Little Things, Big Reflections: What the Dragon Says to Me

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Last Friday, I got a henna design temporarily tattooed onto my forearm. On the surface, getting henna done was a way to mark the end of the first week of classes – I survived! – but, in fact, it meant a lot more to me than that.

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It’s been a week, and I’ve already had my ups and downs sophomore year.

Although I honestly have been relishing in the phenomenon that is sophomore year – classes and friends, old and new – and there is no where near the same amount of social pressure that weighed on me the first week of freshman year (fit in! make friends! have “fun”! don’t sleep!), the start of the year wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. At times, I don’t feel sad or anything, but like I can’t breath. I feel like I’m suddenly thrown into a really rigorous routine without any transition time. Furthermore, my first year of college was a year of freedom from high school – I took all the classes that interested me, and accepted just the right amount of structured courses. This year, I’m face to face with general requirements, major requirements, scholarship requirements, and more requirements, and on top of that, requirements. I have come face to face with “have to”s and not “want to”s, so juggling everything has been hard, and thinking about my future has been daunting – for the first time in my life. Independently structuring your life path is definitely not east.

So, I flip through the design options for hennaas my friend and I wait (im)patiently in a long line. When I was in high school, I loved seeing little flowers on my hand, delicate swirls on my fingertips. But this year, at least this semester, I needed something that could help me power through my path to true independence and maturity. Although it seems a bit silly to place a (literally) skin-deep design on such a high pedestal, forcing myself to make this dragon of important significance proves to be quite helpful. Thinking consciously about tackling hardship and big change in a mature way changes my perspective in my daily life.

What does this dragon mean to me? It tells me to expect hardship, to expect times when my teeth will mash together and the stress will seem to pin my down on my chest. These are times when my internal power must unleash. At moments of stress, I challenge myself to not only power through, but also keep an open attitude. Today, I was having dinner with a friend who, after hearing my voice grow hoarse as I briefly ranted about my first week, simply responded”Girl – you goin’ to get stomach ulcers.” I laughed, but I also understood. Having this dragon with me tells me to preserve my energy and improve my mental and physical wellbeing. I need to sleep well, socialize with good company, give myself a break, and develop a reservoir of calm energy to feed this dragon so it can give its full strength at times when I need it most.

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At the end of the day, this henna dragon itself means nothing. It will wash off, yes. But, the meaning I’ve given to it remains, to be cherished always. 

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