10 Things I learned outside of school (but much more helpful anyway) – 1

As I leave the world of Academia, I can’t absolutely say that I enjoyed convincing myself that this particular 5-hr energy drink wasn’t burning a hole through my gastric lining. However, I can say that I learned the most from being mindful of my experiences.  Some were stereotypically life-changing, some not.  Regardless, I didn’t just learn these experiences from “experiencing” them.

Let’s face it:  You can climb every mountain and only realize that there is no Maria and/or 7 children wandering around the Switzerland Alps (true story).   Nope, I made mistakes, slept with the wrong guys, got stranded in strange cities and, in the process, got to reexamine who I was with a little insight and openness.  Here’s what I came up with:

10.  Dating all the wrong people.

When I mean all the wrong people, I don’t mean just some guy on the subway, house party, or street.  Nope, I mean the guys who just use, abuse, and keep making you want more.  As I said earlier, I learned from my mistakes.  And boy, were there a lot.  Ranging from my first boyfriend to some random encounter, there’s always that uncomfortable feeling.  You know it, that sinking feeling that you want to deny but at the end of the day, you know that his/her feelings are not reciprocal.  And then there’s that other feeling that makes you doubt yourself.  And then it just becomes a vicious cycle of doubt, confusion, dread, and pitiful hope.

However, as painful as the process was, I sure as hell learned a lot.  If anything, it’s taught me a few very basic dating rules.  One, if someone wants to be with you, you’ll know, they’ll make it very apparent.  Two, if s/he doesn’t want to be with you, s/he probably don’t deserve you and/or it probably the whole thing just wasn’t meant to be.  Three, stop fretting: if you have to fret, chances are you’re not in a healthy situation and your gut is telling you to stop.

9.   Feeling completely inadequate during a new job.

There’s a great period in everyone’s life when you’re straight out of school and you realize you’re a complete idiot.  As a newbie, you just can’t remember the routines and cannot, for the life of you, take a minute to gather yourself.  Truth be told, this is where I’m at, so my knowledge of this topic is fairly new.  However, from what I’ve gathered, this is absolutely natural and nothing to freak out about.  Mistakes are okay the first time around, just make an effort and take criticism as an opportunity to grow.  Even though the whole recession thing KIND OF makes it difficult to keep level-headed, just remember that there’s no point in being a headless chicken.  Unless you’re delicious and in my tummy.

8.  Completely defied my parents and did Americorps before graduate school.

Now when I say defied my parents, this is actually a big deal.  I’m an immigrant and to say no to your immigrant parents isn’t some nice conversation on a couch with hugs and tears at the end.  No, it’s normally a lot of confusion, screams in your parents’ native tongue, and possible chance of being disowned for 1+ months.  Although my situation wasn’t as extreme, it was awfully difficult to tell my parents I deferred my grad school and decided to take a gap year.  In New York City.  In the projects.  Teaching underprivileged children and possibly getting murdered in the process.  However, what I gained wasn’t just the ability to be independent but to truly work and open my eyes to another world.

Coming from an artsy-fartsy hippie liberal arts college, I always knew I had strong views and personal beliefs but I never really did get to digest it all and step out of my comfort level.  Americorps did exactly that (as well as made me very poor in the process).  Not only was I absolutely confirmed about my beliefs but also realized the similarities and differences between myself and the children I worked with.  I gained the ability to understand that not everyone lives the same life as you.  In fact, not everyone has the same opportunities, access, or privileges as you.  With that, you can decide what that means but the true moral of this story is this:  If you have to defy a bit to allow yourself to grow, do it.  You won’t regret it.

7.  Small talk.

Although I consider myself an extrovert, small talk was actually always difficult for me.  I would always gasp in awe as my mother could talk to the cashier as she was buying an orange and in minutes we’d be invited to that lady’s son’s wedding.  Oh, and get a 20% discount on that orange as well.  It wasn’t until I started riding the subway in NYC that I developed the ability to small talk with strangers.   It was awkward at first, but then I came to realize that the core beauty about being human is the ability to connect with one another.  Even the fact that some of my interactions were merely minutes, the sheer action of discussing different views, aspirations, and fears reminds me of why I believe what I believe and why I have chosen the career that I have chosen.  Even though the city can get pretty lonely, it’s the random conversations with the elderly gentleman about his wife’s casserole that reminds me we’re all still very connected with one another.

6.  Being in good relationship(s).

Single people don’t be alarmed.  When say “a good relationship” this means a healthy foundation with your family, friends, and as well as a significant other.  In fact, even though I’m in a very healthy relationship with a member of the male species at the time, it’s the friends/family/support network that you have with everyone else that makes that specific relationship work.  I remember when I was absolutely miserable with my ex due to the fact I not only had no other friends during my frosh year of undergrad but I also just didn’t know how to deal with disagreements, disappointments, and misunderstandings.

Instead, I yelled, manipulated, and fought with my ex to the point where I dreaded even interacting with him.  It wasn’t until I broke up with him, found my family away from home, and started to find people who I could trust and just be open with, that I found me, myself, and I.  Even though I always say every man I ever dated lead me to my boyfriend today, the very same could be said about every one of my best friends.  That support network not only provided me a safe sanctuary but also people who unconditionally loved me but also challenged me to grow.  Single girls:  Love your girlfriends/guy friends for they’ll help you become who you’re supposed to be when you meet the love of your life.

Still interested?  Part two coming up soon!

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