Lessons Learned: As my undergraduate experience comes to a close I find myself reflecting on the past four years at my university. It has hit me in the past few days that in less than three weeks all of this will be finished and I will be starting to make my next move into the world. Over the years, I have learned a plethora of lessons surrounding life, thought, social justice, community, people, and the greater world. Many of these lessons have inspired me to have this unyielding sense of urgency to do more during and after my college experience. The following is not a complete list and that is why I think there will be two parts to this post, yet here are some major lessons that have stuck with me the most throughout this time in my life.
10. Do not take yourself too seriously
On many occasions I found myself being a bit too serious for the situation. I think it may come from always learning to have a wall or two up when I approach a new experience. Sometimes it comes off as cold and intimidating and it took some time to learn that if I know what I am doing and I understand my audience a bit better, I may not be so stiff. I learned to have fun in many cases with presentations, speeches, work functions, and friendly meetings. I become much more approachable, engaging, and real. Being your real self in as many situations as possible is really the best way to go. You can still have your guard up, yet it does not have to be in such a visible way.
9. Speak loudly for the people in the back
When I have something to say, I want it to be heard. I tend to have a much more calming and reflective tone when I speak, which many times resulted in my point not being heard both physically and conceptually. Learning to own what I say and being confident when saying it allows for people who may be tuned out or for people who really need to hear what I am saying to finally be able to hear me. I project and emphasized with confidence. When speaking of issues in social justice it is especially important to speak out and make sure you are being heard both physically and conceptually as well.
8. Listen to understand, not to respond
I think when I was a freshman this was the best lesson I learned. When listening to people, I always wanted to shoot back with a point, shared experience, or just something to add to what was already said. It was not the most productive way of communicating. I found through more conversation and from different reflections that the more and more I listen to others without responding, the more meaningful the conversation became. I understood more as one continued to explain, rather than me cutting them off at the end of sentence to fit in my own viewpoint. Taking the time to understand another is important and sometimes listening is the best way to participate in the interaction.
7. Speak with passion, not a script
Being genuine is the best way to show your true self in any situation. Speaking with passion and not rehearsing what you want to say goes along with this notion of speaking from what you just think in the moment. The hardest example I can think of is when interviewing: when you are practicing what you want to say you may end up stumbling over words or draw a blank because you only planned on saying that one thing you practiced. If you approach a situation with mental ease and a free mind then your experiences will come off much more put together and ultimately serve for better conversation and connection.
6. Make a few strong connections, rather than many surface connections
I have always said that I value have a few strong friendships rather than just many acquaintances. Yes, it is very important to meet as many people as possible to build a network for the future and so on, yet there is only a few people that really are meant to be in your life for the long run. This is sometimes a really amazing lesson and also a really hard lesson to learn. Some people who you thought were going to be in your life for a long time turn out to not be as so. Take time to get to know someone and really cherish the connection you make because those are the people who you will turn to throughout the rest of your life.
5. Do not be afraid to let go of toxic people
Going along with my last lesson, some people are just not going to help you be a better person or make your life whole, in fact they bring you down and cause a lot of obtrusive stress. To put it simply, if they are not helping you, making you happy, or aligning with your own personal values, then you need to let them go.
4. Take some time for yourself
College is a time for a lot of self exploration, you are on your own for the first time you are in charge of you. It can be very eye opening when you set off to just do you for a change, and it is important to acknowledge who you are and who you want to be. Try different things, explore the world a bit, and be introspective as to who you are. I think the best part of being in college was my ability to dig deep in myself in moments of intense stress or elated joy to really figure out who I am and where I want to go. Know the self, you may not learn everything yet, but you will be in better spot as you continue through life if you start to get to know yourself now.
3. Have an open mind, yet understand where you draw your hard lines for acceptance
Open minds allow for a mix of thoughts, ideas, and opinions to enter into your head and heart. Understanding your own views is helpful when listening to others so you can decide if you agree, disagree or lie somewhere in between. It does not have to be an agree or disagree scenario either. You may be interpreting a piece of art or experiencing a new culture. Know that you have control of what you think and know when you may have had too much. Knowing when you draw the line as far as how much pressure or resistance you can manage. It allows you to keep a healthy mind and not to close yourself off to future experiences.
2. Know that where and who you are in the moment is a beautiful thing and that great things are yet to come
I learned that who I am in this moment is enough and where I am in life is an amazing gift. Being humble and learning humility is something I have always been conscious of and also understanding that everyone is on a different track. Mine is unique, and knowing that there is some much to look forward to even after college is exciting and maybe even a bit daunting, yet it is happening for a reason and it is going to be quite the adventure.
1. Know and believe in yourself, you have control mind, spirit and body
Believe, my mom just had to say this one word for me to instantly know I needed to readjust my thinking to be more positive and forward thinking. I know how to believe in myself because of her and I know that I can do this mentally, physically, and spiritually too. The only person who will ever hold you back is yourself, so create no limits and have full knowledge that you know what is best for you and that you have the strength to see it through.
I cannot believe I will be off to new places in a few weeks. I will have more reflections on college, post-college, and other experiences along the way. The Wandering House will be hopping over to Israel in a matter of weeks, and I cannot wait to share more experiences from there. I am also continuing my Peace Corps journey, and will have more updates to come soon.