About Last Weekend–We Live as We Learn

If you’re wondering why my post was so late last weekend, you’re about to find out why. But don’t worry, as promised I still got my blog to you all by Friday night. You’re too important to miss after all.

There’s been a whole lot of growth in my life within the last few years (at least I’d like to think so) and there’s this one concept that I’ve never quite been able to move past. Call it a personal need to be important to people or be of use to others, but it’s gotten in my way. A lot. Maybe you can relate.

You see, I have always felt the need to not only be just a friend to someone or just a support system but anything they need. No matter what someone is looking for or needs from this world, I have always wanted to be the girl for the job; I am constantly compelled to be their person with all the answers or solutions, even if the role is a few shoe sizes too big that I just can’t fill.

That want, that constant need to be what other people need, it comes with a lot of problems, you know? Problems and unhealthy standards.

Because, no matter how hard I might try, I can’t be everything someone else needs, I’m just not built that way. None of us are. And something about the last weekend of my life truly made me see that.

Last weekend, I officially became a new member of Cal Poly’s WOW Team at our yearly Team retreat. Even though it was raining half the time and none of us had any idea what we were going to be doing, I think it was the epitome of learn by doing and trusting the process. Because days like those, through the beauty and the pain or the growth and the fun, remind me of what college does for us. It lets understand just a little bit more about the world and ourselves along the way.

Imagine this: 40 Cal Poly students, hand picked through several interviews and observationals, to be a part of orientation Team. Then put us all together for one weekend of bonding, early mornings, friendly competition, photos, and late night talks. Something about it, somehow we all just clicked together faster than I thought possible.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

And in the process, every person I met opened my eyes to something I haven’t fully grasped before.

Throughout college, for all my life really, I’ve switched from group to group or team to team, just trying to find a place to settle down. Maybe sometimes we find that place, and we stop for a while, enjoying what it means to be okay with where you’re at before things change and it’s time to readjust to reality again. College has been much of the same sequence of events for me, just on a much faster pace than it ever has before.

Since you’ve been on this blog with me for three years, I guess maybe you’ve realized how many things I’ve become a part of at this school—yet, no matter what I get into, I always find something new to jump into next. Because nothing I have found has felt like a safe place to land, to stay for awhile and get comfortable. Sure, I might catch a glimpse of what that looks like for me in this friend, or that roommate, or this one club, but it’s never stuck. That is, until that group found a way to stick to me instead.

That thing about WOW Team, we don’t really pick them. Somehow, they pick us.

Last weekend, I met a whole lot of new people and somehow learned almost all their names in two days. It might sound strange, but I now hold an oddly large amount of affection for people I’ve only known for a week. Maybe because with them, I felt more like I could be enough as I am. Not because they told me that, but simply because I feel that way about every one of them realized that maybe it applies to me too.

Some of them are incredibly funny and can lift any mood going through the room. Others are impossibly kind or open-hearted in a way that makes you feel loved, even by a stranger. And then almost everyone is beautifully intelligent, insightful in a way that makes you feel seen, or heard, understood as you are with no expectations of anything less or more.

Photo by Ryan Riggins on Unsplash

They were all little bits of what I look for in my own people, yet not a single one of them could be everything I want in a person. Even surrounded by people who earned their opportunity to be there, just like I did, it took me a minute to realize this. Because while surrounded by so many wonderful people all on that retreat for the same reason, I came to accept that maybe that’s okay.

There are only so many pieces of who I am, all these little bits of my personality or my being that can’t fill the gaps other people need filled. Even as I grow, developing into a more rounded and hopefully insightful person than I’ve ever been, I realize that while I can be a whole lot for certain people, there are some things I simply am not for others. And I’m beginning to be okay with it.

Because at some point, I think somewhere in this life I’m making for myself, I’m picking up people who can fill those holes or those gaps for me along the way.

For now, with my eyes open and ready to learn more as I go, I’m fine just the way I am. This is your reminder that so are you.

How to Start Something You Don’t Feel Ready For

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Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

Without hesitation.

There’s really no other way to do it. When you go into something doubting your own capabilities, what you want, what might happen… You have to jump in head first. 

That’s what WOW was for me this year.

I’ll be honest, the summer was rough with two summer classes I willingly signed myself up for and a whole lot of work hours, among so much else. There was some fun in there, I promise, just not quite what I wanted to do with myself this summer. And as always, when the days rolled around to when I needed to be heading back here to SLO, I wasn’t ready.

I never am, I hate leaving home— especially because it always means I’m coming back here.

That sounds bad, doesn’t it? Well, I used to mean it.

But I don’t anymore.

You see, the way I started this year was completely different than any other. Part of the issue I’ve had at this school was finding a place to settle down into, whether it’s my major or especially my people; it’s been difficult to say the least. But I committed to WOW last year with the hope that I could find my own space in it and not “settle in” to the year, but throw myself in— there was only one way to do it.

Somehow, when you’re starting something that you don’t know if you can handle, there’s no room for hesitation. There’s plenty of space for stress, doubt, worry, hoping, finger crossing, and trying. But not an inch for hesitation.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

If I had hesitated on day 1, I wouldn’t have done WOW at all. And I wouldn’t have realized that being a minority of this campus can be hard; being a minority at a PWI with a family of minorities by your side since day 1 could also be the #1 thing that stops you from feeling like you don’t belong.

CCE is that family.

There are a few things that happened last week that made me question our collective value at this school— when all the CCE students of color get sent to the back of the building just so we can then be told a pre-scheduled event can’t happen for us, it seems a little off. And when a pre-scheduled bowling night somehow gets double booked and all 300+ of us are told to find something else to do, “a little off” is an understatement.

Or at WOW-a-rama, the event where all the WOWies basically meet each other and run around and play icebreakers as a collective whole— ask one of my CCE leaders and her kids what it was like to run through a tunnel of excited and hyped up WOW leaders, only to be called racial slurs by a transfer WOWie.

These things made me question why they would put all the students of color in groups like CCE for Week of Welcome— so they could be subjected to racism and disrespect as a group? Then I thought back to day 1, a day that was never awkward and had my group crying or supporting one another like a family from the very beginning, opening up a sharing personal things because they were comfortable on day 1.

Tell my why these kids were so happy to be a part of CCE, despite the people asking why all the “colored kids” are sitting together. Because at least before classes started and they’d then be surrounded by people who didn’t look or feel or hold a perspective like them, they would still have a foundation of family to come back to whenever they needed us.

There’s nothing wrong with white students– it’s almost like white people are being attacked or prejudiced now for simply being white and that is absolutely wrong; I am not holding anything against them. But there’s also nothing wrong with giving the minority students a safe space they know they can fall back into when they need it.

If there is anything this last week held, it was the opportunity for a home in CCE for all of the first years who were part of the program this year, and I am grateful to have been able to help give them that. College is hard after all; it’s the kind of thing 18 year olds are expected to jump into while figuring the rest of their lives out in four years along the way. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Only if it’s done right.

This goes for anything— if you’re headed into a new job, sending the last kids off to college, deciding when/where to retire, questioning new relationships, or building back old ones, don’t hesitate.

Raise your questions if you must, tackle that doubt any way you can. Take your time and let the good or the bad things come, but don’t hold yourself back. Never hold yourself back.

Dive in head first, do not hesitate. And be ready for whatever comes next.

A Lesson Before Leaving

Maybe it’s just the way time passes, but 11 weeks later, and I’m headed back home again. My finals for this quarter finished up on Tuesday and I am officially 2/3 the way through my freshman year.

And they say time flies.

This quarter has been quite a hard one for a lot of us here, especially without the week break we had for Thanksgiving last quarter. It seemed almost as if once we started, there was no stopping until it was over. Though I’ve learned a lot from my classes this quarter, I mean that is the goal isn’t it, I think I’ve learned the most from what was happening outside of them.

What is the most important idea I came across this quarter? Well, it is simply that plans change.

I came into college with certain expectations of what it would be like, until first quarter came around to adjust them a little bit. From there, I entered second quarter with high hopes but somewhat low expectations for these 11 weeks– after all, I would much rather a pleasant surprise than disappointment.

Then we got to week 4, midterms week, as I looked at my friend who was suffering through Chem with me, and our expectations sank a little lower. That’s when we both knew we were both switching out of our majors.

That’s when I knew that things were changing.

Keeping in touch with friends from home, it seems to me that many of our paths have changed a few times since we all graduated together. Some of us are switching majors, some of are switching schools, others are going into the military and of course, some paths are yet to be paved. Even so, with all the deviations and decisions we are finding ourselves coming up against, we are all still moving forward towards the futures we are no longer so sure about.

In the words of late actress and author Gilda Radner, “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Maybe it has come from years of reading books or watching movies where everything seemed so cut and dry; there was a beginning, a middle, and an end, maybe some conflict throughout with a sound resolution before it was all over. I used to think that if I set my mind to something then nothing could derail my future.

Funny thing is, the one “derailing ” my future is me. Except now I don’t see it as such a bad thing, I should have known the 10 year plan I made in Econ last year would change a little bit.

As much as we search for success and a sufficient job to build a life with in the future, this is the time when we are supposed to figure it all out, to wrap out heads around what it means to grow up.

Sometimes it seems as of the world around us keeps whispering to choose a path, find a route, and follow it. But maybe it’s not so simple. There are complications, diversions, new explorstions…

There are changes.

Not only have I experienced that this quarter, at this point I have found myself accepting it. For that is what this age is about, we’re not supposed to have it all figured out or know exactly how we are supposed to get there. At this point, as long as we know that there is something more we want out of this life, the next step is really just to take one.

Then take another.

Because before you know it, you’ve caught up to that 10 year plan and it’s not a plan anymore. It’s a reality.

Question is, is it a reality that changed for the better, or one that never changed at all?