The above cover photo was taken when the 24 of us scholars climbed Cave Hill the first week we were here. As mentioned in my last blog, I’ve experienced homesickness along the way, but I also feel as though I’ve grown since that picture was taken. I’ve befriended young people my age, coached kids a variety of ages and have strived to try to make a difference in other peoples’ lives, even in the smallest ways. I enjoy helping others andI’m lucky enough to have had coaches and mentors in the past who have emphasized the importance of keeping others in mind. Now, I hope to pass that same generous message on to the young people I work with. Here are five things I’ve learned about myself on this journey:
1. I’m a people person. This is quite an obvious statement for those who know me, but it’s been solidified since I began working with others. There have been days where I’ve been tired going into an eHOOPs session, but when I arrive and feel the energy from the others’ company I’m delighted and I become energized myself. Same with an early morning Sundaycoaching session; the ride up to Holywood is usually dark and can feel dreary, but once I’m welcomed by the eager faces of the kids I coach and golf with, I’m excited to be sharing my time with them.
2. Although I’m a people person, I’ve learned that it’s okay to spend time alone. This is something I’ve learned more so from my housemates. We don’t have a television in our apartment, so we often play card games or Monopoly to enjoy our time together. I love that this has become an almost daily tradition, but sometimes, as we’ve all experienced, there isn’t a better feeling than curling up in bed with a candle lit nearby and Netflix annoyingly asking if I’m still watching.
3. Unplanned situations occur and when they do, adjusting my set plans accordingly is a must. There have been days where I have woken up thinking it’d be an off day, but it turns into a productive one and there have been days where I’ve woken up thinking I’d be coaching, but the weather had a different agenda. In college, I had a rigorous schedule that was pretty consistent week-to-week. Here, there have been countless changes and this has taught me to adapt quicker. Being okay with last minute changes is something I’ve been working on all year as the lifestyle here is more laid back (which at times I very much appreciate), but life after college can sometimes change quicker than anticipated.
4. Being present is incredibly challenging, but seriously satisfying. As mentioned in my previous blogpost, there have been times where I’ve contemplated the “what ifs” and that often includes planning for the future, or reminiscing on the past. It’s taken a lot of effort and practice to get myself to focus on the present moment. When traveling, I’ve been trying to embrace all of the scenery while also making sure I capture the moment with a picture so I can later reflect on how good of an experience it was. Regularly walking in the park opposite of campus that overlooks the Atlantic gives me the chance to reflect on all I’ve accomplished and have experienced since I’ve been here, while getting a chance to appreciate the beauty of Northern Ireland.
5. Optimism overrules negativity. There have been countless days where I’ve found myself complaining about the smallest inconveniences (thank you to my housemates for tolerating me on my whiniest days). If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that there is a greater picture to be seen than the minuscule one that encapsulates me in that negative moment. I’ve complained over the smallest things; the weather, school and a teetering schedule. After I vent or let out a complaint, I make sure to remind myself of the positives. I’ll look at recent pictures of my travels or think about the relationships I’ve formed here and I realize that there really isn’t much to complain about.
I’ve learned more about myself here than if I were working at an entry-level job for the sole purpose of receiving an income. While in Northern Ireland, I’ve had the privilege to work with young people, hopefully leaving a memory and an impact (or at least a goofy impression) and that makes me so happy. As a new week begins tomorrow, I look forward to working with the Carrickfergus Chargers, a Northern Ireland Special Olympics basketball team, our weekly eHOOPers, and coaching the Holywood Golf Club junior members.