It’s easy to get caught up in the expectations of the technology-driven world we live in today. It’s easy to connect with others solely through social media and to soak up unrealistic, internet-fueled beauty expectations — disconnecting from the real world around us and forgetting what truly matters. Penn State senior Christina Valentino is a breath of fresh air in the midst of a generation wrapped up in everything we’re posting.
“Life has become this manufactured, societal concept, and it just doesn’t have to be that way,” says Christina. “Life is so much more pure and alive when you’re disconnected — people are so out of touch with genuine relationships [that] they forget what they could have.”
Valentino’s take on beauty, health and her life experiences as a whole has always been unconventional.
Growing up, Christina realized early on that the ruled and regulated life that she lived while attending Catholic school simply wouldn’t allow her to live the life that she wanted to create for herself. So soon after, she began homeschooling and excelled in her studies, starting high school at 13 and moving on to start college courses at only 15 years old.
At 15, as she began to work toward a degree in psychology, Valentino set off on her first trip to Costa Rica, where she first adopted her guiding mantra, “pura vida.”
“Something I live by is ‘pura vida,’ which is the Costa Rican country motto of pure life,” says Valentino. “I guess I really try to embody that in every aspect of my life. From the mental standpoint — thinking pure and positive, and in my physical health — from the products that I use to eat clean.”
Throughout her life, Valentino has had three serious concussions — one occurring right before her trip to Costa Rica. It was a mix of the inspiration she was able to draw from her new way of living in Costa Rica and how her life was affected by these concussions that drove her to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
“The concussions were such serious setbacks that I didn’t even feel like myself afterwards. I felt like a different person — like I lost a bit of myself,” she says. “I’ve always been on a deeper journey of trying to find and explore myself. When that happened, who I thought I was got wiped out and I’ve had to start over — to get to know myself again and build myself from the ground up.”
Mental and spiritual health are everything to Christina now. She believes that it’s not outward appearance that makes someone beautiful, but that real beauty grows from being aware of your physical and mental health. She says that once you can learn to make time for your own well-being, that you’ll radiate beauty from the inside out.
“I think that I was really dim for a while — my inner health was super weak,” says Christina. “I was able to strengthen that and grow a lot focusing on internal changes and what I had to do to become the person that I wanted to be.”
The majority of her personal growth actually stemmed from all of the challenges that came along with learning how to better understand herself. She is a firm believer in the importance of getting to know yourself, and in her own experience, journaling was one way she was able to check in with herself in the most authentic way possible.
“Anytime I feel lost or confused or am struggling with something, I write about it. Journaling has been one of the most important aspects of my life,” says Valentino. “Not only does it give you an opportunity to see how much you’ve grown, but you can check back in with yourself to times when you’ve questioned and doubted the same things. No one knows you like yourself, and if you can learn to share things with yourself, that’s when you can start building a relationship with yourself.”
With associate degrees in psychology and communications already under her belt, Christina is now working toward her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism. This semester she has an internship with ESPNU Campus Connection, where she reports at Penn State sporting events around University Park.
An utterly spontaneous, wide-open book, Christina is actively pursuing a future that will allow her to be the most authentic, true version of herself while always remembering to stop and appreciate the little things in life.
“I realized that you never have to stop playing. Once you stop playing and stop being a child at heart is when you start hardening — life doesn’t become as exciting. I’ve learned to appreciate even the smallest and most insignificant things because that’s where the beauty is in life,” says Christina. “Life’s not short — it’s the longest thing you’re ever going to do.”