It ain’t college, it’s the real world!

It’s that time of the year… the glimmer and glam pave the way from prom to the pomp and circumstance of graduation as girls are marching beyond high school, off to realize dreams. And as a great number of our girls continue to march their way on to college campuses, far too often they do so guided by the philosophy that a college degree will be their passport to the real world. It’s true, a college degree does afford entry into greater opportunities. However, we have got to halt the perpetuating send off that says personal control over their livelihood is on hold until they return home from a 4 year stint of academic and social revelry.

The truth is,  without getting too deep into the metaphysical, the moment they leave home and have to make choices independent of parental direction or adult dictation, girls (or more appropriately young women) have stepped into their real world.

When I made my transition to college, I remember clinging desperately to lessons from the closest ideal of college life I had, the television hit show, A Different World. That show dealt with almost every possible issue a Black girl could experience on college campus.

Just like then, we should equip girls with a few key beliefs as they make their way in the real world. While A Different World is still a media resource full of lessons for our girls heading off to college campus, they also need a dose of reality. Here is a vital list of mind sets our girls must adopt when heading to college real world:

Be enterprising: tap into an innate gift and skill set to earn supplemental income while away at college. From fashion design, hair and nails, blogging, makeup, tutoring, photography there are tons of ideas for dorm room enterprise. This income can be used at their discretion to fund clothing and personal hygiene expenses; spring/summer break excursions; or general expenses. Furthermore, this is money that can be saved for major investments right after college. Think first home, relocation, car, stocks.

Be a conscious consumer: Never too early to learn this! But college is definitely an opportune time to harness power over the dollars young women spend. Take a critical lens to brands which attempt to influence loyalty without much accountability nor personal return. Look at the brands that support causes and community initiatives that are relevant to you as a consumer. And take special note of brands that offer paid interns to college students like you.

Have an open mind: There are millions of perspectives and viewpoints beyond what you were raised around. Be open to gaining new experiences and getting to know people from various backgrounds whose beliefs and perspectives may be completely different than what you are familiar with. Expand your perception.

Be intentional: There will be plenty competing for your time and attention. Everything from classes to social clubs to campus involvement. Be sure whatever you devote your time to is intentional and aligned with the goals you have set for yourself. Joining organizations, like a sorority, should be given careful consideration so that it is not about popularity or hanging out, but connected to your future career and community service goals. Even your travels and breaks should be intentional. Yes, it would be fun to party in Miami for Spring break, but remember you can gain some international exposure as well. Many universities offer study abroad courses; perfect for those looking to secure a career in foreign relations, global diversity, government, teaching, etc.

Be healthy! Your health is real from the moment you take your first breath, and it becomes all the more important with every new plateau you reach. The “freshman 15” is real…mentally and physically your body must adjust to its new environment. Weight gain, stress, new sleeping patterns all have an impact. Stay fit. Take advantage of your campus recreation and health care facilities.

Be protective…and selective! Take precautions to become familiar with your campus  AND surrounding areas. Being on college campus does not mean young women will be immune to real world risks. From natural disasters to sexual relations, young women MUST be prepared. Become familiar with emergency plan on school’s website. Know safe routes when walking alone or at night. Be aware of areas off campus that may pose risks such as robberies, rape, etc. Observe new acquaintances to see who is trustworthy, as well as to see who exhibits self love. Be wary of those who have destructive tendencies (drinking, drugs, bad study habits). Also, be proactive in your intimate relationships. Protect yourself. Remember STI’s and unplanned pregnancy are most high on college campuses. Dating violence is also a factor, so again be keenly aware of acquaintances and their behaviors. Have your safe stash with emergency money, condoms, up to date prescriptions for medications, emergency contacts and numbers.

A few websites to check out for safety:

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network)

The SIWE Project

Planned Parenthood

Black Youth Project

Federal Emergency Management Agency

This list is just a start. What else should be included? What words of wisdom should our girls pack in their luggage heading to their “real world?” Share in the comments below.

Oh and just for fun, here are a few of my favorite “life-lesson” Different World episodes:

 

Advertisements

Three Generations of Girls Like Me

I took the time (had to borrow a few ticks from some research but well worth it) to watch Red Table Tales: the very poignant dialogue between Jada Pinkett Smith; her mom, Adrienne Banfield-Jones; and daughter, Willow.

As Jada asserted from the start, Red represents raw passion. So when the three generations sat down to talk around the red table we saw all of those things come through.

It amazes me more and more how very appropriate the name of my organization, Girls Like Me, is in relation to the experience of…well Girls Like Me.

I mean here Jada Pinkett Smith is rock star, actress and power-house in her own light; married to one of Hollywood’s blockbuster elite (not to mention Mr. Smith is superfine), mother to superstar children, with a mother who looks young and vibrant enough to be her sister. Yet we can hear the struggle as she talks about growing up on the streets of Baltimore. Her mother’s vulnerabilities as she reflects on her own life-experiences as young mother addicted to drugs. Then there is Willow, a first-name phenom with all the access and celebrity her talents and her parents fame can buy, still she struggles with life.

This is what Girls Like Me Project is all about. In the end we are all connected and experience identical struggles of trying to make our voices heard, freedom to be ourselves without the weight of the world,  and finding fulfillment and happiness on our journey.

I so connected with Jada when she spoke of sacrificing her being for her two children when they were little. This is very much my story. In fact I look back and can now say, though it was undiagnosed, postpartum depression was extremely real for me.

A lot rang true for me as I watched and listened. These were my top six take aways:

#1. You cannot harbor on the past hurts, the challenges of life have to be used as fuel for purpose and motivational power

#2. RE-MESSAGING MOTHERHOOD! Whew. This one hit home. So often happiness is muddled by responsibility for others, overshadowing our own fulfillment and well being

#3. Communication builds partnerships of all kinds

#4. It is a daily struggle to find balance in begin a wife, mother and honor your own being

#5. It takes much courage to open up to your children

#6. Best gifts to give a child is not to get in the way of their “being”. UMPH. YES!

View the Red Talks and let me know what rang true for you or what you found most interesting.

Watch Part 1

<div>http://d.yimg.com/nl/shine/site/player.html#browseCarouselUI=hide&vid=29273972&repeat=0&lang=en-US&startScreenCarouselUI=hide&shareUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fshine.yahoo.com%2Fvideo%2Fparenting-6786932%2Fred-table-talk-part-1-29273972.html</div>

Watch Part 2

<div>http://d.yimg.com/nl/shine/site/player.html#browseCarouselUI=hide&vid=29273950&repeat=0&lang=en-US&startScreenCarouselUI=hide&shareUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fshine.yahoo.com%2Fvideo%2Fparenting-6786932%2Fred-table-talk-part-2-29273950.html</div>

Watch Part 3

<div>http://d.yimg.com/nl/shine/site/player.html#browseCarouselUI=hide&vid=29273956&repeat=0&lang=en-US&startScreenCarouselUI=hide&shareUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fshine.yahoo.com%2Fvideo%2Fparenting-6786932%2Fred-table-talk-part-3-29273956.html</div>

One of the most profound moments came when I viewed the exclusive. It brings clarity to the saying “a child shall lead them…”

Be sure to let @JadapSmith hear your thoughts on Red Table Talks. Use hashtag #RedTableTalks