Nutrition Sciences Major: ‘College, in a Way, is a Permission Slip’
Beatrice Glaviano ’26 revisits the permission slip, something she remembers from childhood, and applies it, as well as the lessons it can offer, to life as a college student.
September 12, 2023
By Beatrice Glaviano ’26
I’ve started to realize a couple of things over the past week:
Staying up past 11 p.m. is a horrible idea
Drinking three coffees a day is also a horrible idea
I am such a nerd (though that’s been established for years)
But something I’ve really been thinking about so happens to come from childhood: permission slips. Y’know, that flimsy piece of paper your first-grade teacher gave to you so that you could go to the aquarium or the zoo or some other fun place? Those things. I don’t know if anyone else agrees with me on this, but permission slips – similar to being invited to a birthday party – were a determinant of one’s status symbol in elementary school. If you didn’t turn yours in, you were immediately “weird” because who wouldn’t want to go to the zoo? Certainly not some “normal” child.
[Author laughs in the background at the concept of “normal.”]
Whatever the case, I imagine that the vast majority of us remember the feeling of walking up to your parents – being no higher than their waist and a little nervous, perhaps – and holding up that slip, asking, “Can I go?” Obviously, I don’t know anyone’s situation, but from what I gathered, most said “yes.” And in about a day or two you were face-to-face with a Bengal tiger or a penguin – with ketchup smeared on your face. In other words, permission slips had the ability to turn your life around for a day. They were magical: a real-life version of a Willy Wonka ticket that took you away from what you knew so well and brought you somewhere where there was only fun to be had.
But looking back, there was also some anxiety that tagged along with it.
‘Fun’ meant friends in elementary school, and you couldn’t have one without the other. At the time, while I did have acquaintances at the very least, most times I could be found reading the The Magic Treehouse series or some off-brand Star Wars book that I found on the shelf instead of socializing. One time in particular, I asked one of the girls in my class who her favorite princess was in an attempt to start a conversation.
“I don’t have one,” she said blankly.
Perhaps it was because of my nerdiness or my inherent shyness that I didn’t seem the type to want to socialize, but nonetheless, I often found myself at a loss when it came to friendships. Growing up, I found out that I’m pretty fearless when it comes to showing people who I am – especially now that I’m in college. At this point, I think that if I am my truest self at all times, those who want to interact with me will do so because they genuinely want to. And if they don’t want to, I’m not going to force them.
Character development, am I right?
"We make decisions every single day of our lives that require the permission of only ourselves, and it’s up to us in that situation to be our own parent."Beatrice Glaviano ’26
Anyhow, back to the permission slips. At this point, given our age and (assumed) maturity, we no longer need our parents or guardians to sign our little slips of paper. This is something that we each do almost on an everyday basis. I give myself a permission slip to take an Uber, or even go to a local trail like East Rock Park. We make decisions every single day of our lives that require the permission of only ourselves, and it’s up to us in that situation to be our own parent. What I mean by this is that we don’t always want to make the “better” choice. I imagine that most people would prefer to hang out with their friends than study their chemistry lecture notes from the day before, which is perfectly alright...to a certain point.
Sometimes, you gotta really just force it. At this point, you’re the one in charge of your life. You determine the classes that you show up to, the work ethic you give, how hard you work, the quality of your work, and so on and so forth. Sometimes, you really need to be the annoying parent to yourself. Nag yourself to do your chores. Set multiple alarms. Study with your phone across the room and turn the ringer off.
College, in a way, is a permission slip. It’s an adventure that you voluntarily sign up for; a quest for knowledge that you want to ascertain through trial and tribulation. And who knows? Perhaps you’ll meet some other cool characters or things along the way that may aid you in your efforts. Other times, maybe you’ll need to fight a dragon:
Me, holding a molecule kit overhead: “It’s over, organic chemistry. I have the high ground!”
Organic chemistry, wielding four carbon bonds: “You underestimate my power!"
In other words, there will be challenges that will come your way, and the way – the attitude – you decide to approach them will determine how you feel after defeating them or being defeated. It’s all rather interesting, really. At times, the sword will be knocked out of your hands, but what good is a sword if you don’t try to use it?
Before I end up making this all about D&D, the point that I’m trying to get across is that you bear responsibility now. You are the one signing your permission slips and handing them in – like student debt – and it’s up to you to follow through with your agreement to that. In college, I believe the biggest promise that anyone has made to themselves is their success.
You’re not here spending this much time or money for hoo-has; you’re here to learn about something that you find endlessly interesting and worth fighting for. With this, you will find so many things within your area of curiosity without even meaning to. For example, who thought I’d manage to connect nutritional sciences to marine pollution? It’s a little far-fetched, right? You owe yourself the permission to grow, to be yourself, and to just genuinely enjoy the period of life that you’re currently in because college isn’t supposed to make your life miserable.
Well, mostly. Sometimes it will just be that way, but things will get better in time.
I used to always be in this phase of “Once I’m [random dumb societal standard here], then I’ll be happy” – you can imagine that this way of thinking wasn’t the best. For the most part, it was targeted at my body; I’d promise myself that once I looked a certain way or weighed a certain amount that I’d be happy, and I could live my life. Incorrect.
Instead, I watched my life (and health) go out the window, and I came to terms with something I’ve been fighting for a while: I may never have the perfect body. Honestly, I probably won’t, and to this day it scares me a little. But this body, this body that has survived chronic illness and triumphed over broken bones and broken spirit has to be worth something. Because of this, I have given myself permission to live it to the fullest because how horrible would it be if I deprive this body of its chance to live, change, and grow. Granted, it’s still a work in progress, but we’re all working on it.
After you read this entry, dear reader, I’d like for you to brainstorm a little. Where do you lack permission in your life? Where do you take it for granted? What parts of your life or yourself would you like to give permission to? What would happen if you did? How would it feel?
I hope everyone has had a lovely second week of back to school, and that things are going your way. Again, if anyone would like to reach out with any questions, comments, or blog ideas, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or my personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care everyone, and I’ll see you in the next entry.