List: Favorite Places to Study

At Wes:

  1. Dean’s office waiting area. They have an amazingly sophisticated assortment of objects on the shelves, like an abstract clock, interesting foreign art, and a book about where to find great food in Connecticut! The couches are truly comfortable and there’s new age music pulsing from the speakers. It’s a one-of-a-kind space in a college campus.
  2. Ground floor of Olin: Periodical room. Lounge in a big chair or couch, propping up your feet towards the spacious windows that reveal all of Andrus field and Usdan. A room with a view.
  3. 41 Wyllys classrooms. The building has that clean, new feel that gives off warmth because of its color scheme. It feels organised, welcoming, and without clutter, which helps my brain focus on work.
  4. Basement of Allbritton, either in the little arrangements near the doors or Espwesso when it’s closed. Peaceful.

Around Middletown:

  1. Russell Library. I love feeling like a part of the community and being around people of all ages! As someone who enjoys being surrounded by books, their universal collection has a more comforting feel than Olin’s severe, academic, ancient stacks (although those definitely have a certain appeal as well.)
  2. New England Emporium. Their playlists are some of the finest I’ve heard in any restaurant or cafe! Varied spaces to sit and read, such as booths, couches, chairs, and outside tables if it’s warm.
  3. Would like to try Perk on Main, in nearby Durham, very soon!

Thanks again, study abroad

I think that another reason why I feel so comfortable in my skin as of late is that I truly feel entitled to:

  • Take up space
  • Go after opportunities because I’m qualified (well, partially) and deserve to benefit from them
  • Be happy
  • Have free time/Delegate tasks to others (within reason)
  • Excel
  • Believe that I can achieve my goals of obtaining a PhD and possibly filling the professorial roles of my mentors someday.

Community

It’d be challenging to live without canned beets, arduous to compensate for a lack of motorvehicular transportation, and downright preposterous to forego late night collaging sessions. However, it would be absolutely impossible to maintain a vibrant, inspiration-filled life without communities.

I’m still unsure of how I optimally function socially, but now that I’m 21, I can say that I’ve tried out a plethora of systems. I’ve had best friends, groups of best friends, groups of mostly acquaintances, few friends. I feel love from my blood relatives and families that I’ve chosen at camps, through sports, classes at school, temple, all over London, and more.

Now that I’m on my last year of college I’ve begun to understand a big change that few talk about when you transition to life with your parents to without: When you submerge yourself into the college bubble, you oftentimes exclude elders.

By elders, I’m talking about wise, older people who aren’t necessarily old. I mean it in a very respectful way similar to how post-middle-age people are treated in Eastern and Native American cultures. I guess I’m referring to level of knowledge versus chronological age (because we all know the two aren’t always correlated!)

  

But let’s move on, shall we?

It’s easy to get caught up in everything me and questions about almost everything. Speaking with an elder about those questions or something unrelated like the name of that pretty flower over yonder often calms me down. I adapt to their disposition by unconsciously mimicking it. My physical composure leads my mind into a correlated transition. Life looks different for a second: the world stops spinning around me. I regain perspective. This is critical.

And just because I’m me, let’s also remember that we can’t live without the communities inside of us! We (our bodies) are composed of 90% non-human cells! We are deeply devoted to our little gut microbes in a symbiotic relationship: they break down certain substances for us to digest and in return, we give them a cozy home. That’s just one relationship. When was the last time you thanked your bacilli with a cup of yogurt or kimchi-topped dish? (Especially if you’ve taken an antibiotic recently!)

I think one of the downfalls of the Millennial generation is their lack of interest in participating/volunteering in multigenerational communities. Belonging to these communities quells selfish urges and reminds us that we are obligated to serve others even if there’s no specified requirement. When you expand your worldview beyond your personal bubble, you’re more sensitive to the world’s pleas for help.

Another wonderful thing about being a member of a community is the oft-felt feeling of belonging. It’s good to feel welcomed and wanted 🙂

Mirrors

Despite the fact that I did not bring a floor-length mirror to college this year, I have a feeling that the next two semesters will bring an unprecedented amount of self-reflection. (Was that a really corny opening? It seems like a typical way to start an article. Maybe it’s both.)

Since it’s the start of the semester, I’ve been meeting with a gaggle of professors to discuss employment and projects. Today I met with one who used to make me nervous. He’s not the only one who did: When I went to office hours or spoke to profs after class, the authority complex would kick in and my confidence would waver. I’d remind myself of their higher status and that I should be as humble and appreciative as possible. Today, when I saw that one prof, he very vocally exclaimed how much “older” I seemed. Twice. His intentions were extremely pure, but it almost felt a bit confrontational… similar to if someone goes over the top when complimenting someone on losing weight, to the extent that they question how they were received “before”.

Anyway, that sort of weakens my next point, but I’ll say it nonetheless: I think that studying abroad gave me a thicker skin. I’ve noticed that my level of social anxiety has plummeted compared to last year.

Finally, it seems that some of the strongest informants of how and how much I’ve changed may be my companions. It must be pretty noticeable!

More Newfound Post-Study Abroad Personality Changes Made Evident Via College

An acquaintance recently told me that I looked really good. I think it’s thanks to my increase in confidence and apathy for trivial matters.

Trivial matters (n, plural):

  • How I look when I’m walking across a room with strangers in it
  • Always being polite and bubbly and accommodating. (However, I am usually friendly and polite, just not at an anxiety-provoking level like before.)
  • How I look when I eat lunch alone or walk places by myself.
  • How/if I’m judged if I buy “embarrassing” items like pads or tampons or prunes (freaking love them) or things of that sort.
    • Writing about said items on a public domain. We all buy them anyway- why hide it?

I harbor absolutely zero envy or admiration for a few people I used to think were super cool. Priorities and world view have shifted.

And finally:

I’ve also noticed that since returning to Facebook for the school year, my posts haven’t garnered as much validation by my peers as they used to. That doesn’t make me question my sense or humor or self: instead, I think that I’m diverging from what was perhaps more typical Wes humor. Or just exposing my current sense of self more publicly. That’s very good with me.

Update 10/8/15: Today, I had many backs-and-forths with a highly regarded evolution professor and I was not intimidated. I WAS NOT INTIMIDATED! And I was able to make mistakes in front of her and talk, while the grad student next to me was timid! What a huge change! I used to be very nervous around profs, but not anymore!!!

Truth and Harmony

The fact that I cherish those two concepts makes me seem like my friends have white hair and just want their kids “to be happy”. Well, you’re right. My friends are increasing in mean age, and not just keeping up with the rate of age inflation (aka time.) Instead of mostly 21 year old friends, I’d say the average age may fall in the thirties.

Anyway, I receive daily poems via email and today’s struck me. Here it is.

Music
By Juhan Liiv
Translated by H.L. Hix & Jüri Talvet

It must be somewhere, the original harmony,
somewhere in great nature, hidden.
Is it in the furious infinite,
in distant stars’ orbits,
is it in the sun’s scorn,
in a tiny flower, in treegossip,
in heartmusic’s mothersong
or in tears?
It must be somewhere, immortality,
somewhere the original harmony must be found:
how else could it infuse
the human soul,
that music?

————-

What a word is treegossip!! Into my vernacular it goes!

I’m a Fresh Senior

I thought the extent of my reverse culture shock was my eyeroll at all the American travellers wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts. Transitioning back to life at home, working in the summer, was relatively painless. My parents and sister were still great, my relatives were still lovely, and my friends still understood me. Elior had been abroad and we’d kept up on each other’s lives, so there was little distance between us. Reconnecting with Marissa was great, being with Lilly and Cristina was fun as always. My work family at the restaurant was an amazing pool of new and old coworkers. Couldn’t get much better than this, besides missing London and travelling, but that’s to be expected.

So now I’m back at college and it’s here that RCS is impacting me the most. I knew I’d changed in some ways but that didn’t affect my relationships at home. Here, many of the friends I cultivated over 2.5 years look pretty different through a post-study abroad-colored lens.

True, it’s only my second day here. However, about 1/3 of the people I’ve seen aren’t interesting to me anymore: I’m not willing to extend my personality in ways I used to. Just like how I lost much of my bubbliness in the chasm between high school and college, I now lack the ability and patience to listen to BS. I demand realness from conversation and interaction. If we hang out, please tell me things that matter and don’t waste my time. After being abroad, I’m now especially prepared to be happy by myself somewhere else. Even though Middletown isn’t popping with culture, there are still many things I could do instead of listen to a bunch of people about whom I used to think highly chat about trivial things. I guess I’m happier being alone than I used to, too, so I’m not receiving that social self-esteem boost that attending parties used to give me. I’m happy with who I am, so although socializing is great (in some forms- see next paragraph), it’s not as powerful as it once was.

Now, I’m finding that I love to chat with cashiers and clerks and anyone with whom wants to actually talk with me. I like talking with people I don’t know. They’re each little boxes with untold facts and opinions and quirks inside. In comparison, these old college friends feel stale.

I don’t recognize the majority of the students here anymore. I feel like a freshman with the confidence and knowledge of a senior.

Yesterday, at a get-together with some kids I used to really like before London, Sarah said I looked bored. And I was. I spoke rarely, not hastening to assert my own point of view about what felt like an inconsequential topic. I dislike wasting my breath and energy.

Some people have told me that I act like I’m 25. In some ways, I agree. But knowing that makes looking at the school year ahead rather daunting.

I’m really excited for all the activities and classes to start up. Finding enough of my new chosen type of socialization will be a challenge I’m ready to accept, but not without first mourning the loss of a few friends. However, they weren’t that great to begin with. So, maybe it’s for the best. Closer to the truth.