Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday. I'm talking my list of top five holidays entirely consists of the word “Thanksgiving”. I. Love. Thanksgiving.
This week, since Thanksgiving is next week, I want to remind you of one thing:
Life is difficult, so if you have the chance to think about what you are thankful for, think about it.
I’m going to list a few things/people I am thankful for and maybe the reason why for some. My hope is that from reading my list, it will help you remember what you are thankful for too.
I am thankful for Jesus Christ. When I say He has truly carried me through my darkest (and brightest) moments of life, I mean that. He has given me given me Peace through my pain, Joy throughout my day, Humility, Strength, when I felt defeated, Love when I need it the most (all the time), and so much more. He has faithfully been there for me and all to Him, do I owe.
I am thankful for my family.
My Mom, my Dad, my sisters, my brothers, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, all of them. I know that regardless of how alone I feel at any given moment, they are always right there supporting and loving me.
I am thankful for my friends.
I have a medium sized group of friends from high-school that I know I can count on. We don’t talk every day because we have busy lives, but the bonds I have made with each of them are strong and healthy. I also have met a solid group of people who I am forming friendships with that have made my life at Villanova much more enjoyable. I appreciate each of these people in my life.
I am thankful for the access I have to education.
Villanova provides an excellent academic curriculum that I love. I am learning what I enjoy and I am being prepared for what I will encounter in the workforce. I know that my experience is not everyone’s experience, which puts into perspective just how blessed by God I truly am.
I am thankful for who I am.
I am creative and loving and interesting and resilient and fierce. I have fought my way to get to the place that I am right now and I am fighting to get to my next goal. And I am thankful that have come to a place where I can love myself.
Take a minute to remember what you are thankful for. Even if you can only think of one thing or half a thing, think about it for a minute or two.
Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.
But also, a PWI.
What does this mean for me, and you, as people of color?
It can mean a lot.
It can mean having a student say he's "speaking Ebonics" when a professor tells him he's missing all of the nouns in his sentence.
It can mean listening to a group of white girls giggle hysterically as they try to "figure out" if it's melanin or melatonin that makes you sleepy.
It can mean someone complimenting your Senegalese twists and asking if it's your real hair. And then, when you answer no, it can mean them immediately asking if it's rat hair.
It can mean having a professor ask you if your parents have taught you how to make fried chicken yet.
It can mean a lot of things. A lot of hurtful things.
But it can also mean having an amazing education.
It can mean learning exactly what career you want for the rest of your life.
It can mean experiencing new things and traveling to different countries by studying abroad.
It can mean having doors opened because of the prestige of your college.
You need to be prepared for the different positive and negative things that a PWI has to offer.
It won't be easy. It may shock you and leave you frustrated that you were too tongue-tied to respond. You might feel ostracized or begin to believe that maybe the ridiculous questions and remarks you're receiving have some validity.
But can you do it?
Can you learn from past encounters and be better prepared for future ones?
Can you choose your battles and glean knowledge from the ones you win and lose?
Can you block the ignorance that is imposed upon you from taking root inside your mind?
Regardless of what school you go to, you will come to learn a multitude of things that aren't always directly correlated to academics. Cherish those lessons because you will need them as you begin to go into the workforce.
Take the knowledge you are given and use it towards innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, and so much more.
Go and be amazing.
There are stigmas that are a trap. One stigma in particular comes to mind: You appear weak when you ask for help.
When I reached high-school, I not only fell into that trap of a stigma, but I lived in it. I began to feel like I had to be self-sufficient all the time and every time. In high-school, I could do everything myself. I managed my time, handed in my assignments on time, I got to class on time, I juggled extracurriculars, studying, sleep, and eating. I was a pro.
And then I came to Villanova. Let me tell you, college is not high-school. I felt stressed all the time. I forced myself to study every minute of the day that I possibly could to the point where I felt guilty for even taking time to eat. I would spend time with friends and in between my laughter, I would feel anxious over how much homework I could have been doing instead.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't enjoy myself. I couldn't live without feeling guilty about living.
That isn't how college is supposed to be. That isn't how life is supposed to be. My experience wasn't this way because of how heavy of a workload college was giving me (although, you do have to put in some serious work), but because I felt overwhelmed. My first year would have probably gone much better if I had known what I know now: It is okay to ask for help.
There is no weakness in asking for help. The number of benefits in waiting to ask for help after you are so deep in trouble that it's almost too late is zero. Don't wait. Don't be afraid.
I'm in my sophomore year now and my story has changed. I can breathe. I can laugh with friends and enjoy every minute of it. Today, I took off three hours just to do a DIY craft. I don't have to feel guilty for taking time to myself.
And, that's partly because I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to reach out when I start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. I reach out to the people I know who will reach back. Find those people and hold onto them. Reach out to them, make sure they know they can reach out to you.
Take care of yourself by asking for help. In a world where we are always fighting, climbing, struggling, and living, we don't have to do it alone.
Have you guys ever worn a sock?
I hated socks as a kid, couldn't stand them. But I love them now and I may or may not have felt like a kid in a candy shop when I went and bought a bunch of socks for myself.
At my house, we have a sock bin and I don't mean a cutesy little Target bin. No, we have a sock BOX that holds lonely socks missing their sockmates, lucky socks who have their mate, and other miscellaneous items. There are socks in there from all stages of our lives, from a few baby ones to "grown up socks".
I wear a size 9 1/2-10. Can you imagine me trying to fit my foot into a baby sock?
A friend of mine wears size sixteen shoes. Can you imagine me trying to wear one of his socks without having to pull it up to my thigh?
But we all have feet that need socks.
My point? Sometimes you will have the same problem or situation as someone else, but their solution will not work for you. And vice versa.
Right now, I am enrolled in three different courses that are teaching me programming. As the semester continues, one of the things I have realized is that there are almost always multiple solutions to the same problem. If you give three people the same problem, it is entirely possible that each program has a different method, but they all deliver the same (correct) result. This is entirely true in the real world as well.
Your solution may not work for someone else’s problem. The thing about solutions is that they are not always one size fits all.
This may seem like an obvious point, but I think it might be something we quickly forget. Don't get discouraged or feel defeated if someone’s suggestion doesn't work for your problem. That is often how life goes.
The beauty of these situations, is in the fact that it is a learning opportunity for you. You will learn how to come up with your own solutions by glaring at your problem until it makes sense or by tweaking someone else’s solution. This ability is so, so, important because you will always need to find the answer to the questions that arise in your life. I know that I have in the past, I am right now, and I will in the future. But don't worry, we’ve got this!