Most of my memories from college are fleeting and blurred from intoxication or sleep-deprivation, but one of the few specific moments I can remember is from a 1 am fire drill in the dorms when I was a freshman living with my best friend. It was a school night, probably a Thursday, but Amanda and I had some friends in our dorm room drinking forties and watching Fantasia clips on YouTube. We hadn’t been the only people still awake in our rooms that night, but it was apparent that most people had been asleep prior to when the fire alarm went off. Some walked out into the November night wrapped in their comforters, which they obviously stripped off their twin-size mattresses along with their bodies, and other people were wearing only their boyfriend’s boxers and an old shirt, shivering in the cold-for-Tucson weather.
An image from that night that stays with me today is of a girl whom I made eye contact with on the stairwell as we descended out of the building into the street. She was shoeless, wearing a Christmas-themed fleece pajama set and glasses, with white spots of Clearasil scattered across her face like freckles. Looking at her, I was grateful to be in fully dressed with makeup and styled hair to counter my drunken demeanor. I was thankful that the fire alarm hadn’t woken me up because I knew that if I had already been in bed, I would’ve looked exactly the same as her. The glasses, the childish sleep clothes, the tired face free of makeup and riddled with anti-zit cream—these were all aspects of myself that, at the time, I considered to be extremely private and embarrassing. I know that no matter how urgent the fire alarm sounded, even if there actually was a fire, I would have slapped a bra on, changed into something presentable, wiped the crusty white dots off my face, and patted some powder and blush on my face before rushing out of my dorm room. I would have done these things because for as long as I could remember I truly believed that it would be shameful and humiliating for other people to see me in my most unprepared states. That’s why, prior to this point in my life, I never wore my hair in a lazy bun or left the house wearing anything but clean, well-fitting clothes. I wanted everyone to think that I never looked sloppy or careless or anything but perfect because that’s how girls are supposed to seem, right? At least, that’s what I thought other people expected of girls, including myself. Especially myself.
I remember this moment so distinctly because the sleepy smile the girl flashed my way struck me as so fearless and unapologetic. She might not have realized she had fallen asleep with white blotches on her face, or maybe she did; the point was that she didn’t give a shit. Her smile seemed to say to me, “I might not look put-together right now, but so what? I was sleeping. What do you expect?” The only word I choose to use to describe this girl as is brave. I hope that someday, someone else will secretly think of me as brave. At the turn of 2012, I originally opted to avoid resolutions, but I think bravery is something I would like to see in myself this year. I think that’s the only New Year’s resolution any of us should try to stick to. There are a lot of ways to define bravery and act as such, but for me it means being capable of smiling at a stranger with a dime-sized white splotch on the tip of your nose. Let's all strive for that, if anything at all, shall we?