Hey all. It's been a hot minute since I last posted. I don't know if I could correctly describe the past month of my life but to sum it up: busy. This past two and a half weeks I have moved back to UNC and started RA training with some of the most wonderful people I have met on this campus. Now that the weeks are winding down and the new school year is about to start, I actually found myself with some time to reflect on my biggest goals for the upcoming school year. Side note, the word "things" is killing me as an English major please offer me an alternative.
1.) I hope we fall in love
I hope we fall in love. Not necessarily with a person though. I hope we fall in love with a place, an idea, a feeling, a dream. I hope we fall in love with a class, a lecture, a new coffee drink, a secret study location, a new ice cream flavor. What would life be like if we didn't take time to fall in love with the small ordinary details that makes the every day so extraordinary?
2.) I hope we fail
This one I mean. I'm not talking about failing a class or failing something that is important to us. I mean, I hope we try something and fail at it. I have found that 99% of my successes are based on learning from my mistakes. If we are not adequately prepared to handle failures and turn those failures into positive messages, then are we really succeeding at all? Listen, I want us to pass our Chem final and our philosophy paper just as much as you do, but I also want usto know that when we fail: how we dust ourselves off and get back on our feet truly determines if we succeeded or not.
3.) I hope wefeel uncomfortable
With all that is going on in the world, now is the right moment to tackle difficult conversations, thoughts, and opinions that make us feel the most uncomfortable. If we are not a little uncomfortable at times talking about issues that mean the most, then we are not truly gaining any insight or value from those situations. We need to change our mindset that uncomfortable equals bad. No. Uncomfortable means that we are pushing the boundaries and working to break what makes us complacent.
4.) I hope wegain confidence
This is one that I struggle with the most. The saying goes, "confidence is key," but I often find that my key is jammed in the door. It takes a lot to not constantly second guess myself, worry about my appearance, and struggle to recognize good traits rather than fester on the bad. However, I hope we find that ability to shine light on ourselves and use that light to take us wherever we want to go. Fingers crossed that I am able to confidently tell a resident they're breaking community living standards without sprinkling the phrase, "I'm sorry," in there. (Side note, I recently took a quiz that told me my leadership style was 'Golden Retriever.' I am prone to being sensitive and overly accommodating yet I am loyal and always have the best intentions).
5.) I hope we make a memory so strong, that it stays with us for the rest of our lives
One of the details that I find most frustrating about life is that I am unable to remember every good moment that happens to me. However, I LIVE for the memories that can come flooding through my mind at any moment and literally make me stop and smile. I hope we all make those types of memories this year.
6.) I hope we make friends with a person you thought you never would
I think that people underestimate the power of a friendship. Friendships don't have to mean hanging out all the time and constantly talking. Sometimes the best type of friendship is the low-maintenance one. The friendship that reminds someone they always have a person in their corner and even if you don't talk all the time--you have their back whenever they need it.
7.) I hope we stop comparing ourselves to other people
This one I am extremely guilty of. Social media is the cure to my boredom but also the root to my self confidence issues. I hope we all are able to become more comfortable with ourselves. I hope we all realize there is something unique and beautiful about all of us. One person's beauty does not diminish our own.
8.) I hope we discover a secret talent
This one is super random. However, I have to play a ton of ice breaking games with my residents and the various programs I am involved in. A lot of times they involve sharing a fun fact or secret talent. THE ONLY SECRET TALENT I KNOW OF IS THAT I CAN CURL MY TONGUE INTO A CLOVER. So, I hope we all discover a secret talent this year. Partly because if we discover it then we must have been trying something new that allowed us to discover it, and partly so everyone can participate in all my ice breaker games this year without feeling awkward.
9.) I hope we meet ALL of our goals
This is a given. Why create a goal list if one of my goals for us isn't to finish it?? Whether you have a bunch of tiny goals or one big goal: I hope we accomplish them.
10.) I hope if the going gets tough, we find the strength to continue on
Listen, I am enough of a realist to realize that not every moment in life is going to go the way we want it. I am enough of a realist to realize that sometimes those setbacks aren't going to be easy. They're going to be hard, they're going to be disappointing, and they're going to be rough. However, I am also enough of an optimist to have faith that we will all find the strength in something that will make us prevail. I know this to be 100% true, we are all stronger than we think. If not anything else, I hope we learn that.
Thank you, Kind Strangers.
There is a little known fact about me that I will share with you all: I have really bad luck when it comes to cars. Don’t believe me? Ask my roommate how many times I have gone to my parking spot only to find someone else parked in my spot. Ask my mom about the four parking tickets I received for parking in an illegal parking spot (hey, don’t judge me. Parallel parking doesn’t exist in Gates County. I could park in my neighbor’s driveway for a week and nobody would say anything). My car is actually sitting at the mechanic’s right now because the alternator went out while I was getting the oil changed. As much as I don’t have good luck with cars, I have really terrible luck with car keys. In the past couple of months, I have locked my keys in my car twice. Each time ended with me waiting at least an hour and a half for AAA while random people looked at me, no doubt thinking, “I’m glad that isn’t me!”
The kindness of strangers has gotten me through a lot. When I first locked my keys in my car, I had decided to surprise my sister on her prom day by driving back home early in the morning to go with her to her hair and makeup appointments. However, as things normally go with me, that did not go as planned. When I stopped for gas about halfway to my destination, I unintentionally left my keys and my wallet locked in my car. I tried to open every door, I banged on every window, and I almost had a tantrum of epic proportions at Pump #3 in the Zebulon, NC WaWa parking lot. Every time I tried to call AAA in order to get roadside assistance, the lady refused to help me because I was using my mother’s membership card instead of my own. I was not feeling the kindness of that stranger. However, after an hour of sitting by my car not knowing what to do, a stranger approached me. He asked me if my keys were locked in my car and then he offered to try to unlock it for me. Turns out, he owned his own car garage and he always carries an ‘in case of an emergency’ car kit. It took him all of two minutes to pop open my driver’s side door. I tried to pay him, but he said it was no trouble at all. I was able to make it home (I didn’t surprise my sister though, my mother had given away my secret the day I told her what I was planning to do). My sister looked beautiful.
As I sat down to write this, I was watching World News with David Muir. One of the stories that was on was a tale about a man who was biking through the country in order to meet the person who had received his daughter’s heart after she tragically passed away. The brave man told the cameras about the strangers who would put him up for the night in every town that he biked through. They fed him, they clothed him, and they hugged them. With tears in his eyes he said, “My faith in humanity is restored.” I was incredibly touched but immediately understood what he meant about his faith being restored. I, too, have experienced the incredible acts of kindness bestowed to me by strangers, especially through working at the farmer’s market for the past seven years.
However, what I have learned is that the kindness of strangers goes beyond helping someone stranded at a gas station. Other times strangers have helped me may have seemed so small to them, but to me it meant the world. A sincere compliment on days I felt like I looked like a complete disaster, helping me pick up my books that spilled from my backpack when I forgot to zip it after my class, and even letting me go in front of them in a really long Starbucks line when I’m in a hurry—these are all small ways the kindness of strangers has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. The farmers market has allowed me to meet the nicest people. All of them started as strangers. People who brought my mom, sister, and I tents to set up and raincoats to wear when it started pouring down on us while we were selling our vegetables. Strangers who bring food to us at the end of the market day. Partly to show us the creations they made out of the produce they bought that morning, partly to show us kindness at the end of a long workday. We have had people show up to help us set up our tables in the morning, people who bring us magazines and cookbooks to show us their favorite recipes, received birthday and graduation cards, hot cups of coffee on cold mornings, and friendly faces to look at while we battle hot summer days and long, early mornings.
I want to say thank you. From the people who volunteer selflessly working everyday through organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Teach for America, PAWS, and the Peace Corps to the person who takes time out of their busy day to help a stranger out—thank you. Whoever you are, thank you. Thank you for being so kind on that one day I needed it the most. You may not have known it but your kindness truly carries on. Thank you for helping out a stranger when you didn’t even know what type of person they could be. Thank you for deciding, in a world where random acts of hatred and crime run rampant, to be that bit of hope that holds us all together. Just as Blanche Dubois says in my favorite play of all time, A Streetcar Named Desire, “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” it is true—you are what make the world go round.
They say, “Be the type of person you would want to meet.” Well, If I was emulating the type of person I would want to meet, I would want to be a kind stranger. In the words of Nikita Gill, author of Be that Kind of Person , "Be the kind of person who isn't afraid to ask someone if they are okay twice if they say they are, but look like they aren't. Be the kind of person who smiles at people even if they don't smile back. Be the kind of person you wished for when no one was there for you. Be the kind of person who is brave enough to stand alone in a crowd for what is right. Be that person because people like that are rarer than the most precious of diamonds and gold." Maybe I was wrong when I stated that the kindness of strangers goes beyond helping someone stranded at a gas station, maybe tiny acts such as those create a wealth of good. Be that kind of person. Be a kind person, especially to a stranger. Thank you.
Below I have included a small, small list of different stories in which people have discussed the times where strangers have shown them kindness. I encourage you to add to this list by commenting your own stories! I’ll continue to add your stories to this list and constantly update.
True Testimonials on the Kindness of Strangers:
1. “So the other week when we were coming home we stopped for gas, and ____ wanted to buy a bottle of water but we had to wait in a really long line. When we finally got to the counter ____, who lives with a severe form of autism, paid in cash because he loves to see what kind change he gets (aka shiny coins). So after telling the cashier, the man next to us also bought something and he gave ____ ALL of his change. I thought it was really sweet and ___ was so excited.”
2. “When I was 19 I was driving to visit my boyfriend at college and my car broke down. This was before cellphones and I was in the middle of nowhere really early in the morning. I walked down the road and knocked on the door of the first house I saw. An older couple answered the door, obviously haven been awoken by their sleep, and I asked if they had a phone I could borrow. Not only did they let me borrow their phone, the older gentleman checked on my car for me, and they fed me breakfast and let me stay in their house until my father could come and get me.”
3. “One time, I was having a really bad day. My boyfriend had broken up with me a couple days before, I found out I had made a really bad grade on a test I had been studying for, and I felt like I was coming down with cold. However, one of my really good friends was having a party that night and I told her I would go. At the party, I felt terrible. To add to my stress, my newly ex-boyfriend showed up to the party uninvited, bringing another girl. I went into the bathroom and cried my eyes out, I felt so ugly. When I left the bathroom, getting ready to leave, a random girl came up to me and told me that she loved how I did my hair and asked how I did it. It was a very small compliment but I will never forget how, on a night I felt the worst, one stranger’s question made me feel a little bit better”
4. “I was in line at Starbucks the other day and the person in front of me paid for my coffee. It was the nicest surprise and I definitely will be doing that for someone in the future”
5. “My son wondered off in Farm Fresh the other day. A sweet lady found him and brought him to the front. She asked his name and they were able to page me in the store. I was so frightened but ultimately so happy for the woman who took time out of her day to help.”
6. I dropped my keys on the way to class. I was in a panic looking for them but I was really busy and had to walk to work. When I got back to my car, someone had left a note on my dashboard saying that my keys were in the flower pot outside of the porch. They had found them next to my car and put them in a safe place for me.
In high school, people always told me that I was a master storyteller. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have a story for you. It all starts with a girl, as most good stories do. Her mom was very kind to her and wanted to treat the girl to a relaxing weekend because she knew how stressed out the girl was. They drove up to Winter Green ski resort, ready for a fun-filled three-day weekend. The mother booked a massage for the girl and her, something she thought the girl would really enjoy because she loves having her back rubbed. When they got to the spa, the girl only had one question for her mother. “Do I get naked?” she asked. The mother looked at her daughter curiously. “No, just keep your underwear on and you will be more comfortable.” The girl shrugged her shoulders and put on the white fluffy robe that was in the waiting room. “Easy enough,” she thought.
When the masseuse came in, she informed the daughter and the mother that they would each have to go into the massage room separately. The mother let the daughter go in first. The masseuse, a very small older woman with a soft voice, led the girl into the small room. She began instructing the girl on what to do, but the girl had shrunk into her own mind, worrying obsessively about another issue…tip money. She had left her wallet in the locker room. Would the masseuse think it was rude if she didn’t tip when she was done, or were you not supposed to tip? The girl’s mind was racing with these questions and it seemed so important to her at the time that she completely missed everything the masseuse had said to her. The girl tuned back into the conversation as the masseuse said, “Most of my clients get naked. I’ll give you a few minutes to disrobe.” If the girl had water in her mouth, she would have done a spit take. “Naked?” she thought, “My mother said that I could just wear my underwear!” The girl’s heart began to pound as she decided what to do. What if she kept her underwear on but that was not the proper protocol? What if she misheard the woman and what she really said was, “Most of my clients don’t get naked.” The girl did not know what to do, but she knew that staying in her robe would be the most awkward decision and the masseuse was bound to come back into the room any moment.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish I could tell you that the girl decided to keep her underwear on…but she didn’t. She got under the blanket as naked as the day her mother gave birth to her. As soon as the masseuse came back into the room, the girl realized that she had made the wrong decision. Her cheeks burned bright red as the masseuse started talking to her.
“What’s your sign? She asked. “I’m naked,” the girl screamed internally
“Are you on your feet a lot?”… “I’M naked”
“How is your relationship with your father?” …. “Sign. Feet. Father? Lady, I’M NAKED!”
The girl’s anxiety only increased when the masseuse told her to roll over. Before she knew it, the masseuse was kneading and rubbing her butt and I am sure the girl just about fainted. Suddenly, the girl remembered another very embarrassing detail she, surprisingly, had not thought of yet…how hairy her legs were. In fact, how hairy everything was and how the masseuse had gotten a full view of everything au naturel on the girl’s body. Embarrassment radiated from the girl and the masseuse noticed it. “Ma’am” she said, “You are sweating profusely. You need to give me control of your limbs. You’re fighting me by being so tense.” The girl tried her hardest to relax for the next five minutes. Eventually though, the masseuse gave up. The girl practically ran out of the room, muttering, “Thank you so much. I am sorry I don’t have a tip.” If you think that girl was tense when she entered the spa, you should have seen her when she left. Her mother laughed at her for days.
Confession time: the girl was me. Even though I am so incredibly lucky and blessed to have a mother who cares enough about me to be concerned about my stress levels, every time I think about this memory I cringe. However, I do not cringe because a stranger touched my bottom. I do not cringe because I was sweating so badly that the masseuse had to ask me if I was all right. I do not even cringe because I was a complete hairy mess. No. I cringe because I allowed my worries of small, insignificant issues to ruin a moment that I was looking forward to. Instead of leaving happy and relaxed, I allowed myself to become so stressed that I left miserable. Not only that, I made everyone else around me miserable because I took my misery out on them. Even to this day, making a big deal out of minor details still has a way of putting me in a sour mood: not getting the perfect picture at an event, making a joke that no one laughed at during dinner with my friends, forgetting to set aside a vegetarian quiche for the person who requested one at the farmers market (but failed to email me the reminder as I asked), these things have a way of making me forget to enjoy the moment. They have a way of making me forget to appreciate the memories I am making. Instead, I obsess over the smallest things and let those be the forefront of my experience. While I do agree that many of life’s greatest moments are the small ones, such as when I held my nephews for the first time, shared ice cream with my boyfriend on our first date, or watched The Office with my best friends while it snowed during Christmas break, sometimes trying to make every small moment of the bigger experience perfect, ruins the big experience entirely. If I had worried about the exact right amount of time to hold my nephews before I passed them to the next family member eagerly waiting for a turn, I would not have enjoyed seeing Tucker give me his sweet, baby smile. If I had worried about if I had selected the right ice cream flavor for Franco and I to share on our first date, I would have missed the moments where we laughed as I told him the exact story I wrote about in this post. If I had worried if my friends were enjoying watching The Office as much as I was, I would have been too anxious to realize that Audrey and Kaila were laughing right alongside of me. The advice I have to give may be completely irrelevant to some people (I know tons of friends who have told me that getting a massage naked doesn’t faze them at all) but it is advice that I am still trying to effectively remind myself to enact every day. Stop sweating the small stuff, or I promise you, the small stuff will sweat you. If not a little bit, then maybe even profusely (;
From the time we are little, we are told that A’s are best, B’s are all right, C’s are disappointing, and D’s and F’s are unspeakable. I lived by this system my whole life. I could accept a B every now and then in my high school math class: a subject that is and forever will be my kryptonite. Not making an A was often met with tears and an afternoon begging my teacher to reconsider. I always did the extra credit. I always wanted to be best. When I decided to go to college, I was faced with the hard choice of choosing between UNC Wilmington and UNC Chapel Hill. UNCW was smaller in size, had decent programs, and was right next to the beach. UNC Chapel Hill was my “dream school”. I had talked about going there since I was little. Among other things, UNC is known for its big, beautiful campus, National Championship basketball team, and academic rigor. Naturally, having worked hard to make those A’s my entire middle school and high school career, I chose UNC Chapel Hill the night I received my acceptance email.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love UNC with all my heart. I have met amazing people, experienced so many memories (getting to hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi and President Barack Obama speak!), and challenged myself in all ways possible. However, getting into college left me with the mindset that I could take on anything. When class registration came, I completely dismissed all of my comfort zones. I signed up for college algebra and biochemistry. Even though I had never expressed an interest before, hearing all the people at orientation proudly announce that they were going to be, “biology for pre-med” majors left me feeling like I should do that too. On the second day of biochemistry lecture, we had gone over everything my high school chemistry class covered in a semester. In college algebra, my professor declared that we weren’t allowed to use calculators: a detail that shook me to my very core being, that I hadn’t done math without one since I was in the fourth grade. While everyone else was taking their exam, I wrote “sorry” in the margins and turned in a blank test. I was failing.
I am sure at this point you are thinking, “Michelle you are a smart girl, why didn’t you drop the class?” Well, one thing about me is that I hate to quit. I was convinced that even though the semester had started out tough, I would catch up eventually. I let the ‘drop classes’ period come and go without a blink of an eye. On top of classes being an utter disaster, I was also failing in the social department. My suitemate went on to tell me she didn’t even know my name until the end of the semester, she always had to ask her roommate before asking me something! Initially, I had thought that I would be able to make so many new friends at such a large university. I would leave my small, hometown in the dust and thrive at Chapel Hill. Once again, I was failing. Most days, I would go to class and come back to my room and talk to my mom on the phone. I would cry. I would talk to my roommate but I would never go out. I stopped eating because I hated going to the dining hall alone (I eventually got over that hangup)! I remember one day, after I had taken my first biochemistry exam after studying non-stop for a week, I was standing at the stadium when I found out I made a 45. I wanted to tell someone so they would tell me it was alright. I decided to call my dad because I didn’t want to disappoint my mom. He said, “Well, Michelle, I hope you learned that you need to work harder. What are you going to do about this?” I hung up the phone and broke down in tears. It’s not that my dad is a bad guy—the exact opposite actually—he just chose the wrong moment to be tough on me. I was mortified, angry, hurt and disgusted that I ever had the audacity to think that I could handle anything and everything. A stranger saw me and asked if I was okay.
I told my mom about the grade and nobody has ever made me feel better. I should not have ever doubted this because, in a plot twist I should stop being surprised at, MOMS KNOW BEST. She said she was proud of me regardless and she asked me if I wanted to come home. Spoiler alert, I didn't go home but I failed college algebra and somehow managed to slink away with a D- in Biochemistry. I avoided academic probation by .05 points. I came home for winter break and had to seriously reconsider every plan I had. Did I want to transfer to a different university? Would anyplace worth going accept me with my 2.05 GPA? Did I really want to be a doctor? (because that’s a question every parent hopes their child will ask themselves, right?) Obviously, I decided to stay at UNC. I changed my major and I took mainly electives my second semester. I opened up to my college suitemates and roommate, found outlets in volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, joined a sorority, tried really hard and obtained a job as an RA, took up cycling and jogging, and fell in love with my literature and Spanish classes. I started to feel like myself again.
The point of this long, drawn out tale of how I nearly destroyed myself during my first semester of college is to point out the flaw with the way I had been trained my whole life to desire A’s. The moment I found myself failing that system, I lost my identity. I’m here to say, without one ounce of shame in my body, not making A’s, not even making B’s, is okay. More than okay, it’s perfection. Making A’s had led me to dismiss every other aspect in life. I chose a college based solely off academics and never thought of comfort, adjustment, and lifestyle--factors that aid in success just as much as grades do. I’m here to say making those A’s is great too! As long as you realize, that you should never belittle someone else for what they make. Try hard…if the C is what you get after you busted your butt studying but it still didn’t stick, then that is the best grade you have ever made in your life. I hope everyone succeeds, but I'm here to say...there are so many other parts of life that make a person successful. I didn't plan to go to college and not do well, who does? But that's life and sometimes it hits us harder than a dodgeball on gym day. Just brush yourself off and learn from your mistakes.
We need to reorganize the system. The ABC's of Making A's, B's, and C's needs to change. A’s are amazing, B’s are beautiful, and C’s are courageous. Just try your best and work hard always. Realize that your self-worth should never be defined by a letter on a piece of paper.