Campus doesn’t actually look like this anymore. Today, in the surprise 70 degree weather, the only white was the glimmer of my legs relishing the vitamin D they have been denied for so many months (even more this year since winter decided to stick around until the last week of April). Earlier this week (at the height of the snowfall) I was annoyed that Minnesota insisted on keeping my world white and wet. Each time I put away my coat and boots, I’d wake up the next morning and find myself ankle-deep in snow.
But Tuesday morning was different. There was snow everywhere, but the world was quiet, the sun was warm, and the air smelled of slightly burnt cookies. I am unbelievably excited about my new life that will start in a few months, but I will miss this place. This place I’ve called my home for so long. It has shaped me, broken me, fixed me, changed me in so many ways. Many of which I am probably not even aware of yet.
One thing I realized this term, what I’ve finally learned, is that I need to be less apologetic for being who I am. No more kicking myself for not being able to sing and write better, for not speaking more languages, for not being a better student, for not exercising more, for not reading more news. Is this an excuse for wasting time? No, but I should do things if they make me happy and not because I feel like I should do them to meet expectations I think that other people have for me. Along the same lines, no more changing myself so that other people think I am smarter, more interesting, more fun, more whatever quality that I may or may not actually be. So, yes, you cultured-brilliant-underground-music-loving-hipsters…I like to bake, listen to Taylor Swift, and go to bed early.
I was thinking about this while reading some of the many blogs I follow. My blog will probably never reach that caliber…the content won’t be as funny, the pictures won’t be as quality, and the design won’t be as artsy.
So, to my lovely 10 followers (who are not at all obligated to read this through familial or friendly ties), I don’t apologize for not being funnier. I have my slapstick moments, but comedy doesn’t flow naturally from either my tongue or my fingers. What I can promise is that this blog will have heart. It will be true, it will be me. As my life gets more interesting, it might get more interesting. But, in the end, I am doing this for myself. So that I can set little goals, come up with projects, put little bits of myself on the internet so that my faraway family and friends can keep them, and to document moments, ideas, and things that inspire me and make me happy.
Tonight I started a weekend-long workshop called the Alternatives to Violence Project. Tonight’s session–the first session–we got to know each other and discussed various types of violence, how they come about, and what emotions they are associated with. I have studied violence on the institutional level, studied peace at the policy level, but talking about conflict and violence on the inter-personal level is completely new to me. I didn’t know what to expect coming in and I wasn’t sure if I wanted this to be a thing where we talk about our feelings and have revelations about our characters and the world. I am not good at that kind of thing. My gut reaction is to put up a wall and not allow myself to participate fully. Maybe because I am self-conscious? Maybe because I think those things are silly? Maybe I think they’re silly because I’m self-conscious?
One of the get-to-know-you things we did was break up into partners and discuss (for two minutes each) what we are good at. The rules were that we could only say positive things and could not use qualifiers. I went first and I was stumped after 15 seconds. I don’t need to tell you twice that people tend to focus on their flaws, their shortcomings, and how they can “improve” themselves. I realized that I especially don’t really think about the things I do well and I especially don’t talk about them. And if I do, I use qualifiers. But there is a difference between confidence and cockiness and, after I thought about it, I should have more self-awareness and be able to identify things I do well. There is always room for improvement, but the lack of perfection shouldn’t diminish my confidence in certain aspects of myself.
So here are my affirmations. No qualifications. Just things that I think that I am good (not perfect) at.
1) I am a good friend. I have moments where I withdraw into myself and am not as supportive as I should be because I am consumed by my own issues. I have had my moments of selfishness where I have chosen my desires over a friend’s desires or worse, when I have chosen my desires over a friend’s needs. But, on the whole, I think I am the kind of friend that would drop anything and everything to support a friend who needed me. I don’t let other people talk badly about my friends. I celebrate with them when they succeed, help to pick themselves up when they fail. I laugh with them and cry with them. I try to tell them often that they are loved.
2) I give good advice. Like anyone, I can definitely get over-emotional, I can be irrational, and I can over-analyze things, but for the most part I think I am good at seeing the bigger picture. I am good at distancing myself from something to look at it objectively, and I am good at weighing both sides of issues. Many of my friends have told me that I give really good advice, which I think means that I am better at giving advice than I am at following it (especially if it is my own).
3) I am good at organizing. I am a together person. Sometimes the confidence is all a sham and the unshaking exterior is crumbling underneath with stress and self-doubt. For the most part, however, I do feel like I am in control of what is happening in my life and I attribute that to being able to organize things. I organize my room, my schedule, my feelings, my thoughts. Sometimes it may seem like I go overboard (which is probably true), but I think feeling in-control of your life is important.
4) I am a compassionate person. I try my best to care for those who need it and to keep as many as people as possible in my thoughts. I try to nurture and support those around me and my biggest goal in life is to help people who need it. I think that if I have nothing else going for me-big brains, snazzy skills–I will have my heart, which is bursting with unactualized potential for care.
5) I am a hard-worker. I devote myself to my school work or whatever other projects I am working on at the time. Part of this is the drive to reach perfection (at least my personal perfection), but part of it is because I enjoy throwing myself into things and emerging with new pieces. I like the satisfaction of completing something well and I can’t stand the thought of knowing that I could have done more.
6) I am a good learner. I don’t mean this in a ‘I-pick-things-up-quickly’ way, because I don’t. For most things anyways. I mean that I love to learn. Anything and everything. If I am talking to someone who is passionate about something, it really doesn’t matter what it is. I will still listen to them. I’d like to think of myself as a genuinely curious person, someone who becomes intensely consumed by new things and whose curiosity grows the more she learns.
Maybe I will come up with more, but this is all I’ve got for now. I really wish my friends did this. I wish everyone did this. I wish I did it more often. Positive affirmations make such a difference, for your mind, for your spirit. There are at least twice as many things that I think I don’t do well. I’m not going to list them (that’d be sad, but maybe I will later), but they are things that I have either accepted or am trying to better.
However, I think the coolest part about this list for me is that I don’t think any of these things are things I have ever felt I needed to change about myself to impress others. That’s a good sign, right? That the things you like most about yourself and that you feel you are good at are things you feel you shouldn’t have to change. I’d say so. I guess day one of AVP has already made me think about myself and my feelings. We will see what Day 2 brings.