power to change my mind. I have the power to quit a job if I want to, to pick up and start anew elsewhere, to even go back to school and change my major or get a new degree if that is something that I need to do.
In the moment you start to see yourself as stagnant or stuck on this pathway of life, things start to get scary. However, there is ALWAYS the opportunity to find a new passion and rediscover yourself.
Having that internal locus of control, that attitude that it is you who makes decisions about where you are going with your life and not just random chance and circumstances, will get you far. Yes, there are limitations like money and time and relationships, and those are definitely factors, but that still doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to make a change on the pathway of life.
You can backtrack, change directions, or be truly brave and have your own path. I know it sounds a bit cliche, and to be honest, it is. But that is the reality of it as well.
Ever since I was a child, my parents have always pushed me to become self-reliant and take advantage of any opportunities that came my way, no matter how huge or minuscule, with a smile.
From all of the things they taught me, something my dad said stuck with me; “If you don’t see a road ahead, start paving one yourself.” Sometimes in life, you will not be able to see the roads ahead of you. Sometimes, you will run into a dead end. But you can’t and should not stop because you are scared of what is to come or you are in a rough spot in your life.
The minute you give up, you not only give up on yourself, but you also extinguish the fire that ignited the passion and drive to pursue your goals in the first place. I remember when I was 8 years old, the recession had started to increase in terms of severity.
My dad, through all of the financial issues he began to see as the recession began to seep into our family, smiled through the pain. He began to pave his own roads, no matter how many dead ends he hit. He did not let any of us know how hard he worked and never let us feel like we should adjust to a lifestyle that we were not comfortable with.
Every day, he would come home at 2-3 AM at night just so he could get us through the recession and he did. It took a while, but he did not give up. If he had given up, we would have moved to Oklahoma, sold the store my family owned for 12 years, and living a life that would have been full of regrets and constant mockery.
It is because of the fact that he woke up every morning and said, “I will not let this stop me. I will pave my own road and I will get through this.”
There are countless personal stories that I have experienced just like this one, but reading the stories is not going to help. This piece is not just to entertain you when you are bored, or to tell you about the experiences that I have faced.
It is to tell every reader out there that going through a rough patch does not mean it is the end. You will get through it as long as you stay focused on your goals and continue to work hard. The motivation you have to get started should not begin to die down because that motivation is what will guide you when you do not know what is ahead of you and give you the tools you need to pave the road that you choose to take next.