Striving for balance, not perfection

Franny Eremeeva ’20

By Lauren Simonds

When Franny Eremeeva ’20 received a call from author Rachel Simmons asking if she had time to participate in a Good Morning America segment promoting her new book, “Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives,” the answer was a no-brainer.

“I will make the time.”

Watch Franny Eremeeva on Good Morning America

Time is in short supply for Eremeeva, an international relations major, an equestrian on the Mount Holyoke riding team and a member of the Student Government Association’s executive board, where she served as the chair of halls, coordinating 18 student senators from residence halls across campus.

She also studies Arabic at Amherst College through the Five College Consortium, which provides Mount Holyoke students access to the combined resources of Smith, Hampshire and Amherst colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A motivated striver, Eremeeva knows a little something about setting impossible standards.

“I felt I had to be perfect from a very young age,” said Eremeeva. “I wanted to be a superhero. But that’s both an impossible goal and a destructive mentality.”

She knows from personal experience that holding too tightly to the confines of perfection can conspire against you. As a self-described Type-A personality, Eremeeva had the “perfect” 10-year plan firmly in place when she applied to Mount Holyoke. The College, her “dream school,” met all three essential requirements: a women’s college, an outstanding international relations program and a top equestrian program.

Imagine her surprise when Eremeeva came to campus — on Preview Weekend, no less — and came face-to-face with a hard truth: She wasn’t ready for Mount Holyoke.

“‘Perfect Franny’ could never have predicted that,” said Eremeeva.

 While she loved Mount Holyoke, Eremeeva realized that, although it was the right place, it was not the right time. She didn’t want to move straight from high school to college without more preparation and certainty about her academic goals.

“I wasn’t yet the student I wanted to be at Mount Holyoke, so I decided to take a year to find that student and to solidify my presumption that international relations was what I wanted to study.”

She took full advantage of that gap year, traveling first to east Africa and then to Italy. In Kenya, she worked with community leaders and learned about locally driven sustainable development. She also led a workshop called Taking Risks and Rejecting Fear at an all-girl high school, inspired by the message in Simmons’ “Enough As She Is.” During the five months she spent in Rome, Eremeeva studied international political economy.

The decision to step away from her perfect plan paid off. Eremeeva’s gap-year experiences confirmed that not only did she want to pursue international relations, she knew with an absolute certainty that Mount Holyoke was the place for her to do it.

“I knew Mount Holyoke College had the resources to help me attain my goals,” she said. “It’s academically fierce and socially aware. You learn what you need both as a student and as a person.”

Why Good Morning America

Eremeeva first met Simmons — a best-selling author, educator and the leadership development specialist at the Wurtele Center for Leadership at Smith College — in high school, when Simmons helped teach a class on risk taking. Their conversations outside of class, over coffee, became part of Simmons’ book and led to a lasting mentor-mentee relationship.

During the Good Morning America segment, Eremeeva and six Smith College students shared their perspectives on perfection, failure and how expectations differ for men and women. Noting that our culture doesn’t teach women and girls to view failure as a learning process, Eremeeva said that men and boys have permission to be aggressive, demanding and confident.

“They’re taught that failure is a way to grow,” she said. “We’re taught that perfection is the ideal — don’t be bossy, be poised and effective. Failure is not an option.”

One of the beautiful things about Mount Holyoke, said Eremeeva, is that there’s no one model for the Mount Holyoke experience or for the Mount Holyoke student. The College provides the space and channels of communication to create any opportunity you need to be the best version of yourself. The students, she added, are never alone in wanting something.

“Sponsor an event, form a club, fix a problem or create a major,” said Eremeeva. “If someone says no, you have 2,200 impassioned students ready to grab a megaphone and make it happen.”

Eremeeva said that with her four years at Mount Holyoke, she intends to take advantage of as many opportunities as she can. At the same time, she continues to reject perfection and instead remains conscious of balancing her drive for excellence with her favorite form of down time: walking her horse, Owen, around upper lake.

The advice she would give to her high-school self is the same as she offers to prospective students. “You’re not perfect, and that’s good,” she said. “We have to live as people and not as perfect women robots.”

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