Achieving the 'that girl' aesthetic is harder than you think

Becoming the main character means checking in with our emotional needs 

Independence can also mean isolation.
It’s been exactly one year and one month since I slurped on a bowl of authentic Taiwanese beef noodle soup. One year and one month since I've seen my parents, not through a small black screen, but in person.  
 
I’ve always been eager to leave home, explore the world, and be on my own, but I didn’t realize that a 16-hour plane ride also meant bidding farewell to my favourite beef noodle soup and my parents. 
 
In September 2018, I arrived at Queen's with eight suitcases and moved into my tiny dorm on West Campus. Maybe it was the Frosh Week jitters and the thrill of meeting new people, but it never dawned on me that I had begun a journey of being on my own. 
 
I think the idea of independence has been overly romanticized by pop culture, from Tik Tok’s "that girl" morning routines to glamourizing yourself as the “main character” of your story.  
 
These tropes celebrate the well-dressed woman leading a healthy lifestyle while holding down a steady job in a big city. It’s incredibly motivating and empowering, but sometimes seems almost impossible to get there.
 
Whenever the topic of being that independent #girlboss comes up, women often find ourselves focused on the beauty of living alone, finding ourselves, and being resilient in combatting all obstacles that come our way. 
 
But sometimes we forget about the struggles or the occasional sordid loneliness that accompanies the alluring idea of being independent.
 
In first year, I remember the chatters down our dorm hallways as my peers asked each other when they’re going home for Thanksgiving. I remember thinking to myself, “Right, they celebrate Thanksgiving here.” 
 
My thoughts were then followed by an unexpected feeling of dread. I really didn’t want the holidays to arrive—not because I didn’t want to give thanks or whatever Canadians celebrate on that day—I just couldn’t fathom the sense of emptiness I’d have to endure while everyone else went home to see their families.  
 
Thanksgiving came and went, and it wasn’t terrible. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving in Canada with a girl on my floor, who, funnily enough, is now my housemate. We went to Jack Astor’s, and while it’s not your average turkey and stuffing, the chicken fingers were enough of a celebration to allow me to forget the homesickness for a while.
 
Two years went by, and I no longer viewed Thanksgiving as a dreaded holiday. Instead, I graciously accepted it as a break to rest and recharge.  
 
By 2020, I was in my third year. And as we all know, it was a very weird year. The pandemic proved to be difficult, but having to be in quarantine twice already, the confined space wasn’t a huge deal. Online learning was the new norm as well, and I accepted that I wouldn’t be seeing my parents in person for at least the next twelve months. 
 
Last year, my friend invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family in Barrie. I was overjoyed, and though I couldn’t understand why one would put cranberry sauce on turkey meat, tried it and it was an experience.
 
With open arms, they told me I was welcome anytime because I was like their “fourth daughter.” I remember my eyes watering as the sounds of those words reached my ears. 
 
It was a lighthearted joke, but a part of me missed my family even more. 
 
Eight months passed by, and it was okay. While I was ultimately stuck abroad, living with two housemates made the loneliness more bearable. 
 
While I’m optimistic, the uncertainty of the future still continues to find its way to haunt me. 
 
My head is constantly clouded with questions. 
 
Will another wave of COVID-19 strike? Will I be able to board a flight back home? Was the summer of 2020 the last time I’ll ever see my grandparents? When exactly is the next time that I eat that goddamn beef noodle soup? 
 
And worst of all, where do I go after graduation? 
 
I knew that I was always supported. My parents were always one Facetime call away—at the right hour due to the time difference, of course. I had my friends who were right next door to me.  
 
I love the courses I’m taking, I’m eager to learn, I am incredibly grateful to be on The Journal, and above all else, I am grateful to have the opportunity to be here at Queen’s. 
 
To pave your own path and be independent is an absolute privilege, but in the end, we can’t ignore the challenges that come with it. As much as it hurts to say it, we’re not living in a comedic mockumentary where all the problems goes away once we hit the end of an episode. 
 
Ironically, to become “that girl” and your own “main character,” you need to accept the reality of isolation and loneliness, and from time to time, check in with our emotional needs. 
 
I guess if you’re like me and you’re also struggling to grapple with the reality of being independent while also trying to create that main character energy in a cynical world, just know that I’m rooting for you.
 
But in the meantime, I will be looking up recipes to make that beef noodle soup while binge-watching Modern Family for the fourth time—and I’ll be on FaceTime with my mum.  
 

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