What I Learned from College

I didn’t grow up like most people in high school. Not to say I didn’t grow up, I just never had my rebellion. I never dared to come into myself. First and foremost college allowed me to explore that. I have some fantastic memories from college; I met the woman I want to and will spend the rest of my life with week one, I partied in questionably outfitted homes and across the Atlantic. But I will remember the people I met and spent time with and did a bunch of stupid s**t more than all the rest of it. This is a bit of what I learned.

1) You are allowed to watch movies alone.

I spent a lot of time doing this, and a lot of time doing this Freshman year when everyone left to go out. I will admit it wasn’t particularly exciting, but I will say this: I did what I needed to do.

2) You should go out with the group.

I always thought it was really stupid, and many of the stories I have heard confirm that in some way. But what I have learned is that hearing the stories isn’t the same as living them. Isn’t the same of living amongst your peers. And you don’t have to do it their way either. Go, dance, watch drunk people (even just that is often worth it) and just live it. Don’t be too afraid to live (and please take reasonable precautions so you don’t get arrested, poisoned or otherwise put in harm’s way).

3) Choose Your Friends

Some people are assholes. And some people you just don’t click with. And that’s okay. The best part about life is that you are important and wonderful and you can choose to surround yourself with people you actually want to be around. And who actually care about you.

4) Fights Are Actually Healthy and Normal

Not fistfights. Please don’t get in a fistfight if you can avoid it. I mean arguments. You are your own person. Which means you are different from everyone else, including your most best friend in the whole world. And, sorry to break the news, you’re going to disagree. And that’s okay. The important part is to understand this and work through it. Real friends won’t leave you behind.

5) Your Perspective Isn’t the End-All-Be-All

I’m not saying you aren’t right. But the fact is, life is a lot more complicated than “this is this and that is that.” Even a statue looks differently from behind and who are you to tell the guy across from you his view is wrong? I’ll never be able to explain to everyone what this means, but the point is that everyone’s experience is legitimate and real. And you should treat it as such.

6) Sometimes Really, Really Shitty Things Happen

I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s just true.

7) Mental Illness is an Illness

And most people get something at some point (most commonly anxiety of depression). And that’s okay. Don’t treat people suffering as if they’re some kind of foreign creature. It’s just an illness. (I’ll point out that no one says “those (kind of) people” about persons suffering from colds, the flu or even chicken pox).

8) Degrees Get You in the Door

And that’s about it. I’m an English major. No one ever asks me about it. They ask for stories about who I am and how I deal with life and what experience I have that might be useful. If you’re in school you should remember that when you stay up until 4 a.m. studying for an exam instead of applying to jobs or something (sleeping? not gonna judge though, sleep is fickle).

9) You’ll Know When You Actually Break

And it’s a hell of a lot farther along than you might think.

10) Be Yourself and Let Others Be Them

Respect other people. And have the confidence to listen to yourself. Because I can just about guarantee you’re more right than anyone else.

11) Don’t Go into Debt

School loans, houses and cars are a whole separate thing. Don’t get into debt for everyday things. And if you do, pay it off. I feel like everyone’s heard it a million times before, but it is really just true. Finances are the easiest way to make a relationship tense, to stress you out and make you feel totally trapped. Be realistic about your abilities and understand.

12) Live Simple

You can have cool stuff. But I lived in a closet for a year in France, shared a mini-fridge with two other roommates and had a window opening the size of my fist (not exaggerating). And one of those roommates told me that he had gotten all his stuff down to the size of a single carload and how freeing it was. I’m gonna need a kitchen table, so that’s not gonna work for me, but it’s still good advice. It’s easier to be happy when all you need is a cup of tea, a bath, flowers, a book, whatever.

Life is complicated. And it sucks a lot sometimes. Actually sometimes it’s really awful. But what I learned from college is that actually, I think I can do this. No guarantee it won’t be rough. But in the end. Yeah. I think it’ll work. If nothing else I could be an English teacher.

I don’t know why this song, it just seems to echo how I feel.


In Defense Of Never Moving On

I’m reposting this for one sentence that I find beautiful and true. You can read the article if you want, but this is why I have decided to share it: “Stop being over and stop moving on. Instead, be here. With everything that brought you.”

In Defense Of Never Moving On.

Five Lessons

So I’ve only been in France four months. These are five things I’ve learned:

1) Just because I live on a mountain doesn’t mean your beach isn’t awesome. Meaning that just because I’ve taken the “high ground” (let’s just say that according to Wikipedia, “Due to a law dating from 1872, the French Republic prohibits performing census by making distinction between its citizens regarding their race or their beliefs.” Which sounds great, but kind of, you know, hides any possible racism you could cite with statistics) doesn’t make me necessarily better than you. We’re just different. That said, New Orleans floods.

2) Whatever intelligence is, I guarentee you can’t define it. In Cognitive psych we talked about how memory is exponentially cumulative (thank you schemas), so me and my intelligent self won’t get as much as someone who’s studied the subject more for no other reason than they have more experience in the area. Plus, take a test in a different language and you tell me about intelligence.

3) Food is magic. I can’t express to you the power of daily, fresh baguettes and soup. If God gave man soul Nyquil, food would be it. And the best part is, everyone has their own. And we all get to share it.

4) Music is magic. I would go crazy without music here. It’s a home. Like books, but even those are like a cramped little hut when you have to read them in French.

5) If you’re constipated you either: have not consumed enough water, have not been eating enough fruit/vegetables/whole grains, are stressed out and need to chill, or some combination of the three.

So basically, sit back and relax. Accept difference and embrace both it and your own quirks without considering one better than another. Eat good, whole food. And take time to listen, hydrate, eat and relax. ‘Cause too many people die on the toilet.

What my theatre class teaches me

Today in my “Oral Expression” class for French, we did a really interesting improvisation exercise. Basically, you were given three places to go on the stage and your fellow actor was given three without either of you knowing who was going where. You just started and boom.

But here’s the catch: You had to make it real. You couldn’t just walk across the stage or do a ping-pong blip-blip-blip and done. No. You had to make it REAL. And THAT was sweet because you end up creating a character, a story and a life for it. I had tons of fun with that little challenge. And didn’t do too badly, if I do say so myself.

But here’s where it gets deep and cool. Our professor, at the end of class, said that the exercise wasn’t just about learning how to act. He said, the things in the exercise that are true remain true for life. He said, here. You have three goals you want to accomplish. If you hop up and down, yell and scream, scramble and tussle, you’re not going to cross that stage convincingly. It’s just not going to happen. You have to be ready to move, yes, but you also have to let the moment come. Because it will. You just have to be ready for it. And stop wasting all this energy doing…nothing really.

What you need will come. You have to be ready for the opportunity to come so you can seize it and cross the stage. But no matter how you struggle, you’ll never be able to cross that stage convincingly until the right moment comes. And then it will be natural, beautiful and quite possibly steal the show.

One Thing I’ve Learned

One thing I’ve learned in life and in this study abroad is an idea I’ve thought a lot about. Joseph Conrad said, “We live as we dream, alone” but I don’t agree with that. I will say, however, that no one walks the same path.

But instead of being something bad, instead of taking that as some set of impossibilities, I’ve come to realize what it means. Each of us gets to choose who we are. Each of us is blessed with our own experiences, our own stories, our own smiles. Our very own smiles. Think about that. Isn’t it wonderful? Just my smile.

And yes, we meet people who we share the road with. Sometimes to share a meal, sometimes a particular turn, and sometimes the whole rest of the journey with. But even then, you cannot walk in the space someone else is occupying. Even then, your path is your own.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t smile and share it. And that. That is something worth walking for.

That Feeling You Get When You Learn Something Without Looking For It

So today was interesting. For a variety of reasons. First, I went to the market and paid 2 euro for like a full day/meals worth of food. Still can’t get over that, it’s just too awesome. Second, I watched/finished that show I have been rather obsessively viewing, baccano!. And strangely enough, I learned something. Something important.

You see, most people go through their hard-core self-discovery phase in high school. They rebel against ideals, ideas, rules, whatever. I should say that I’m really over-generalizing here. But that’s the stereotype and, to an extent, that’s very true. I didn’t really go through that. I mean, I did, but it wasn’t revolutionary. Not even close.

So here I find myself. Two years of college that have begun a search for what I really do believe. Who I am going to be, what I’m going to agree with. It’s gotten progressively stronger until I’ve been put into a place where I have questioned everything I can think of.

And that doesn’t really help you a lot with the whole “identity” thing. I mean, if you question the most core parts of your belief…it can be hard. Especially when every decision I make regarding what I want to do with my life has the potential to drastically affect the rest of my life, so what if I make a mistake? I mean, that’s the fear, isn’t it?

But I watched this show, which was awesome, and it answered my question. The question I’ve been asking this whole time, “what is most important?” Because if I know the answer to that question, I will know who I need to be. And that show, through some miracle, provided the answer. I will share it with you.

First: Be good. Be a good person. Be a “good-guy.”

Second: Be happy. Smile. Enjoy. That’s what life is all about.

Third: Protect the Good. Protect what is Good. In such cases it is okay to lay everything on the line for good people and for Good itself.

Fourth: Protect those weaker than you. Because who else is going to?