Carr: Personal growth and opportunities develop from positive life outlook

In Cary Carr’s last column, she advises readers to smile, plan ahead and get creative.

Cary Carr

Cary CarrAs I write this, I am sitting in Whisper night club’s dressing room, killing time between my 20-minute sets. I am wearing fishnet stockings, a matching black and pink skirt and bra, glitter on my stomach and black combat boots. If you had told me freshman year that I would end up working as a go-go dancer, I would have laughed because, when it comes down to it, I’ve never felt all that comfortable in my own skin. In fact, I have a long history battling with the idea that I need to be a size zero to be beautiful. And while I no longer count my calories and work out seven days a week, I still have yet to find peace with my body.

It’s not always easy to find inspiration to be a more confident woman, especially when I’m constantly surrounded by other dancers picking their own bodies apart, complaining about their so-called flaws, when in reality they’re all gorgeous. But the other night, at Whisper’s two-year anniversary party, I met a burlesque dancer with an eye-opening amount of confidence — the kind of poise and sexiness that I can only hope to acquire one day. She strutted around between sets, freely changing costumes and looking in the mirror with something none of us dancers ever wear: a genuine smile.

And when she performed, her happiness seriously shined through. She not only had the choreography down, but she radiated confidence, making eye contact with everyone in the audience and bearing no shame about her revealing outfit. So what was her secret? What separated her from all of us insecure gals fighting our own images in the mirror? She simply mastered the art of not caring what anyone else had to say, including society.

So maybe we should all take a bit of advice from this standout burlesque dancer. Sure, a gal bearing pasties might not be your go-to source, but her who-gives-a-s— attitude is clearly working for her. And once you stop sweating the small stuff and give yourself a much-needed break, life decisions don’t seem so daunting anymore. As this is my last column — I know, I’m sad too — here’s my final piece of advice: Let it go, smile more, care less and eat more cake.

Q: How am I supposed to balance multiple papers and tests during finals week?

A: Get ahead! Seriously, make a schedule right now. Each night, dedicate a couple hours to working on a research paper, studying or finishing that final project. Having designated dates planned in advance will ease your stress and make you feel a whole lot more prepared. Cramming is never a good idea, and while you may think your professors won’t notice, your sloppily done paper in which you misspelled your own name won’t go undetected. And honestly, it can be pretty rewarding when you see the final product of all your hard work. You’ll be proud to hand it in and won’t be freaking out over whether or not you’re going to pass or fail.

Also important: make sure you set aside some you time to relieve that overwhelming this-will-never-end feeling. Double stress-reliever points if you get your butt to the gym. You’ll leave feeling refreshed, energetic and creative. Breathe easy—it will all be over soon.

Q: I’m too broke to buy my friends and family nice Christmas presents. What can I give them?

A: I know it’s totally cliché, but it really is the thought that counts. You don’t need to empty your wallet to get your mom a Kindle or your best friend a new Michael Kors watch — is it just me or is anyone else obsessed?

Even when people have asked me for specific presents, I always find that they like my surprises better. Just recently, I surprised my boyfriend with a birthday present that didn’t break the bank when I asked my talented roomie to paint a picture of the two of us. And every time I write my mom a poem as a present, she ends up in tears.

But if you aren’t quite the creative type, there are cheap things you can scrounge together.

One idea: get a mason jar, fill it with fruit — my personal favorites are strawberries and kiwi — and then soak vodka in it for a few days. Tie a bow on it, and you have a simple-to-make concoction that barely costs a thing. Or get a cute, little basket, decorate it with some personal pictures and fill it with the special someone’s favorite treats. Put that wallet away and get creative.

Q: How do I deal with a teacher who I don’t like?

A: Before I begin, let me remind you that we all have had to deal with teachers who are less than interesting, fair, normal, etc. at some time during college. For instance, I once had a teacher who didn’t come to class, and when our class called him to ask if he would be coming in, his response was “class was optional today.” Um, is it just me, or does an optional class still require the teacher? Mind you, this was at eight in the morning in Center City while it was raining. And while I really wanted to throw my binder full of useless notes on how to form a paragraph — seriously, I think we can leave that lesson behind in elementary school — at this certain professor, I instead worked my hardest for the remainder of the semester and ignored his screw ups. Because in the end, there’s not much you can do but grin and bear it.

And while you may cringe at the sound of your professor’s voice, other students might enjoy his or her lecture because each of us has our own preferences when it comes to teaching methods. Just remember, you can’t win them all.

Cary Carr can be reached at

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