Dear sophomore year.

cafe

Every once in a while, I like to sit in a cafe for a WHOLE day (luxury, I tell you!) and sit back and think, reflect (one of those beautiful words IB gifted to me) and retool for what’s next.  Today was one of those days. So as I sit in this café (ahem Starbucks, but let me just pretend, por favor), I pen for you a *short* letter I would write to the semester that was or perhaps to the Inesha that started it. On to a new adventure next week, closing out this one first.

Posting in the hope that maybe, just maybe, a piece of this– a lesson learned perhaps– will resonate. Thanks, as always, for swinging by sweet readers!

Dear sophomore year,

You were born incomplete. It’s not your fault. Taking the fall off from you was perhaps not my wisest decision but one I made nonetheless. Living in DC, doing the whole early 20s living thing was fun, exciting, scary, and so much more all at the same time. Mostly, it was trying. But I saw an election from the front view, driving down the road, car doors wide open, my body ready to sprint out and tap a new voter and get him to the polls. I’ll never forget that. I had hours long conversations with a colleague who became a good friend it seemed over night. We shared a supervisor I think of often, one I didn’t always understand to be honest. But one who taught me so much– who reminded me that as Plato said, “Be kind– for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”Even if that battle is yet unknown.

I struggled those first few days. I was lucky to have friends who dropped everything and came to visit me. Who checked on me. A mom and dad who would say ridiculous things like– “You’re at the bus stop IN THE RAIN? We’ll drive and get you (even though that would mean an absurd 2 hour drive from Richmond to DC.) In those moments I realized how spoiled I was– and too the people that matter most, who remind me always of what hard work actually looks like and what I will never be able to repay.

I saw the government from the inside out. I didn’t like everything I saw but I appreciated that there was a government to see in the first place, that even as it was sometimes painfully slow and bureaucratic and riddled with protocol and words like “professionalism” and “institutionalism,” it was there, it was accountable, and it was doing things.

I met war widows in Sri Lanka. I also unceremoniously fell in a pile of mud on a new construction site (let’s just pretend like that didn’t happen) and reminded myself how to gracefully fall once again. Boy was washing away all that clay mud *slightly* embarrassing, and partly… what’s the word? Oh right, grounding. Not that I needed reminding.

My feet touched down in Rome. And too in Israel. I walked the path that Jesus took to his cruxifixtion and eventual resurrection. I walked miles that span pages in the bible. I learned. A lot. More than I ever thought I would.

I came back to school. I tried to make new friends. I failed and restarted. I found my way in a new house. I learned that I am not so good at admitting when things are hard. Even when they are really hard. But I found comfort too– in swing sets and new daffodils, a community that came together even as bombs exploded at a finish line. I learned and relearned my style, had moments I will cringe at and am embarrassed by and moments I will forever be proud of. And I found really generous souls, people who took the time to pull me aside and really check in. Who aren’t satisfied with a simple how are you. Who care enough to take 15, 20, 150 minutes out of their day. Just for me. And boy did that mean a lot.

You ended with a flurry of action but peppered in one of your more special moments was a chance encounter on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue with a classmate I know little and a homeless man I know not. The former was feeding the latter from the kitchen of Adams. Wrong? Debatable. Solving the problem? Probably not. The good, decent thing to do. Absolutely. That moment was followed by perhaps the best spur of the moment conversation I’ve had all year about homelessness and what it really means– and what our perception tells us to believe. And if perception really even matters at all, even as we seem to believe sometimes that it is everything.

So sophomore year, you are the one that reminded me of a song from long ago that I’ve loved for so long but had forgotten. You see, in reminding me that as I get older and as decisions become more costly and things get harder and bills get higher, it is still never ever EVER worth it to just settle. You reminded me of a lyric I hope to never forget, a country anthem learned long ago. “I ain’t settlin’– for anything less than everything,” Jennifer Nettles croons, her song to a world of imperfect love and hearts broken, men who are friends but never quite more than that. Mine to a world of possibility that is daunting and terrifying but too eye-opening and beautiful– and all of this all at once. I’ve never quite told you sophomore year but even as you were hard, really hard, you taught me a new answer to that question, that question I didn’t want to answer at the end of last summer but am ready to answer at the start of this one: How are you? Well, I’m… ready. 

Unsettled but no longer your’s,

Inesha

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And just for the record, lessons learned:

  1. Ask for hugs when you need them most.  Give them freely too.
  2. Figure out your communication style. Realize it probably isn’t the same in every context. Or via text. Or on Facebook.
  3. Reflect. Constantly. There’s always a better way to do you—if “just do you” is a mantra consider too: “there’s a better way to do you.”
  4. Why wouldn’t you? …is the worst non-answer ever. For the record, that’s not enough of a reason.
  5. Smile. Always. Give. Plenty. And Be. Be there.
  6. Call yourself out on your own bullshit. Admit it, you definitely bullshit sometimes.
  7. Writing is so underrated.
  8. Sit down with people who put you on the defensive. Defending your beliefs is healthy. Discomfort in conversation is a good thing.
  9. Keep a diary.
  10. Good is overrated. Going is underrated. And I’m somewhere in between.
  11. “Stay Nice.” – Tulsi Gabbard
  12. Elitism cannot be so easily dichotomized as good or bad. It is simultaneously both and neither. An explanation is warranted, but that is for another post.
  13. “It would be a fine proposition, if I were a stupid girl. But honey I am no one’s exception, this I have previously learned.”
  14. Perhaps we should perceive people not by the first time we meet them or the last—but by the many data points those encounters– and the others in between– give us. Every one has a good data point and every one has a bad one. I guess what I’m trying to say is you need time… you need a lot of data points before you really know if someone is good or bad or right for you. – said perhaps the best TF ever (using economics to explain relationships? not nerdy at all.)
  15. Vulnerability is a powerful thing. A state of being where you find your best(est) friends, your closest allies. The people who really care.
  16. Silence is not always the best communication style. But it does serve a purpose.
  17. Relationships take different forms. But this was the semester I found myself telling some of my closest girlfriends, “If he wanted to kiss you, he should have walked you home.”  Full disclaimer: I’m from the south. And for the record, I think it’s a dictum I’ll stick to.
  18. [you] Lean in (-Sheryl Sandberg), and then remember to Lean on [them–corporations, professors, friends, the private, the public] (-Tina Brown @ the Women in the World Summit, April in NYC)
  19. You’re not stuck with you forever, this you is transient, changing. If you don’t like yourself right now, hold on. You will soon. You just got to work at it. –A professor who really cares
  20. This [10-20 years] I hope you realize is when you are really making you. These years. – Another professor who really cares
  21. Swing. Skate. However you do it– Vole.
  22. And then figure out how to get your feet back on the ground. And keep them there.
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