At some point we all forget that the world does not in fact revolve around us. I think focusing on ourselves and being selfish, to some extent, is very necessary at times. But the hardest part of being selfish without feeling bad about it is knowing when we can and when we cannot only worry about ourselves. Unfortunately, I am not about to give you a fool proof formula or a step by step manual on how to be selfish without being too selfish. What I am going to advise though, is to not worry about ourselves or worry about how often we talk about ourselves, but worry instead about what we have and how we can be thankful for it all.
If we are being honest, at this point in our lives we generally get the privilege of knowing it could be worse. I am not trying to equate all of our life’s experiences and possessions, but when I am equating is how crucial it is to be thankful for everything we do have. This concept really started to hit home with me when Paris was attacked on November 13. I am not educated enough or brave enough quite frankly to talk about this topic given how often such topics become controversial, offend others. etc.; but I am interested in saying how it impacted my current perspective about being abroad.
When I first heard of the attacks I was in Greve with friends, drinking wine and having dinner. My dad had texted me about them, ensuring my safety and informing me that he had yet to hear from my uncles who live in Paris. Immediately, my current privilege slapped me in the face. Here I was drinking wine and thinking of nothing other than myself and my friends, and the world was in crisis.
I tried to think back to when I last spoke to my uncle, to when I last thanked my parents for always keeping in touch, to when I last did anything that wasn’t solely focused on me, and I couldn’t think of anything. Trying to make sense of everything that had seemed to happen with a single text from my dad was nearly impossible. All I wanted to do was thank everyone in my life for being in my life. I am not sure what the Paris attacks should have made me feel, and to this day I still do not know how to summarize my feelings into words, but I do know that I will never take for granted the people in my life or the things I have in life.
We have so much more privilege than we know what to do with. We need to take time and think about what we have and how we can take advantage of it. Thank those you love and those who have helped you get to where you are today. Keep doing you, but don’t forget to be thankful that you get to keep doing you.
I am a huge advocate of making sure you give yourself some “me time.” But lately, I feel like I am finally realizing that there is something a lot more important than indulging in some Netflix in an empty apartment, and that is to simply be myself. Being abroad gives you the perfect chance to explore the world and explore yourself, and it does so by giving you a fresh start and letting you meet people from all over. However, when considering how big and diverse the world and its people are, it becomes so easy for us to get lost in it. I love running around and exploring new places, and I love those days when I just wear a big sweatshirt with leggings. Yet in Rome I feel like these, along with other, comfortable and habitual things I do are somehow looked down upon or seen as unconventional.
For instance, every single time I go for a run I get a facetious “thumbs up” from people walking to work or even a few people jokingly running alongside me, smiling. I feel awkward at times because it makes it very obvious that I am not from Rome when a local resident is running beside me in jeans, laughing and catching the eyes of everyone we pass. When thinking about it though, it’s pretty ridiculous and really funny how something as basic and simple to me as running on residential streets can result in such an adverse reaction from people. In reality, I give a “thumbs up” back and generally chuckle when people run beside me, but what if it actually bothered me and forced me to stop running? What if I felt like I was even more of an outsider and I stopped exploring new places and doing the things I love? Moral of the story? Just shrug off the people that run alongside you, making you feel uncomfortable for doing what you love.
Since almost all blog posts about being abroad seem to gravitate back towards being yourself and exploring, in this one I want to shift more towards the “doing you” sometimes. I am a comfortable person. My comfort zone is thirty minutes from home. So, at school and in Rome I latch on to the things and people that make me comfortable. At some point I inevitably get too comfortable and start being more individualistic. Once I start skipping weekly dinners or cancelling plans, I realize how although I kind of like the independence, being with people is so great.
All of this rambling on and pretty standard advice comes down to one really important fact: you need, and the frequency is flexible, to surround yourself with people you enjoy being around. Although snuggling in bed after a long day sounds nice, talking about it over dinner with a few friends is even better. We all have those days when we do not want to see anyone or talk to anyone, but, when we think about it, how much do we enjoy seeing that one person who makes us instantly laugh regardless of our emotional state?
My advice: be you, but be you with people that make you happy.