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Go. Live Your Dream | Courtney Buell’s Senior Goodbye

Four women have made me the woman I am today: Rapunzel, Elle Woods, Carrie Bradshaw, and my Mother. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t owe my entire personhood to three fictional characters, but hear me out.

When you’re a little girl, there is nothing more that you want to be in life than an adult. You can be whatever you want, and while my six-year-old self wasn’t knocking down the doors of the New York Times asking them, “What’s the story?” I knew that I wanted three simple things; to grow up to be half the woman my mother is, to make magic everyday, and to be happy.

Buell 2I entered college not feeling like I had accomplished those things, despite my pleasant high school years, and more than anything, I wanted to understand myself. College was less than magical at first. I entered without a major, only with the inkling that I wanted to write and make art. I kept waiting for ‘the college experience,’ and to my dismay, I hadn’t found it. Homesick and uncomfortable with the new lifestyle I had been thrown into, I felt lost in the only way a girl who graduated with 92 kids in a small town that three generations of her family have lived in, could feel.

With my newfound freedom, I did what any functional adult would do, and immediately watched Disney’s Tangled. There are few evils in the worlds that can’t be vanquished with Disney magic, and I watched the film, hoping for it to lift my spirits. I don’t think it’s possible to explain how much in that instant I needed that film, but I can try. For those of you that have never seen the film, a young girl that has lived in a tower her entire life has one dream; to see the floating lanterns on her 18th birthday. For the first time, she leaves her home and the only life she has ever known, and puts her trust in the hands of the good-hearted conman, Flynn Rider, who offers to take her in exchange for a crown Rapunzel has hidden.

Buell 3When Rapunzel first leaves the tower, she is at war with herself. She knows that this journey will crush her mother, but she also knows that this is something she needs to do.  It is in this moment that Flynn Rider says, “You know, I can’t help but notice you seem a little at war with yourself here. Now, I’m only picking up bits and pieces, of course; over-protective mother, forbidden road trip. I mean, this is serious stuff. But let me ease your conscience. This is just a part of growing up. A little adventure, a little rebellion… that’s good. Healthy, even.  You’re way over thinking this, trust me. Does your mother deserve it? No. Would this break her heart and crush her soul? Of course, but you just got to do it.”

Buell 4She ventures out of her comfort zone, meets so many incredible people, and while I won’t spoil much more, she pursues her dream, and finds happiness in the most unexpected places. To this day, when I am feeling like life is an uphill battle, or that I need to leave my comfort zone, I watch this film and am inspired to move forward. Sometimes the courage to live your dream and to leave the tower resides in taking that first step. Taking my lonely movie night as a sign of my own metaphorical tower, I leapt from mine.

At the start of my own journey towards growth at Monmouth, I can wholeheartedly agree that life pushes you in directions that you’d never expect. Legally Blonde led me to The Outlook. And it was sitting in my Beechwood dorm room alone, with a take-home box from the dining hall because I had no friends to eat with, that I found the film on Netflix. I had seen it before, but not as a college student. I remember being comforted by her loneliness, and inspired by her determination to reach her goals. I saw myself in her perseverance and boundless optimism, and her willingness to do the right thing. She also had great style (another plus).

Buell 5I realized, that like Elle, I had to create my own happiness here, wherever that may be. I had to find my people, my tribe, and my passion. I went against every piece of advice family members had given and chose a major that I wanted. I wasn’t a teacher or a nurse, and choosing communication has been the greatest decision I had ever made. I put faith in myself, and the path revealed itself to me, leading me straight to the doors of The Outlook.

The Outlook has helped me hone my craft and explore my passion for writing. It has granted me with lifelong friends, and a career that is passionate, fulfilling, and purposeful. I get to have a career with a soul, and without the courage to explore that field and have faith in myself, I wouldn’t have found it. Elle Woods speaks to her fellow classmates at graduation in the film, and I have never missed how wise and influential those words have been.

Buell 6“It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct,” she says. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself.”

And, while it is completely valid to say that Carrie Bradshaw might not be the ultimate fictional role model, her love for her friends, and her ability to screw up and keep trying is something really valuable to me. These four years have had peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and without the people who have been there for me, my Charlotte, my Miranda, my Samantha, and even my fellow Carrie, I would be nothing without you. You know who you are.

Buell 7My friends and my incredibly supportive family have lifted me higher and higher and I cannot thank them enough.  There is one quote I identify with that Carrie says in an episode of Sex and the City. She says, “The most important thing in your life is your family. There are days you love them, and others you don’t. But, in the end, they’re the people you always come home to. Sometimes it’s the family you’re born into, and sometimes it’s the one you make for yourself.” I have made my home, and my family here at Monmouth.

Buell 8Finally, my mom is my inspiration. She is my role model and my whole heart. She is my greatest advocate and supporter, and she lives every day with grace, beauty and dignity. Many of the choices I have made during my time here were made with her advice. She has taught me how to be elegant, reserved, and patient; a leader, and a friend. I entered college a different person than I am leaving, and it is all for the better. I am changed with my decision to leave the tower, my choice to have faith in myself, and my passions, and my pursuit of family has given me beautiful friendships I never knew I needed. I am so grateful to everyone who has been part of my college experience. Every single one of you have made it nothing short of magical, happy, and successful, and that is all I ever wanted.

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