If you pass Sydney Smith on the street, she’s most likely wearing something colorful and cozy —a deep forest green mixed with a pastel pink, or something with prints. If she’s with someone, you will most likely see her engaged in an animated conversation —telling a story or sharing her opinion with zeal. She’s a talker, a thinker, and a doer. But, contrary to her rational decision-making and practical outlook, she is also very much a feeler. By feeler, I mean someone who lets the world move her, teach her, and inspire her. She’s a former dancer, ice skater and forever art enthusiast. Her curiosity pushes her to explore new cultures and to enrich her own understanding. As someone who has now had the chance to know her on a deeper level, she is someone whose heart is in the right place. And above all else, I respect that.
Occupation: Law Student
The key to happiness is: Conversation and a big cup of coffee
My kryptonite is: Feeling like I have disappointed someone
In three words, I would describe myself as: Curious, capable, and candid
I dream of: traveling the world
Success to me means: That you learned something. Facilitating growth through learning is always a success, even if it is different from the original expectation.
Define curiosity: A constant need to learn new things, explore new places, or ponder new ideas
To be brilliant is to be: Able to change the world’s point of view through one’s contributions, but also open to learning & evolving from the effects of others contributions.
To be a Millennial Nomaad means: To be constantly curious of different points of view, ideas, cultures, and abilities, with the intention of growth through learning, sharing of stories, and community.
MN: You were a competitive ice skater before transitioning to dance after an injury. How did dance contribute to both your physical healing and emotional well being? You mentioned that ice skating is more technical and dance allows for more freedom. What does freedom mean to you in a literal and more personal sense?
SS: Before dance I didn’t realize how much being a part of the creative world and having an outlet meant to me. Once I was aware of the ability to express myself outside of a strict scoring system I found a deeper connection with my emotions and a great way to relieve stress. While I originally started dancing to strengthen my feet before getting back on the ice, I found that dancing strengthened my soul as well and made me feel more able —both physically and emotionally. That is how I define freedom, the sense of feeling able and not hindered, literally in the ability to move, think and create. This is a personal journey, because feeling able is something that I struggle with and constantly work to achieve.
MN: As a dancer, you become familiar with both the expansive capabilities and limitations of your body. During our conversation, we discussed how as a young girl there is a pressure to conform our body types to the “standard” definition of beauty. How did you learn to embrace your body as a woman and what advice would you share with younger girls?
SS: I definitely felt self-conscious of my body growing up, as many young girls do. I didn’t realize that developing hips was normal and that in a few years I would be able to feel more confident in myself. At different points in our lives there are different “ideal body types” and it just takes time to realize that we are all different and all self-conscious about something. As we grow up, the variety and diversity of body types increases, and it becomes easier to see that what makes us all unique and beautiful is our ability to love ourselves and be confident. I would tell younger girls that it takes time, and to not try to change yourself to fit the molds you see around you.
MN: Female nudity ––there are so many opinions on whether this can be empowering or objectifying. You mentioned during our conversation that it all depends on the “intention.” What do you mean by this? Can you expand on this concept?
SS: First, I think it definitely depends on whether the woman who is nude is choosing to be and happy with that choice. So many cases of female nudity, especially in the fashion world, make me question whether models feel like they have to be nude to advance in their career or to be perceived as edgy. For female nudity, or any nudity for that matter, to be empowering, I think the person who is nude must first feel empowered herself.
I do think that nudity that shows confidence, self-love, and acceptance can be extremely powerful and help others with their own self-acceptance journeys. But, I also think that nudity can choose to be neither empowering or objectifying. There are many instances of women just “being” that others classify by adjectives and adverbs, when women should be able to make personal choices without always feeling obligated to speak and act for all women.
MN: Happiness. We are living in the age of “Think and Be Positive” where everyone seems to be searching for a way to find joy? How do you think one can experience happiness? What role do you think negative feelings or pain play in self-discovery?
SS: Find what you love to do, see, experience, and partake unapologetically. I am a big believer in having outlets that let you escape everyday stress. At the same time, learn from your stressors and what upsets you and make changes to eliminate what’s unhealthy. Some pain can be necessary for growth though. A good cry can do a lot of good.
MN: You are currently in your third year of law school. What made you want to attend law school? How is it different than or similar to what you imagined it to be?
SS: I have always been fascinated by logic and problem solving. On a superficial level, that quality led me towards law school from an early age. I’ve known I would attend law school for most of my life, except for a few blips where I looked at being an architect or a doctor. When I was choosing law schools, I knew I wanted to have a legal career that would encompass the laws of different countries and allow me to continue to explore different cultures and fulfill my curiosity. Law school is similar to what I imagined in the actual content of the classes and structure of the program, but different in the environment. Law school for me has been an experience of support from my friends and classmates as we all share struggles and successes. It’s not the scary undercutting environment that people describe.
MN: Living in the polarized and rapidly changing world that we do today, what are some ways in which we can promote unity and greater compassion?
SS: Simply taking the time to listen to people and hear their views and experiences can inspire so much compassion. Realizing that we all are humans with faults and feelings can go a long way to promoting unity. The late Anthony Bourdain comes to mind —”You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together." I think if we start sharing more meals with our neighbors and those who are different from us, we can inspire more than just a little compassion.
MN: Where do you think fear comes from? Can you share a story of a time fear specifically impacted your life? How do you deal with vulnerability so that it makes you a stronger person?
SS: On a basic level, I think most of our fears come from experiences. We don’t want to repeat upsetting and scary experiences so we develop fears as an avoidance mechanism. I am extremely afraid of heights, specifically that I will fall from a great height. While this isn’t a fear that I have to combat daily, I will never forget the time that I was on the Eiffel Tower and the tour guide told us that the elevator was over 100 years old. I immediately froze and had to tell myself that I cannot let my fear keep me from experiencing the best view in the world. I use this type of thinking more often than I encounter my fear of heights. Anytime I feel like I’ve hit a roadblock or am feeling unsure of myself, I remind myself that I cannot stand in my own way.
MN: Love. What's your take on the modern concept of “soul mates”? What differences or similarities do you see between how millennials view relationships versus your parent’s generation? Why do you think people fear intimacy?
SS: I didn’t grow-up believing in the concept of soul mates in the sense that there is one person out there for everyone, or that people are meant to be. I do think that there are people for different times in your life though. It’s not that there is any kind of destiny involved, but more so that we grow from being close to others and learning about ourselves. The person who we will have the closest, healthiest relationship with at age eighteen might be different than at age twenty-five.
I think generally millennials are waiting longer to settle down, not necessarily because we are wild and crazy, but because we are working on ourselves first, our careers and health, before we make lifetime commitments to marriage and kids. I also think the prevalence of the internet and the amount of information that can be gathered about someone online makes millennials less likely to be immediately trusting, leading to fears of intimacy. We are so afraid of being vulnerable and having someone hurt us —myself included— that it may take a bit more time to let people in. |