Growing up in Florida I was always outside swinging from trees and imagining and play acting one fantastical story after another. I never had very many friends but it never bothered me because I was always pretty happy and filled with the confidence that comes with childhood. Somewhere along the line -around the time we moved to the less temperate New Jersey-things changed, I changed from a gregarious little kid to a quiet bookworm. Thank goodness for the power of books, my love of reading has helped me so much throughout my life as it’s improved my writing, vocabulary and my ability to empathize with others.
On the flip side, my intense and almost feverish devotion to books seemed to stunt my social skills because it was easier (and more interesting) to disengage with the average, unexciting life/world/people around me and immerse myself in my latest book of choice. I was hungry for knowledge and excitement and the hundreds of books I read fulfilled (and in the long run, intensified) my yearnings. Through the stories and historical accounts I read I was able to travel fluidly throughout time, space, race, region, and social class. The magnetic pull of a good book that forces readers to feel as if they are living the experiences along with the characters became an intoxicating high.
I pulled away from the actual people around me because life in the pages of a book seemed much more exciting and interesting then my own life. While books taught me quite a bit and I wouldn’t trade my love of literature for anything, I do think that because I pushed people away during this difficult phase of adjustment, personal growth and change in my life, I did loose out on real life social experiences.
A few years ago, I was awkward. Heck, I still am but my social skills have improved in leaps and bounds in the past few years. My social progress has been thanks to a plethora of real-life encounters with all kinds of awesome and ridiculously wacked people all of whom have taught me a thing or two about myself, my place in the world, and how to regain some of the careless confidence I lost when my family made the big move. Since my first year of college some of the most important things I’ve learned are:
- I won’t crumble if people don’t like me – Lesson learned when I had to quit a job at a fast food joint after the difficult managers refused to work with my schedule.
- If I’m not sure what the hell I’m doing or if I’m totally uncomfortable in a particular situation, I can fake it ’till I make it – Lesson learned when I thought joining model UN, the debate team and then mock trial were all awesome ideas for my somewhat introverted self. My debate coach used to always say we should “fake it ’till you make it” but it wasn’t until after that first debate round that I realized I actually could fake it until I made it – that regardless of what happened, I would make it out okay.
- I’m stronger and more capable then I think I am & no matter what I do, hater’s gonna hate – Lesson first learned after struggling with and through a miserable depression when I first started college during which I lost my appetite and way too much weight, feeling like I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to get everything I needed to do done. Lesson reinforced when I moved on my own to Washington D.C. were I not only survived but thrived despite unsolicited warnings and again when I graduated with honors a few months later after years of hearing people tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t choose a particular career path because I wasn’t good enough or smart enough.
- People change, sometimes they change so much they’ll drift out of my life and it isn’t because we are bad friends or bad people, we’ve both just changed and that’s okay. – Lesson learned after one of my best friends and I began drifting apart, I had gotten a demanding job off campus and she became more involved on campus – in the end she and I became different people moving on from the role of best friends but we never had a terrible falling out, we’re still friendly whenever we run into each other but it isn’t like it was and that’s okay.
- Just because someone is older and in a different stage in life doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. – Lesson learned from my first internship where initially I felt so very awkward and out of place in a legal department full of people who were swapping stories about their kids and spouses. I felt I couldn’t relate at all and that my coworkers didn’t see me as an adult but as a kid so I didn’t even try to build relationships. It wasn’t until a new attorney joined the department that things at that job began changing. Even though I was much younger then this woman, she took the time to get to know me. She didn’t talk down to me but rather to me as a friend. She helped me to realize that I can and do have interesting things to say and that I shouldn’t be afraid to share my ideas or thoughts with anyone despite any age difference. Even after I left the company, she has even made an effort to stay in touch with me and I’m so grateful for her time and all the lessons she’s taught me throughout our friendship. Because of her I have been able to make coherent and much less-awkward small talk and even meaningful conversations with people much older (and younger) then myself.
- No one person other then myself holds my life and future in their hands – Lesson learned when I was a part of the Washington Center in D.C. I interned at 3 person an organization in which I was very unhappy (You wouldn’t believe some of the stories from this position!) I was confident enough in my self and my desires that I requested a change of placement and even though it was difficult and I encountered much resistance, I made it happen, found myself a better internship and switched resulting in a much better experience. This lesson was re-learned recently after months of struggling with my thesis and a less-than-helpful-or-enthusiastic-first-reader. My first reader does have power in the situation as she is the one in charge of my grade and ultimately, my ability to graduate from the graduate program I am enrolled in but it was only in the last few weeks that I realized that no matter what this professor says, does (or more accurately doesn’t do), during my last few months of graduate school, at the end of the day I will be okay. I am confident in my work and my ability to someday lead the kind of life I’ve been dreaming about these past few years. I will make my ideas for the future come true regardless of who or what might intimidate me or seem to stand in my way.
- Family is important and deserving of respect. – Lesson learned in the midst of depression. Despite my desire to be independent, in the past few years my parents have come threw for me in ways I couldn’t have imagined and once I opened up and stopped letting our differences keep us from a healthy relationship, we all learned to respect each other and each others beliefs (or lack thereof). I may not share many of their ideas myself but the fact that we have different opinions and are still able to respect each other’s ideas and not let it keep us from having a good relationship is huge.
- It’s okay to trust people and share my feelings and fears, I’m not alone in life. – Lesson learned time and time again through Evan who has hammered this into my head after years of selfless devotion, honest communication and genuine respect, understanding (or at least attempted understanding) and care for me.
Learning and actually internalizing these lessons hasn’t been easy. The people I had to interact with once I was forced to pull my nose out books helped me to understand and internalize real life lessons that I couldn’t have learned without experiencing them for myself. Books are awesome but there are limits to what they can teach and how much people are able to actually grasp and adopt without actually experiencing things for themselves. Who knew that the first step in overcoming my awkwardness and re-gaining my confidence was to look up from my books and welcome actual life experiences.
Taking the time to sit and think about life lessons I’ve learned thus far has helped me to appreciate and remember them and I’d encourage you to do the same. Have you learned any important life lessons? If you feel up to it, I’d love to hear from you, and learn from your life lessons in the comment section below. ☺️