One of the most significant goals I made for myself about a year ago as I was anticipating the start of my college experience was to do my best to learn from every moment of my life. The learning we do in college is so much more than the fifteen hours we spend looking at the back of someone’s head scrambling to take notes (or stay awake) a week in class. We learn practical things, we learn how to work with people, how to manage our time. We learn about roommates, boyfriends, best friends, advisors, really crappy food, and how hard work feels. We learn about independence and family, about people and how complicated relationships of every kind are, we learn how to cope, the fastest routes to class when we sleep through our alarm clocks, what we want for ourselves in the future and what we’re willing to get there. More than anything, I think it’s a time to learn about ourselves. That being said, I applied this moment-to-moment learning more than every during my Spain trip. And after a complicated week back home, this is what I think I learned more than Spanish idiomatic expressions, how to navigate the metro system, where the best café con leche in Valencia is, and the history of the Spanish royal family.
For most of my life I’ve had some pretty sturdy notions of who I am and what I believe. More than that, I definitely had a strong sense of what kind of person I was. I knew that I wasn’t the kind of person who would do certain things, think certain things, or appear a certain way. I wasn’t the kind of person who would do anything with a significant risk attached, be seen in less than an ideal light if it were up to me, and got into trouble. I wasn’t the kind of girl who cursed in front of her parents, didn’t tell boys how she really felt about them, and always placed her napkin in her lap. I wasn’t the kind of girl who had much fun. I was the kind of girl who considered herself boring but was content to be that way if it meant I could feel safe at all times, above all else. And while that was fine and dandy, I’ve realized that I protected myself by grouping myself into these categories. They weren’t all necessarily bad things though. I still place my napkin in my lap, can’t muster up the courage to be honest, and consider who’s around me before letting a bad word slip. It was how I defined myself by them though, by labels and words. And I followed the rules the categories set for me, not because they were who I was but because it gave me an excuse to never risk anything. It gave me a way to avoid taking risks when a new experiences came along that made me even the slightest bit anxious. After all, I wasn’t this kind of person or that kind of person, falling into whatever category made things simple and easy. I contently justified my desire to be careful and guarded. I recognize that I don’t really know what kind of person I am nor do I want to fall into categories that serve no real purpose but to keep me from experiencing life, so I might as well give really living a shot and accept every moment as an opportunity to learn about myself so that maybe in the future I won’t know what kind of person I am, but who I am at the core, with certainty and confidence. And hopefully I’ll be able to look back at this girl right now, full of doubt and uncertainty, with compassion and love.
I hope she’s proud of me.