Reflecting on Junior Year (Part 1)

A while back, Sophia posted these questions as reflections points for 2015. Personally, I always thought the new year felt weird to do reflections; the more natural point for me as a student is the start of each academic year. Now that junior year has closed and I am about a day away from starting my new internship, I wanted to take the time to reflect and share what I’ve learned this past year. Now, this will end up being a long post, so I’m going to go ahead and split this into 4 parts. Reflecting doesn’t have to be a speed dating/cramming to study type of activity.

What are some personal strengths you’ve discovered / cultivated this year?

Ah, this is such a good question. In college, every time I look back on a year, I feel like I’ve drastically changed in just 9 months. This year was the 3rd quarter of my college experience. This was the time for me to step into those big girl shoes, be less of a follower, novice, beginner, lost frosh, and more of a mentor, older sibling, LEADER. I’ve learned so much about leadership and teamwork this year. There isn’t just one leadership style that will work universally. As a leader, you cannot employ the same methods that worked on one team with another team. As a leader, the thing I’ve valued the most is my ability to listen. My ability to listen and be open-minded is definitely flawed, but I’m working on it. The leaders I’ve admired so much are not only the people who reach their initial goals, but the people who listen to concerns, are able to communicate clearly, and also be flexible with their plans. There is such a delicate balance between executive decision and consensus. There is a difficult balance between hierarchical and “everyone is on the same foot.” I don’t necessarily have a preference; I see great things of each method and style I’ve seen in others, and I still need to learn what I am most capable of. I also wouldn’t say I’m necessarily more confident in my leadership skills; I would say that I am so much more cognizant of my capacity and ability to listen at any given time.

What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?

I’m not so afraid to ask questions. As I’ve mentioned before, the Asian American community has been a home base throughout my college experience. When it started to feel foreign, I got scared and felt helpless. A lot of this was due to discussions of where we fit into diversity talks, Who’s Teaching Us, Black Lives Matter, but another part of it was seeing good friends beginning to harbor so much hate and anger against “white privilege,” “classism,” and “white supremacy.” Back in the fall, I had a conversation with someone who I considered to be one of my closest friends. He had been through a lot. While I was abroad, he participated in a demonstration that led to police arrests and a lot of court visits. Over the summer, he saw firsthand the pain that low-income families of color had to endure as they were kicked out of their homes for the sake of wide-eyed, comfort-loving tech employees. A lot of this pain…he latched onto me. He had many hateful things to say, and while they weren’t about me, they felt directed at me. A good friend of mine can tell you how hurt and sad this made me feel. Amidst my anger that this friend would push me away in such a manner, there was sadness that he had endured so much pain himself. But there was also confusion, because I could not for my life understand what he as well many other friends had been through. Many did not feel like it was their place to explain to me. After another incident where I heard that another one of my friends was ridiculed behind his back about his ignorance and inability to understand the situation, I was so angry. If you yourself are not willing to explain, then how is someone supposed to know that he/she/they should be asking those questions in the first place? It’s like silently expecting a freshmen to give you a review about an upper-div class when he hasn’t even heard of it, and then going ahead and placing judgment. All of this combined has driven me to ask more questions and to not be put in the position of “not understanding.” We should all make an effort to understand, but we should also not expect other people to know everything. I may not be in a place to “educate,” but the least I can do is provide my own perspective. After all, the friends I find to be most valuable in my life are the ones who push back against my own opinions.

What aspects of your current self would your 09/23/2015 (give or take a few days) self be proud of?

I’ll repeat what someone told me recently about how proud aspects tend to be more like academic/career accomplishments. But if I were to think about what aspects of my personality I am proud of… I think I am so much more comfortable in my own skin. I’m definitely far from saying I’m 100% comfortable with myself and I don’t question anything, but I would like to think small steps have been made. I have found myself many times in positions where I was told that things I say or suggest were encouraging, welcoming, and “so right.” It is those kinds of affirmations that really do make my day and make me think that I must be doing something right in my life for people to confide in me and for people to thank me. So to those people who have expressed those sentiments with me, THANK YOU.

What kinds of conversation topics / interactions did you find the most life-giving and engaging?

I think this was the year where I found myself digging through my past so much more in-depth than I was accustomed to. But it wasn’t so much just the feels. Ima quote my little, because I couldn’t have said it any better:

Honestly, that’s the biggest thing I’ve noticed changing about myself as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been able to wash dishes and buy groceries since I was like 12, that stuff doesn’t make you any more mature or wiser. The real difference between who I am now vs who I was in 7th grade is how much more aware I am of my patterns of behavior, and the inner logic that motivates a lot of those patterns. I can trace an angry thought back to an offhand comment from earlier in the day, and then dissect what it was about the comment that put me off so much, and then even predict and perhaps prevent whatever behavior is going to come out of me as a response.

Self awareness kind of feels like a superpower actually.A few years ago, this blog post would’ve consisted entirely of “IM UPSET AND I DON’T KNOW WHYYYYYYYYYYYYY.” Look at how much more of the world makes sense because I can make sense of myself.Hoping this will continue to expand as I get older.

These conversations, which started from the late night talks with my roommate freshmen year, are all about hearing one another and finding questions to ask for both parties to gain a better understanding of the motivation and beliefs we hold. That has been the most powerful thing for me. For me to not just settle for “ah I don’t really know, I don’t want to think about it,” but to keep pushing downward and ask “oh yeah, what is it about ___ that makes me ____?” “What could’ve happened?” So thank you to all those people who sat around with me for hours having these sorts of conversations. It’s something I’m still learning to do, and I feel these talks having so much positive impact on my life.

 

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Reflecting on Junior Year (Part 1)

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