Lessons Learned Part 3: look forward

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Figuring out who you are is hard work.

I’ve always thought that I would “arrive” at some point. Where? At adulthood. At happiness. At completeness.

It has turned out that life is less about waiting for any of these things, and more about fighting for them in the present.

Finding out who you are seems to be just as challenging as wrestling an angry water buffalo in a large, muddy puddle. In my own experience, it has required:
– failure
– embarrassment
– pondering the worst parts of my character and my past

University has provided ample opportunity for all of the above, because it has pushed me academically, tested the strength of my will, and stressed my emotions.

Yet, every challenge has been an opportunity to grow: into adulthood, into happiness, into completeness.

Here’s a reminder for you and for myself. When discouragement begins to weigh heavily in the midst of struggles, don’t dwell in the past.

Look forward.

Fin.

End note:

I was hasty in writing that “Lessons Learned” would last “a week or so.” Although I had every intention of writing it in that span of time, I had a lot more to write about than I thought I would, and it took a lot more out of me than I anticipated. In spite of my tardiness, thanks for sticking around.

And I still want to know. What lessons have you learned this semester/year/day?

Hope you’re having a swell break.

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Lessons Learned Part 2: relationships of convenience

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Relationships of convenience: shallow friendships that come out of seeing someone around often; the type of friendship you would never inconvenience yourself to maintain.

I have a theory. The major difference between relationships in high school and university is the number of “relationships of convenience” that we keep. In high school, we spend lots of time with the same people. The result is an accumulation of lots of “friends” who aren’t really our  friends (let’s be honest). In university, circumstances change. There is less class, we might be commuting to school, and people are generally busier with life. It’s harder to see people regularly, so we end up with fewer and deeper friendships.
It’s tough to overcome the transition. A lot of people (myself included) have found themselves facing the brick wall of loneliness in the first few months of school. Since I transferred to Glendon from Keele this year, I found myself starting from the ground up once more, as I was finding my place in a new school community.
Finding friends in unfamiliar situations is a daunting task, but it is conquerable!

I’ve learned that I need to be intentional. Relationships die when they’re neglected, but flourish when we take risks, give our time to others, and put our hearts on the line. It can be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it.

I thought some of my closest friends might have something useful to say on the subject of relationships and intentionality, so I asked them what they’ve learned about relationships in their second year of university.

“Time just flies by and university can be really overwhelming. It’s really easy to shove making friends by the wayside, so it’s important to make time for socializing the same way you would for going to the gym and finishing your readings.”

“If you want friends or acquaintances in university, you can’t be afraid of being judged or always think about what other people think about you. Don’t be afraid to initiate contact with people!”

“What’s useful is thinking more about the other person as opposed to you. ‘I’d really like to talk to them,’ instead of ‘what are they going to think of me?’” 

What are your thoughts on friendships and relationships?

Lessons Learned Part 1: free to fail

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For the longest time, I have been afraid of failure.

I wasn’t cognizant of this until November, when I realized how much of a hold fear had on me. I handed in what I knew was an awful essay. I think a normal person would have resolved to “do better next time” and moved on, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I kept imagining my T.A. reading the essay and reviling me for being stupid; I couldn’t resist berating myself for being so lazy with my work; I was slavishly considering whether I should rewrite the darn thing and suffer a late penalty.
On top of all this, for the entire week leading up to the deadline, I was filled with dread, knowing that I was bound to do an awful job. I was constantly asking other people if I could finish it, looking for assurances.
All the while I was thinking, why is this such a big deal?
It was a big deal because the stakes were high. Somewhere along the line, I started believing the lie that who I am is what I accomplish. This fear was the product of my “fake self” fighting for its survival. For it to live, I needed to avoid failure at all costs so that the lie its existence was founded upon could be preserved.
But it happened anyways. I failed.
I handed in an essay that was totally sub-standard, and so I braced myself for all the unpleasant consequences that were sure to follow. After all, my incompetence was now confirmed. This was it! It was only a matter of time before I would start failing in every other course, my parents would disown me, and the principal of the school would crown me with a dunce cap and kick me out of Glendon.
Right? …right?
Obviously none of these things happened. Failure had quite a few pleasant effects, specifically, it dispelled the irrational beliefs that I had been carrying like burdens.
My “fake self” suffered a fatal blow and I realized that it was not me.
I met failure, and now failure is becoming a friend.
How do you think about failure? Do you hate it or love it? What have you learned from failure in the past?

It is finished. (Boo-yah!)

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She emerged from the room, hair bedraggled, nails long and yellow, coffee stains on her dress. “Who on earth are you?!” they shrieked. She turned her head and hissed “Essstherr afterrr exam weeek!”
(a typical scene following past exam periods; specifically those of spring 2007, winter 2008 & 2010)
As you might guess, exam periods have hit me pretty hard in the past. In first year, especially, I was incredibly nervous about all of my examinations because I fell behind in my readings at the very beginning of the year.
This year I lucked out because exams weren’t bad at all. I only had one panic attack (sort of), I slept for 8 hours every night (there’s no point in cramming late at night for my brain, anyways), and I think that I did pretty well on most of them. The overall lack of misery this year was probably due to the fact that I actually kept up in most of my courses throughoutthe semester, so by the time exams rolled around, I was actually ready to be tested (Hah! Take that, procrastination!).
It’s hard to believe that a semester of my new school life at Glendon has already passed because it’s so easy to let time go by without realizing it. From time to time though, I have this hankering to uncover what time has taught me. Otherwise, I feel like I’m letting all of my experiences go to waste. Life has a funny way of repeating itself, and I don’t want to have to learn the same hard lesson twice (e.g. worrying is pointless, procrastinating = pain in the long run, dairy does not cooperate with my digestive system). It’s actually the same kind of principle I apply to school: prepare yourself now so that you’ll stand when you’re tested later.
Seeing as the semester is over, I’ve decided to release 3 mini-posts about the “life lessons” that I’ve learned. I’ll be posting one every few days for the next week or so. My hope is that you’ll start to think about what it is that you’ve been learning in your own journey.
By the way, I’d really love to learn from your experiences, so feel free to share them with me as the series unfolds.
Thanks for reading,
Esther