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Senior Reflection: Be-You-tiful

By Jose Vazquez ’15

Want to know the only thing that I know about my time at Hamilton? It is that I do not have it figured out. My years at Hamilton have been a whirlwind of mistakes, achievements, diner breakfasts and Beyoncé dance parties.

I used to define “success” as something I had to achieve through hours of extracurricular activities and intense studying. It felt as if I was running on a treadmill  gone haywire where I couldn’t keep up with the standards I thought were expected of me. Thankfully, after going abroad and some slaps of reality from close friends, I’m currently reflecting on what “success” means in my life. I think Maya Angelou said it best when she wrote, “Success is about liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” The following are three things that have helped me reach inner confidence on this campus:

(1) Be Present
(2) Be Thankful
(3) Be-you-tiful

Be Present

On the first day of Adirondack Adventure, Andrew Jillings famously states, “Be Here Now.” There is no way you can “Know Thyself” without learning to live in the moment and be consciously aware of your actions. Here are some tips borrowed from friends that have kept me living in the moment:

• Ignore your phone when having a conversation with a friend or eating dinner. 
• Stop telling yourself you are “too busy.” Prioritize time and stop watching Taylor Swift music videos for hours on end.
• Keep a journal, or give yourself some time every week to reflect on what you’ve done and what you’ve learned. Many repeated mistakes could have been avoided had I actually recorded and processed those situations in the first place.
• Have a solo dance party in your room, and take yourself out of the work grind (Shakira is my usual go-to).
• “Treat. Yo. Self.” –Tom Haverford (eat that Opus cookie and share it with someone).

Being present means you are cognizant of your surroundings and asking yourself questions. What do I enjoy? What are my strengths? When am I my best self? Personally, I do best when I work around people and listen to Natasha Bedingfield. Listening to yourself and prioritizing where you’d like to be “present” at Hamilton can do wonders.

Be Thankful

My life at Hamilton dramatically improved when I looked around and starting thanking the people who carried me through difficult times at the College. After watching multiple TED talks last year, I finally made a conscious effort to stop stressing over work and benefitted from looking around and recognizing those who make this place better. Rather than preach to the choir, here are people I should be thanking more often:

• Staff for dining halls, Physical Plant and dormitories: You are the reason this institution is sustainable. Dunham bathrooms would be abandoned , we’d be trapped in snow and we wouldn’t have food to our disposal. Maureen, Kathy, Christina, Emilio, etc. at McEwen are wonderful and work so hard to keep things efficient.
• Dennis at the Counseling Center: I think you and the staff are the reason I could carry on during my trials at Hamilton. It’s the place I can proudly say, “I need help” and not feel stigmatized or insecure.
• Professors: Thanks for taking extra time in your office to have aimless conversations with me or revise my paper for the 80th time. Especially Meghan Dowd, Robert Martin, Susan Mason and Chaise LaDousa. Most of you care so much and I can’t express enough gratitude for that type of support.
• My family: Thanks for understanding that being here at Hamilton was the right decision. I know it was hard to let me leave the state but I think we’ve reached a point where this education paid off. Props to Mama Vazquez for the daily calls since day one of my Hamilton education.

Be-you-tiful

My inner confidence and self-worth grew when I stopped trying to jump to the imagined standards set by my family and friends. I am the best person in my life. That’s something I continuously try to remind myself daily when I feel lost or insecure about my own actions. These are some points that validate by bea-you-tifulness:

• Accepting that I learn the most when I make mistakes
• Understanding I’m only human and saying “no” can be really empowering
• Embracing my emotions rather than repress what I’m feeling
• Finding validation in myself rather than solely rely on the approval of others
• Dancing like no one is watching
• Taking control of my actions rather than feeling like a victim of anything

At a recent Hamilton alumni event, I heard someone state, “Hamilton is not a place…it is a state of mind.” That state of mind is when we discover ourselves through a liberal arts lens and give ourselves time to reflect on our past experiences. Being present, being thankful and being-you-tiful has helped increase my inner confidence and get closer to figuring out what it means to pursue this education and how it applies to the “real” world. Realizing that people always stumble while navigating college life means you can prioritize your needs without second-doubting those decisions. Hamilton has become that experimental playground for my life and I hope that most of you take risks, make mistakes, continuously reflect and above all, shake it off.

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