Most of July of last year was spent at Camp. I was (and still am) learning how to lead, which was hard. Then, the day after Camp ended, I moved to a new town and all new things – job, apartment, roommate, church, etc. July was a very overwhelming and very exciting month.
This is what I learned through all of it –
Sometime patience and persistence are the same thing.
You don’t have to be good at everything, but you do have to give things a chance. Try new things. Do hard things.
If you see or are a part of something that’s wrong and don’t speak up, then what you are communicating is: “everything happening here is completely okay with me and approved by me.”
Sometimes you see another person’s sin and you are appalled at that person’s capacity to hurt people or ruin things or be a sinner. You need to know that you also have that same capacity and are no better. All humans are inherently awful.
Don’t weave your whining and complaining into conversations. If you’ve got to say it, just say it, and then be done with it.
6. Excuses don’t last long. You can only say, “I moved here yesterday” for one day.
June 2016 was a new time. I was starting in a new role at Camp, and that was hard. I was learning to be a leader. I was also transitioning from college student to whatever comes next, which was harder than I anticipated. I was in some weddings for friends, which was so fun. June 2016 was the busiest I had been in a long time.
Here is what I learned during that time –
“Leading means relinquishing the right to being told what to do.” – this is from my wise Camp boss, and it was good and hard for me to learn.
If you are grumpy or in “a mood,” either talk about it or get over it. Being elusively grumpy is dumb and annoying and unproductive.
You cannot control humans.
But you can influence them.
It’s hard to lead people if you don’t love them.
6. When you are sleeping somewhere with no AC, end your shower with cold water. You will start sweating again as you exit the shower.
7. If shoes are less than comfortable when you try them on, they will be painful when you wear them for an entire day.
One year ago now, I was working in the office at Camp, in limbo between graduation and Camp starting for the summer. Earlier in May, I went to visit my Clemson friends and Clemson babies in Pennsylvania, turned 22, moved out of the apartment I’d lived in for 3 years of college, bought a car to call my very own, and I had my first jury duty, which felt kind of grown-up, but at the same time, like a drag.
It was a rare time because I wasn’t in college anymore but my next thing hadn’t started yet but also I was super busy – working, driving, packing, cleaning, etc. I was reflecting on what had just finished as well as thinking apprehensively of what was stirring under my feet – the changes to the things that I knew and the new things that were coming.
What I Learned: May 2016
After you turn 21, no one really cares how old you are.
Your family is your neighbor, too, not just the people “out there.” Serve the people “in here” as well as others outside.
Buying a car is less climactic than it sounds – yes, you’re getting this new shiny thing, but also you’re spending like all your money on it and now you are under lots of pressure to never mess it up. Going out for pizza to celebrate just means you spend more money, which, after buying a car, you never want to do again.
Maturity is not a lack of impulses to sin or to give in to desires, but a change in response to the same impulses and a better foundation with which to deny them. And also a humility that knows you won’t be perfect at it ever while a human.
Your job really starts not on your first day, but when you interview for it.
The less recent an event, the less relevant it can be. Sometimes, time is like forgiveness.
7. Once you go Subaru, you never go back.
8. Take a book to jury duty, because sometimes you spend 2.5 business days just sitting in a room waiting to see if you’re going to get picked (and then you don’t).
April of last year was a blur. I finished student teaching and emotionally started to prepare to be finished with college forever. I got a job offer (for the job that I now have!).
As I was reading through what I learned during this month, it seemed like I wrote them down just the other day. I had to check to make sure they were really written down a whole year ago, and they were – so this just goes to further show how true #5 is.
What I Learned: April 2016
Domestic isn’t a relational adjective.
This was a hard thing to learn. A boy told me like a year prior to this that he and “all the guys” had been talking and they’d decided that I would make a great wife someday. I was a little flattered and a little creeped out, and then I started to put this pressure on myself to be married so that I could be this “great wife.” But what I learned was that the qualities that can be found in a wife can be useful in more than just marriage. And I was reminded that boys are weird.
God must be glorified in all things, not just the things He gives you once you’re settled down and ready for them, or the things that you wanted or asked for. He must be glorified even when you just want to huff at Him impatiently, like when you are waiting for a job but don’t have one yet.
Leave early for job interviews. It’s better to sit in a gas station across the street for 50 minutes before it starts than to roll in late. And, it’s better for the interviewers to be running late than you.
If you use/engage it, it will get stronger. This is true for your pinkie finger, imagination, sinful impulses/temptations, writing, among many more things.
A year is not nearly as long as childhood left you believing it is.
6. Follow grandmother advice. Don’t touch door handles after you wash your hands.
7. Don’t underestimate the efficacy and value of a nice white shirt. It can go a long way.
March of 2016 held m full takeover for student teaching and the Clemson job fair and spring break! It was busy and exhilarating, which is how I like life to be. My family took a spring break trip together to New York which was the grandest of adventures.
What I Learned: March 2016
1. The best way to get better at something is by doing it – running, writing, teaching, etc. Studying and preparing is good, but really the best way is to jump in and do the thing.
2. Treat your kids like people – not like grown-ups, but like people. When you’re wrong, apologize to them and actually use the words: “I’m sorry,” because that’s how you should apologize to all people.
3. It’s more ideal to be a little under-hydrated and get quality sleep than to be quite hydrated but be getting up to pee all night long.
4. Logistics are supremely underrated. Getting places and talking to people you don’t know and planning things is hard and does not happen easily or naturally. Things very rarely fall into place.
5. The most glamorous part of teaching is not actually teaching – it’s talking about it. I felt so accomplished and professional while I was applying and interviewing for jobs because I got to use teaching jargon and talk about all the things I was doing well – but once I got back to school, I felt like a civil servant again. Analyzing it makes it seem exciting and considerate, but doing it feels hectic and creative and exhausting.
6. It’s not really possible to eat a cheese stick gracefully. That’s okay.
7. As the week goes on, it gets harder and harder to get 8 hours of sleep at night. There’s too much to do and no free time so less sleep happens.
Here is what I did in February of 2016: student teach, and get used to the idea that college was really ending – and with that came post-grad. I started really thinking about where I would be/what kind of job I wanted to do. I asked a lot of people a lot of questions. I decided that it was time to leave Clemson, and that was a hard choice. February was a very reflective month.
What I Learned: February 2016
1. I retroactively learned that my middle school youth intern was wise when she told us not to date boys until they’re 22. This wisdom had been shared with me ten years before, but it took until February of last year for me to recognize the value of this sage advice from the great Ashley Myhal.
2. Neutral is negative – especially in teaching. Positive reinforcement is powerful because it’s encouraging and because it’s proactive. It creates an environment where people want to be.
3. When people use the word “challenge” as a noun, it’s often a euphemism. I read this is one of my textbooks: “Multiple Severe Disability (MSD) refers to people with an overwhelming number of challenges.” But really, the word “challenge” there doesn’t refer to what I might think of a challenge – that is, something to be overcome. “Challenge” in this context is really something that is debilitating to a person. Debilitation is more severe than challenge.
4. Don’t argue with children. Even if/when/though you are right, just don’t do it. Either let them try and you can know you’re right, or find a different way to communicate what you’re trying to say. You are the adult here. Don’t create an environment of bickering.
5. “Big” words aren’t just difficult to spell consolidations of ideas; they are actions and attitudes best experienced rather than explained – things like “hostile” and “inject.” I had quite a difficult time trying to explain these to third graders and I noticed the value of “big” words. They make things easier.
6. It’s nice to say “I love you” as you go to sleep, even if it’s to your boss’s dog when you’re housesitting. It’s a nice, homey, happy feeling.
Writer/blogger Emily Freeman keeps track of what she is learning each month and posts it on her blog at the end of each season. She’s been doing this for years, and I started two years ago, but never shared what I’ve learned. Yet.
My original goal when starting to record what I was learning was to document just three things per month. But once I started thinking about it, I realized that I learn constantly. The first month I did this, I wrote down a few things that I noticed and gleaned from life around me – but each month has had increasing numbers. As I started paying attention, I saw that I am learning as much as I am looking around. Putting words to something that I already do has been an enlightening and surprising experience.
Disclaimer: it has now been two years and I still don’t know how to fold fitted sheets. There will always be more to learn.
I had to Google this because it has been a long time since algebra, but I’ve found the habit of recording what I’m learning comparable to the graph of a logarithmic function.
The line started in the negative because I was learning, but I was not recording what I learned, so it was essentially going to waste. Then the line rose and rose as I started to notice what I was learning. The line rose steadily after this dramatic jump and will continue to do so forever!
The website that educated me about logarithmic functions says, “Logarithmic functions are often used to describe quantities that vary over immense ranges.” I would say that’s true of learning – it occurs in numerous ranges of life. (To learn more about logarithmic functions, click here!)
My intention was to notice what I was learning, to use it to make wiser choices, and then to be able to look back later and make each thing relate to my right-now life. I set a rule for myself that once each month ended, I wasn’t allowed to look back at its list until one year later. It was like a fun game for myself! That’s not sarcasm. It really was and is fun.
Clearly, I enjoyed learning, and then also analyzing what I learned. Here is my (non-mathematical) theory: if what I learned in the past was true and real and sound, it should still be true and real and sound now.
So I have decided to use these monthly tidbits of knowledge to start my first ever blog series! It will be monthly, and each monthly post will feature five of the things I learned in the corresponding month one year before. I’m super excited about this series because it will allow me to reflect on what I’ve already learned and help me to re-apply it to my life right now, as well as to force me to post at least once a month.
Here is what I learned this month, one year ago. A few things of note about January 2016: I started student teaching and it was my last semester of college. It was my third and last year living in Tillman Place 431 aka Madreland. It was when I started the job application process and started thinking about what kind of teacher I wanted to be. To say it in a melodramatic way, it was…the beginning of the end (of college).
What I Learned: January 2016
1. When you set a limit for yourself and then you break it once, then it’s broken. Once it’s broken once, it’s just broken. This applies to financial, physical, and dietary boundaries, as well as trying to not say bad words when you’re angry. Once you’ve done the thing once, it’s easier and tempting to continue doing the thing – and also you can’t go back to the time before you had ever broken the limit. That time doesn’t exist anymore.
2. Part of being mature is powering through difficult times. Some adult experiences and conversations are hard and make me blush or cry or say bad words (see above), and what I really want to do is shy away and avoid these altogether. I am quick to accept immature inconvenience over squeamish and embarrassing discomfort. However, maturity has long-term vision, which can see that just because something is hard and scary does not mean it’s reasonable or going to work out well to hide from it. Maturity says it’s still okay to blush or cry (the use of certain words is still a work in progress), but that avoidance isn’t. Life is inevitable, and it hurts a lot more if you hide from it.
3. Keeping a water bottle always filled and always accessible increases the likelihood that hydration will happen. This is probably very obvious, but wasn’t to me until I was doing it.
4. God, via the Bible, tells us to be a lot of things: salt and light, followers of Christ, a good neighbor, considerate of others, fruitful, etc…but nowhere does He explicitly say, “be sweet.” “Sweet” describes food. We should aspire to be the fruit of the spirit (ironically, however, fruit is sweet). Sweetness is not a requirement laid out by the Bible. I love a lot of people who embody the fruit of the spirit but are maybe not the sweetest people I’ve known. Sweetness is not a personality obligation.
5. Just because someone can’t read your mind doesn’t mean they don’t want to know what’s going on it. People care about you and want to know how you are. It’s your job to communicate, not theirs to have x-ray knowledge of your feelings.
6. It’s hard to burp underwater. I mean, really. Try it. It’s quite a disorienting feeling.