Well, hey everybody. We’re back and we are ready (kind of) for another year of college. For myself and many others, it has come to our final year, the home stretch. Per usual, I have mixed emotions about this – excitement, sadness, hopefulness and hella anxiety. However, I feel especially different coming into this year.
Over the summer, I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to travel through some parts of the world that I never thought I would see. I went on a backpacking trip with my sister, Gloria, through several cities in Spain, Italy, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. All I can say for certain is that I am a different person now than the one who boarded the plane the first time.
Cliché? Definitely. Still true? Absolutely. My trip completely changed my perspective of the world. While my personality and style are more or less the same, I have totally different ideas of other cultures, religions, lifestyles and so much more. More importantly, I have different ideas about myself – ideas that I am sure will shape me for the rest of my life.
I won’t attempt to describe the entirety of my trip in this one column, because that would be nearly impossible and not very fun to read. In fact, I’m still processing a lot of the lessons I learned on my trip, so I’ll need some time before I can pump out 700 words that are worth reading. So, stay tuned, folks. You will be reading about this trip for quite awhile (but only if you’re interested, of course).
Okay, so first things first – last year, I had made some pretty serious plans to study abroad in Madrid during the spring semester of my junior year. In fact, up until about two days before the application was due in October, I thought I was going for certain. However, good ol’ life likes to throw wrenches in everyone’s plans, and for multiple reasons I ended up not being able to study abroad.
Not to be dramatic, but I was honestly heartbroken. I had wanted to study abroad since before I came to college, and the fact that I am majoring in Spanish and have somewhat of a love affair with the language made it the most perfect opportunity I could imagine. Therefore, the disappointment of not being able to go was quite devastating.
Now, fast forward to the beginning of June. I had just finished one of the hardest years of my life. Why was it so hard? One word – discomfort.
Nothing traumatic happened to me, so don’t freak out. But I had to handle quite a few disappointments, and even more incredibly uncomfortable and painful situations. I lost sight of what I really wanted and what I had known for my entire life.
That sounds like the beginning of a bad soap opera, but I’m sure some people can relate to the feeling of just being lost in a place you thought you knew.
Anyways, I was trying to pull my life back together when I got the news that I was going on this trip. If I could explain how I felt when I got the news, I would. But the truth is, I don’t even know what my thought process was at the time. I do know it was a mixture of fear, anxiety, doubt and above all, unbelievable excitement. I immediately began fantasizing about all the places I would see, people I would meet, pictures I would take, etc. I was essentially lost in a European dream world for awhile.
Now, fast forward again to the first week of my trip in Barcelona. I am sitting in a hospital with the worst eye pain I have ever had because stupid, irresponsible me slept with my contacts in and woke up with an awful eye inflammation.
I mentioned that I’m majoring in Spanish, but I was absolutely not prepared to be a partially blind patient in a predominantly Spanish-speaking hospital. Long story short, after an incredibly uncomfortable and frustrating day, I left with some eye drops and my eye was completely healed a few weeks later.
However, the “hiccups” in our trip, shall we say, didn’t stop there. Throughout the remainder of the trip, my sister and I were often put in awkward or uncomfortable situations that forced us to think on our feet or take a hefty dose of humiliation. More details on this later, I promise. But the point of describing these situations is that I ended up learning one of the most valuable lessons ever – life is not meant to be comfortable all of the time. Furthermore, discomfort is an absolutely essential part of growth and learning.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Thank you, Neale Donald Walsch, for putting into words what I have always needed to know and will always need to remember.
Not just in terms of my trip, but also in relation to my difficulties the previous year and the difficulties I will continue to face for the rest of my life. I have learned to embrace discomfort like the blessing in disguise that it is. I know that with this brand-new perspective, I can march head first into this final year of my college career.
So, here we go, seniors. Let’s bring on the sweetest discomfort of our lives.