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The World’s Largest Learning Experience

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Over the past three weeks I have learned so much about myself, almost too much. I have discovered how much I want to be home, how scary it is growing up, what an opportunity I have been given, and most of all, how to do things for myself. I’m still working on this last one.

My semester in Europe is about me. It’s not about sacrificing what I want to do in order to make sure other people are satisfied. It’s about learning to be a little selfish sometimes and learning how to stand up for myself. I like to please others, to make sure they are content and are doing what they want. I like this quality about myself, but I’ve noticed, especially now, that it can sometimes lead to hurt feelings, stress, and the occasional teary eyes.

I had a huge meltdown this week and consulted one of my good friends for help. She told me that this was my trip, this was her trip, this was everyone’s trip, and we will get out of it whatever we want to, but only if we work for it. She told me that now was the time to be selfish, to take charge, and to live for myself.

Many people are like me—wanting to please others. By no means is this a bad trait. In my opinion it means we are considerate and respectful, the way people should be. But if you are like me, you know how hard it is to say, “No, I don’t want to do that. I want to do something else instead.” You know what it’s like to want to go out to eat at your favorite restaurant, but someone else doesn’t, so you end up giving in. You like to put others before yourself, and you are afraid being selfish might upset someone else.

I have quickly discovered that growing up and being on my own is by far the most difficult thing I have ever had to do. I am in Europe. By myself. And I have to figure out how “to be.” One of my mom’s favorite lectures is “Amy has to be Amy!” But how do I do that? Obviously I know who I am and what I value, believe, and want. Figuring out how to act on it is the tough part, the discovery part. I finally know what Mom means though, after years of wondering. I finally get it. Amy has to learn to stand up for herself. She has to find a little attitude and voice her opinion. She has to be an individual now, a grown up (but not too grown up). Amy has to learn to stand on her own two feet and tell others what she wants. That’s the only way anyone will ever know.

This whole European excursion is terrifying for me. I know it is going to be the hardest and greatest thing I have ever done, and I know I am going to find myself, even if that means learning to say no and how to do things for myself. In a larger context, we all have to, at some point, learn how to be selfish at the right time. We have to learn that it’s OK to do something that only we might want to do, and if it’s that important, we have to say so, or no one else will ever know.

So, my challenge to you this week is to be you. Take the lecture my mom gives me and go be you. Learn how to say no sometimes. Learn how to do things for you every once in a while. Learn how to be scared and then let it go. Find yourself and love it! It won’t be easy, and I’m still searching, but you’ll discover a little more with every step. And it will be fun.