To say that my X-Perience has gone differently than I imagined would be a vast understatement.
When freshman Ellen first moved into Kuhlman 009, she had plans to graduate with a double major in chemistry and Spanish before embarking on a career in forensic science; only to work as a copy editor for the Newswire, maybe writing an article every once in a while; and not become addicted to coffee like her mother did in college, among other ideas.
Senior Ellen will be leaving Commons 320 D with a double major in English and Spanish and plans to go to law school; having served as a copy editor — plus Head Copy Editor, Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief — for the Newswire; and completely unable to function without her coffee in the morning.
As I said, quite a bit different than what I pictured. How did I get there? Simply put, I did what I loved. Or, more accurately, I let myself do what I loved.
For example, when it came to my major, it’s not as though I didn’t like chemistry. I liked it a lot, in fact. However, notice that I said liked, not loved. And when I realized that I didn’t even like working in a lab, it was clear that a path in the sciences was not for me.
So, I did what I loved. I love reading and writing, and I love textual analysis. Hence, I’m now an English and Spanish double major with plans to go to law school and pursue a career doing what I love: conducting research, analyzing texts, putting forth a claim and defending it.
That’s not to say my experience since then has been smooth. My senior year especially has been the most difficult I have ever experienced. Why was it so difficult? Because I stopped giving myself permission to do what I loved. My perfectionist tendencies, my strong work ethic and my competitive nature — which have helped me achieve a lot of the success I’ve enjoyed — started leading me down a dark path, one that culminated in my taking a leave of absence in the fall to go home and learn to take care of myself.
Having to go home during the semester and put everything on hold was the last thing I had imagined would happen. But it happened, and it was necessary. I spent that time learning how to take care of myself, including giving myself permission to do what I loved.
See, along with the perfectionism come the desires to please everyone and to do the right thing. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mold myself into what I think people want me to be instead of letting myself just be. And it literally took being yanked from school, the Newswire, my friends and many other things that I loved before that finally started to sink in. This life of insecurity in which I constantly questioned what other people thought of me and whether I was doing the right thing was not, is not and never will be sustainable.
So while this year has been extremely difficult, it’s also been extremely important. I’ve started to let myself be Ellen, and I’ve started to give myself permission to do what I love. Sure, I’m still taking the same English and Spanish classes that I love and still doing the work with the Newswire that I love, but it’s those other smaller things that I’ve been giving myself permission to embrace.
Singing in the choir at Mass then going home to rock out to Slipknot? No, Ellen, there’s nothing wrong with you. You love music, and you love that you have a wide range of musical outlets. Being a lover of British Romantic literature, regularly using “whilst” and maintaining a high level of grammatical formality in your speech? No, Ellen, you’re not a weirdo. You love Romantic literature, you wrote a damn good thesis all about the sublime and you’re a grammar nerd whose manner of speaking makes you Ellen.
The reality is that I’ve never claimed to play by the rules. A family friend often tells the story of when, as a second-grader, I spent Halloween playing soccer with the boys at recess while donning a very pretty fairy dress that my mother specially made for me. And it’s that confidence — unapologetically doing what I love, no matter what others may think — that I’m slowly starting to regain.
So I leave you, my beloved readers and my beloved staff, with this simple advice: Whilst you pass through your time at Xavier, never forget to let yourself do what you love. Embrace all the idiosyncrasies that make you who you are. Let yourself be you, for you are worthy of love, and you deserve to do what you love.
By. Ellen Siefke
Ellen Siefke is a graduating senior. During her time with the Newswire she has served as the Editor-in-Chief, the Managing Editor, the Head Copy Editor, a copy editor and a staff writer.