Lessons Learned

7 Jan

2011 was a bit of a crazy year for me. Every year is, really, for everyone. And that’s one of the many reasons that I love a new year, just like I love a new semester. It’s a chance to think about everything that has happened in your life, everything that has changed you, and then to put it aside and move into the next twelve months with hope and purpose. So much of my life is spent counting down (only two hours until I’m done with work! Nine days until finals are over! One week until I go back to school!) and not enough is spent enjoying and appreciating what I have. Which I know is wonderful, if only for the fact that the thought that I graduate from college in 16 months – another countdown – fills me with sheer terror.

So now, before I think about what I want to change going forward, I want to think about what has changed.

Some People Don’t Matter

At least, not to me. There are people who come in and out of our lives, and we’re not going to particularly get along. Doesn’t mean we hate each other, or that there’s anything wrong with either of us. We’re just different. I’ve spent a lot of my life worrying about people liking me, and when they don’t I assume it’s because there’s something wrong with me.

When I lived in Barcelona this summer, I had six apartmentmates. They were great girls, but we had approximately zero in common. I spent most of my time alone. I thought they thought I was weird because I would rather read a book, watch some Netflix, and be in bed by midnight than go out clubbing. Maybe they did. But looking back, I doubt it. I didn’t think they were weird for having different interests than me. I just thought, “That’s something that I have no interest in doing. So I’m not going to do it.”

We got along just fine in our apartment, and when we hung out together. I haven’t stayed in touch with them. I thought the people you study abroad with were supposed to be your best friends forever, and mine weren’t. They were good acquaintances for seven weeks, and if I ever wind up in one of their cities, I’ll ask them to get lunch. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with either of us.

When I saw on facebook, about a week ago, that my study abroad group was having a New Year’s reunion, I immediately felt slighted. “I wasn’t even invited???” But I realized: There was no reason for them to invite me. I wouldn’t have gone – wouldn’t have even considered it – even if they had. We’re not friends. And that’s okay.

In a hostel in Prague, I met a couple of guys from California. I told them I couldn’t really give them any tips on Amsterdam (where they were headed) because I hadn’t really been going out much at night. My excuse was that I was a girl travelling alone and it didn’t seem safe, but that wasn’t really the truth. The truth was that I just didn’t want to. I heard them skyping a friend in the hostel later that night. “We met this girl today, who like, doesn’t go out at night. She just does the touristy stuff during the day and then stays in. It was really weird,” they said.

Yup. That’s me. And I have finally started to realize that I can be exactly me, and if someone doesn’t like me, it’s not a problem with me. And it’s not a problem with them. It’s just what happens when there are seven billion people on a planet.

Some People Really, Really Do

While I was abroad, I found myself missing school, a lot. Yes, I was in Paris, wishing I was in Spokane. Bet that doesn’t happen very often.

That’s because I had pounded into me every day one of the biggest clichés of all. It’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. I knew that waiting for me back at Gonzaga were a few dozen of the best people I’ve ever met. People who I can have a great time with just sitting in our living room.

Even my European memories are made better by who I was with. There was the week hanging out with Eric in Stockholm and London, who I’ve known since middle school but was never close with. There was visiting Rahel in Bern – a girl I’ve only spent two days with, ever, but still talk to regularly because we just clicked. There were the hilarious boys – Anton and Alexander – I met on the train in Austria. There was the incredible hospitality of Laura and Klaus in Vienna, spending the whole day with a total stranger. Sitting on Laura’s floor for hours talking was one of the best moments of my trip because it felt so real. And it was seeing Jamie’s face through a coffeeshop window in Budapest and finding that little piece of home thousands of miles away.

I have those people in my life. It doesn’t matter that there were 30 people in Barcelona that I just couldn’t be real friends with. They weren’t, for me, the ones who really matter.

The ones who really matter picked me up from the airport back home. They took me to Red Robin for the burger I had spent two months craving. They sit on my floor life chatting late into the night. They text me silly things that they think I’d appreciate. They know what I’m scared of, what I wish for, and stories from my childhood. We share a lot of stories now. Them, I wouldn’t ask to lunch in their cities. I’d ask them for a floor to crash on.

People Don’t Just Assume You’re a Loser

I’ve never really been in the popular crowd. I’ve always had friends (except for a few tough weeks at the beginning of fourth grade) but I’ve always felt like there was something preventing me from being cool. There probably is (it could be my nerdiness, my enjoyment of knitting, or any of countless other things) but it’s definitely not my hair. And it’s not my clothes. And it’s not any of a dozen other things you can see when you look at me.

When the popular kids in high school would talk to me, it was a kind of elation. It’s pathetic, but it felt like getting a you’re-not-so-bad stamp. And slowly, I’ve learned that I can talk to people. We probably won’t be best friends, but that doesn’t mean they’ll look down on me for the audacity to even think I could speak to them. And maybe – most likely – we’ll be acquaintances. People who smile at each other and occasionally say hi. Not a cool person and a nerd. Just people.

I Can Do It

I can travel around Europe for five weeks on my own. I can find a place to sleep in a foreign city when it’s 6:00 and I don’t have a reservation. I can pay my own rent and cook my own food. I can make friends all around the world. I can knit a sweater. I can work 20 hours a week while taking 21 credits – and still get a 3.5! I can get in countless fights and still realize that this is a friendship I need to keep. I can be rejected, and rejected, and rejected and come out swinging, smiling at the next cute boy I see. I can write things thousands of people will read. I can take a huge letdown and turn it into a huger opportunity.

I’m sure there are many, many other things I’ve learned this year, and perhaps I’ll share them with you later. But for now, I’m looking forward to what will be learned in 2012!


2 Responses to “Lessons Learned”

  1. Erin January 8, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    I love this

    • laurenkcampbell January 8, 2012 at 7:44 am #

      Thanks Erin! You are one of my people-who-matter 🙂

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