Be Yourself: Let Life Tap Its Toes to Your Beat

A couple of weeks ago, I heard a dean of admissions from the University of Virginia speak on the dreaded subject of the college essay.

The gist of his speech?  Be the best YOU.

He said, every year he reads countless essays from prospective applicants trying to be who they think UVA wants them to be.

Topics like,

Thomas Jefferson is my role model.

The Louisiana Purchase and me.

Why I Believe the Declaration of Independence Rocks!

And countless other themes that manage to mention the lawn, the academical village, or the rotunda.

 

The lawn at the University of Virginia.

 

These essays are not endearing to the admissions staff.

Because Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and writing about him is a warning that student X is trying to push his or her unique, but angular self into the UVA circle.

And losing an opportunity to be themselves.

It got me thinking how this applies to so many things. How many times are you filling something out and you see:

Tell us a little something about yourself.

Or what about those bio fields in social media? Or if you’re a writer, what about the author blurb, or About Me page?

Like the college essay, these descriptions could be your one shot to sum up YOU.

Maybe you’re thinking they’ll eventually see who you are, but what if that first impression is your only opportunity to go from person X, to the eXtra special, unique you?

For instance, UVA gets twenty-nine thousand applicants a year.  Pinterest currently has forty million users. Twitter even more. And hundreds of thousands of books are published in the U.S. every year.

There’s bound to be A LOT of circles.  And when you’ve seen one circle, well…they all blur into one massive blob. They become like white noise.

If you’re trying to make an impact, looking for connections, or just trying to be seen, then you don’t want to be the white noise.

If you want to be found, then you kind of have to let your INNER WALDO shine. 

 

Not that it’s easy. I struggle with filling out those short bios.  Here’s the latest author bio I’ve written.

Coleen Patrick grew up in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Louisiana, and Indiana. Always being the new kid, she learned that books and friends are precious—and dessert. She never met a dessert she didn’t like (except for flan). 

When she’s not writing, reading (or avoiding flan), she enjoys TV, arts and crafts, quoting movies, and trying to take cool photos.

She lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids.

 

Now this is short, but it seemed to take me forever. Because I wanted to be me (well me, in a few sentences), but at the same time it was cringing to be real.

It’s not easy to allow a part of yourself to be vulnerable. In this particular case, I was afraid to be a little funny. Except funny is important to me.

So how can you get started telling a little about yourself?

It might help to ask yourself some questions:

 What do I like best about myself?  What are my talents, interests?  What do I believe in? What would my perfect day look like? What would  I do if I had unlimited time or energy?

Find a way to be true to yourself.

Because somewhere out there, whether it’s a university, an employer, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a bookshelf…someone is looking for YOU.

Why not make it easy for them to see you?

 

Do you have any advice on how to sum up you?  What would you do if you had unlimited energy?

Have a spectacular week!

 

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Stop by and say HI to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal.  I think book reviews are VERY hard to write, but Patricia does an amazing job!

Teenage Dreams and Blending in with Blue Hair

 

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” 
~C.S. Lewis


When I was a teenager I dreamed big.

In one of my diaries I wrote in detail about my future house and backyard:  “537 acres” complete with a “show barn and stables.”

I also wrote that I wanted to be a YA novelist and a big time screenwriter (obviously I would need two jobs to afford that kind of acreage, especially with the fancy pool tiles I detailed–you can read more on my diary in this post).

I dreamed with abandon.

But for most everything else I seemed to check myself.  I never wore all black or any clothes that might make me stand out.  I never dyed my hair wild colors.  Once I dyed it black, but I changed it back to blonde the same day.

 

“The things that make me different are the things that make me.”

― A.A. Milne

 

Was I muting my individuality?

I mean I liked wild colors and glittery things.  I loved flipping through my Seventeen magazine (especially the back to school issue) to see all the fun outfits and makeup.  I would try all the fancy eye shadow techniques, but yea, I edited when I ventured out into the world (except for colored mascara.  I loved that stuff–especially the electric blue color).

But I also wanted to blend in.  I’m sure now a part of that was inhibition, but a bigger part has been the discovery of how I fit in my own skin and realizing that I have my own preferences for how I choose to be in the world.  I know now that part of my individuality is that I’m happier in the role of observer, that I like to take my excitement from the world around me in bits and pieces instead of all at once.

But how does an introvert (who dreams like an extrovert) portray herself to the world?

 

coleen blue hair_opt

Anyway she wants?

Okay so maybe wild hair isn’t really me.  Dyeing  it was certainly messy and I didn’t like that my hair felt like straw.  Plus, when the Blue Envy dye dried, it flaked.  I had Smurf Dandruff all over my clothes and bathroom.

And my shower as I washed the temporary dye out of my hair?

It was Avatar meets Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

But even with the mess, it was all totally worth it to see the looks on my kids’ faces.  In their eyes I could see they thought I’d unleashed a can of Crazy (I’m definitely filing away this experience for YA writing research.  If I’m ever at a loss for how to “torture” my main character, all I have to do is have the parent dye their hair).

And I still think glossy blue (read: salon created) hair like Katy Perry has, is pretty.

After seeing her movie Katy Perry: Part of Me last week, I felt inspired (and not just “follically”).  I especially loved the videos of young kids who felt supported by her music, who expressed their feelings of being okay with being different and found a way to be a little more comfortable inside their own skins.

 

“You’re original, cannot be replaced.”

~Katy Perry, Firework

 

Taking to heart the message it’s okay to be who you are is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes (like Dorothy in Wizard of Oz) we don’t realize that we’ve had the power within us all along.

Oh the tricky, elusive power of self-acceptance.

I think one way to harness it is by dreaming (BIG!) and then making every effort to make those dreams come true.  Because often our dreams are uncensored.  And there’s a confidence to be gained when we follow our dreams.  The kind of confidence that allows an introvert to blog–or post blue haired photos.

 

 

“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” 
― Paulo Coelho, Alchemist

 

I love the possibilities– in dreaming, writing, blogging and even dyeing my hair.  So yea, it can be okay to blend in, but make sure you keep yourself open to possibility.  Open to your dreams.

 

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

~Henry David Thoreau

 

What are your teenage dreams?  What things are you inhibited or uninhibited about?

I love it when you share! 🙂