It never fails to amaze me just how much I can change over the course of a semester at school. And I’ve come to find that it’s not necessarily the stuff I spend eight hours reading in a textbook that ends up sticking with me, because it’s usually (ahem, pretty much always) not. As cliché as it sounds, it’s usually other little things that I pick up on during the course of the semester that get me closer to where I want to go and who I want to be, and they’re typically not things that the authors of my mistake-filled biochem book are trying to get me to understand.
This summer, I’ve put as much distance between myself and a textbook or anything remotely resembling schoolwork or reminding me of what’s coming in three weeks as I could. And yet, I’ve found myself slowly but surely learning and growing, and maybe not so much changing who I am, but instead changing my perspective on things. A few of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few weeks…
1. Don’t judge a book by its cover: People are surprising. Like, unbelievably surprising, and I suppose that’s what makes us so awesome. I’ve spent a lot of my life growing up being too shy to really talk to people, worrying that they may dislike me if I opened my mouth and said what I wanted to say. So naturally, I kept my mouth shut 90% of the time, thinking about all of the witty contributions that I desperately wanted to make to the conversations I listened in on. These days, though, I don’t really hold back so much. Instead, I do the exact opposite and actually initiate the conversation now. I’ve learned some pretty cool things about the kids I work with as a result of this brilliant strategy of mine, and that we actually have a lot more in common than I would have ever imagined if I had sat back on the sidelines and not opened my mouth at all. I mean, one guy asked me the other day if I bake with almond flour. Um, hello? How many teenage boys do you know who know what the heck almond flour is? Seriously. I was speechless (and kind of impressed). Another kid and I both dream of heading West and moving to Colorado someday. And a lot of my coworkers are so well traveled, and way more than me, a girl whose dad is a pilot, for crying out loud! Anyway, my point is, I’ve learned that talking to people isn’t really that scary. If you’re genuinely curious about somebody, open your mouth already! Worst-case scenario: you’ll end up with new friends of all different backgrounds and interests.
2. Where you live doesn’t define you: This is one of my favorites. During the past three years of my college career at Fontbonne, I would find myself counting down the days until the weekend when I could escape from my dorm and go home. Then as I’d make the long trek home I’d beat myself up over the “fact” that I was a baby and couldn’t stay at school for two weeks straight. But this summer I’ve finally decided to own up to the fact that I like small towns and that I’m not a city person like I thought when I was a naïve little freshman a few years ago. And you know what? THAT’S TOTALLY OKAY. Going home every weekend doesn’t mean I’m lame or boring or a baby or whatever, it just means that I’m doing what makes me happy. And living in a small town, or being from one, for that matter, doesn’t make you less interesting, educated, or fun to be around. So does this mean I’m celebrating the fact that I have Fridays off this semester because it means one more day here each week? You had better believe it does!
3. Don’t be afraid to be yourself: Because in addition to being really interesting, people tend to be a lot nicer and accepting than you think. (See Lesson #1.)
4. Do what you love and what makes you happy, and everything else will fall into place: My, the beginning of the summer, when I was super pale and super stressed about my future, seems like eons ago! And news flash, I’m still not totally for sure what I’m going to do with my life. But I know I like chemistry and I’m good at it, and I’m really interested in organic agriculture. Do I have a plan for what my career is going to be? Not exactly. But am I on the verge of being sick over it? Not anymore. I’ve come to embrace the unknown and the fact that it gives me total freedom to shape my future into what I want it to be. The only thing I know for sure at this point is that after I graduate from Fontbonne, I’m going to transfer to another university to complete my second undergrad in chemistry. In fact, tomorrow I’m going on a college road trip of sorts to meet with professors from the chemistry and ag programs at Truman (my first time on their campus). I’m stoked to see what comes of it all.
5. Don’t be so uptight: Enough said.
“Holding On” by Classixx