My sophomore/junior year of college, I lived with three other females. Some of you may be gasping, wondering how I did it. But let me tell you, these women taught me something major, they had a huge hand in shaping who I am today. They taught me about self confidence and loving yourself and being empowered. They also taught me a lot of lessons about how I treat others.
For that full semester, we were a family. We clicked so quickly, even with all of us being weird, little oddballs in our own ways. Sometimes we fought, but at the core there was a bond; we truly loved each other. I like to reflect on what I learned from my roommates that year, more than what we fought about or disagreed with. We all came from different backgrounds and upbringings, even if we had a lot in common.
There was Terri, who was very quiet when we first met her, but when she opened up was a hyper trip and took no shit. She had a strong background in dance and was obsessed with shoes. She also just cut off all of her hair so she could go natural, and I learned a lot that year from her about how beautiful hair can be and also how much of a labor of love it truly is. Then there was Jessica. She was loud, laughed a lot, and strong willed and opinionated. That’s probably what made her so much fun to be around, though. She transferred in from another school with the hopes of being a nurse, but soon changed that to a teacher. I knew whatever she did she would put her whole heart into. Canessa is the one I think about a lot. She taught us all something she may have never expected. Canessa is gay and was dealing with a tough long-distance relationship that was on and off again when we first met her. Watching her in pain so often made us speak out a lot about how we felt about her girlfriend. (Y’know that whole ‘mind ya bidness’ thing? Yeah, I should have applied it that year, for sure.) In the end, I think that hurt her the most. That’s probably my biggest regret from that year. I wanted to protect her and convince her to stay away from something so negative, that I actually made things harder on her. But I had a hard time not speaking my mind when I was younger. I learned that lesson. In the end, Canessa and I probably fought the most, but it wasn’t because we hated each other. I just wanted the best for her forever and ever. Of course, there was me: obnoxious, loud and just as opinionated as Jessica, but often showed it in different ways. We all had nicknames, and they called me “The Professor.” I was a nerd who had a head full of knowledge, and sometimes I was more outspoken than I should have been. But hey, college is about learning lessons. I don’t regret being the way I was–I was young. I only regret it when it hurt someone else. Each lesson I’ve learned has taught me to only love who I am now more (in a humble yet confident way, not in an arrogant one).
There were nights where all four of us would be together praising God (sometimes crying, even), watching “The Princess Frog” or “Dreamgirls” or we would be blasting music while we cleaned up the place on the weekends. We all had very different schedules and majors that demanded a lot from us. Sometimes we would be stressed, pulling out our hair during finals and yelling at each other like we were crazy, or laughing and screaming down the halls dumping water on our RA. (True story, I’m sorry Marcel. Okay, not really.) I remember us all sitting on the floor after I was verbally harassed by some boy outside of our dorm, and they held me while I cried; we swapped fuckboy war stories that night. We had the Serenity Prayer written on a wall in one of our rooms, and I remember crying over that with them as we testified how much God had done for us in our lives. We shared experiences, like when we got a friend who was 21 and had a car on campus, to get us alcohol and we had to mix it with sodas we found in the dorm’s vending machines, because it was so bad. (We also blasted “Shots” by LMFAO while we attempted to guzzle it all.) There was the time that Jessica–also a dancer–wanted to choreograph a dance to a song for her boyfriend, so she and Terri spent hours for about a week in our room dancing to “Skin” by Rihanna. Eventually I was singing along while they danced on chairs in front of me, and they laughed. As far as we know, that dance went over well.
There was a lot of music and love happening that year. And one song we could all agree was the best, no matter where we were mentally or emotionally that year, was “Schoolin’ Life” by Beyoncé. It was just our song. The more I hear it, the more I realize why it was so emblematic of us–girls just becoming women, owning who we are in life and love. That year, we were all trying to figure out who we were as women–even if at times we felt like we already had it figured out. Some days, when you’re just a fresh 20/21 year old, you can still feel like a child in many ways. But you live for the days that you look in the mirror and feel like a grown woman. “Schoolin’ Life” is a song for everyone.
This is for them twenty-somethings
Time really moves fast, you were just sixteen
This is for them thirty-somethings
That didn’t turn out exactly how your mom and dad wanted you to be
This is for them forty-somethings
Well, raise up your glass and laugh like a motherfucker
This is for them fifty-somethings
Hey, you’re halfway there, baby take it to the head
I’m not a teacher, babe
But I can teach you something
Not a preacher
But we can pray if you wanna
Ain’t a doctor
But I can make you feel better
But I’m great at writing physical love letters
I’m a freak, all day, all night
Hot, top, flight
Boy out of sight
And I’m crazy, all day, all night
Who needs a degree when you’re schoolin’ life
It’s a song that reminds you that you’re a badass even when you forget. You turn on that song, and Beyoncé puts a hand on your shoulder and just says, “Go kill it, girl!” Whether it’s on days where you’re feeling sexy, or days where you’re at work or with friends. Beyoncé is there to remind you, with her song, that you’re schoolin’ life while others are wasting theirs. You’re making something of yourself. You’re a rockstar. Blast that music, girl, and take that world as yours. When you’re in college, I think everyone needs an anthem like this to blast in your ears or through your speakers and dance to before you start your day.
I remember days when the sun would shine bright in the dorm, we had the windows wide open, we would violate several noise rules, and all of us would be either to ourselves or in the common area dancing and singing in the mirror together. That year for me was a tough one on many levels–and honestly the next year was even worse. I was carrying a lot on my plate from back at home to even what was happening right in front of me in school. But about a year after I left that dorm with those three beautiful women, and I was rooming with someone else, I suddenly realized that they were the exact women I needed to remind me of who I was as a daughter of God and as a grown woman. They taught me who to be, who not to be and kept me accountable.
Being a woman means something different for every woman. Whether you were born female and identify as a woman, or you were born another sex and identify as a woman, it really doesn’t matter. You being who you are and owning it is beautiful. You taking the world by storm every day by just walking out of your house is amazing. You choosing to wear your lipstick one way or just dress down and still have that swagger that is undeniably yours is empowering. For me, it’s owning my femininity without losing that tomboy child I used to be–it’s knowing I look good whether I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans or my favorite dress. It’s knowing that my self worth is in the kindness I share with others and the intelligence I have. I can accept my flaws and others’ and still embrace it all; I’m still strong, face against the wind, no matter what comes my way. I’m taking on the world every day, baby. Ain’t no doubt about it.
One day, maybe Jessica, Terri, Canessa and I will reunite at a dinner somewhere, and we’ll all be shining stars at a table laughing and praying again. I just hope they know how much I love and cherish what they taught me–I mean, hell, they put up with me for a year when I was mostly lost and confused and trying to figure my stuff out. They honestly deserve some sort of award for that. But that past doesn’t matter as much as my future. Because of them, it’s bright.