With the semester coming to a close and most everyone on campus nearing some sort of breakdown over their finals, I, as an eternal font of wisdom, felt it was appropriate to expound upon some of the best advice and the most important things I’ve learned so far.

To begin with, what you look like in pictures isn’t a reflection on what you actually look like, and even if it was, it doesn’t matter. A while ago I was looking through old pictures with my mom and we found what must be the worst picture of myself that has ever been taken. It’s from middle school and it’s just horrible: the lighting is bad, the angle is weird, and my position is just incredibly awkward and unflattering. My mom went to skip past the picture to save me some embarrassment, cringing on my behalf, but I stopped her so I could laugh at it. It was so ugly it was hilarious. If there was anything at all to be embarrassed about in that situation, it was probably how hard and long I was able to keep laughing at it.

A few years ago I would have had a very different reaction to that picture, but through a mix of positive self-esteem practices (like smiling at myself in the mirror, inflating my ego to unknown heights, some major plastic surgery and the adoption of a new identity) I got over my aversion to looking at pictures of myself. I no longer so closely associate my appearance with who I am as a person or my value. What you look like has no bearing on your worth as an individual, so stop untagging yourself in your friends’ Facebook pictures.

The second piece of knowledge I have to impart is that dogs are the most important thing. Just, in general. Hands down. No dispute possible.

Next, no one knows what they’re doing, even if they appear to or if they claim to have a plan. All of us are making it up as we go along. I recently got involved with the planning of MHacks, and while the other planners have quite a bit of experience and the event is going to be amazing, I get the impression that it’s all an experiment in sinking or swimming in the best way possible. The sky’s the limit and there’s basically no one to tell us no (except the fire marshal sometimes). In fact, the amount of freedom that we have here is almost overwhelming and it makes me wonder if this is what it would be like to be a man. (But really, the MHacks event is going to be amazing.) 

Another point: Call your favorite person tonight and thank them for being the best. Expressing gratitude has been linked to well-being, so it’s to both your benefit when you call your mom to thank her for fielding your ridiculous phone calls about how to get nacho stains out of sheets, you terrific piece of chaos.

But really, how great are dogs?

Finally, happiness is a choice and you deserve to have it. Recently, I had a pretty miserable day featuring some poor grades and some stressful paper writing. But on the same day, I also received some free cider and cookies and I remembered the name of the song that had been plaguing me all week. I made the decision that this was actually a good day after all, and it was.

At the same time, I do realize that this is a huge oversimplification, and that there are some challenges and miseries in people’s lives that are insurmountable. I will say, though, that happiness is relative, and if you can find one good thing to focus on, you can get through just about anything.

Plus, if you feel that nothing in your life brings you joy, then you deserve better. If your significant other makes you miserable, if you’re not thrilled with what you’re studying or if you’re bored with your Netflix queue, then it’s your responsibility to yourself to try something new. It’s never too late to change directions, meet someone new, refocus on what actually interests you and have confidence to throw yourself into situations that challenge what you’ve assumed about yourself, others or the world. We’re all wrong about something.

So, in conclusion: You’re going to pass your finals, you’re very pretty and smart, you’re not falling behind your peers and it’s never too late for you. Also, dogs exemplify all goodness in the world.

Sarah Leeson can be reached at sleeson@umich.edu. 

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