“what did you learn about yourself?”

One of S. Nancy’s favorite questions to ask anyone who volunteers at Casserly House is: “And what did you learn about yourself?” Honestly, I’m surprised that it took this long into the year for her to ask me that question, but it came up over a conversation that we had over lunch the other day, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

I went into this year expecting to learn a lot about myself, but I didn’t really know what those specifics would be.

One of the most profound things I’ve realized so far stems from a piece of advice I received at our Re-Orientation retreat: stop expecting people to change, because when we go into situations and expect people to change, that holds us back from loving them where they are. That was such a powerful thing for me to hear because it has made me realize how often I unintentionally do that. I think, “If they would just do XYZ, then it would be so much easier,” but that’s not how it works. I have to love people where they are right now, not where I wish they were.

Here are a few other things I’ve learned so far, about myself, and about my relationships with others.

  • I’ve learned that I am a lot more patient than I thought I was or that I was capable of.
  • I’ve learned what I’m good at… and what I’m not, which is arguably almost more important.
  • I’ve learned a lot about what I don’t want to do for a career.
  • <I’ve learned about being with people, about listening to stories, about caring.
  • I’ve learned that sometimes just listening to people can be the most rewarding thing in the world.
  • I’ve learned that I’m really bad at hiding how I feel and that I need to be honest about my needs and desires (and yes, sometimes I am kind of needy and that’s okay).
  • I’ve learned about being open–to experiences, to emotions, but mostly to people.
  • I’ve learned that denial is never, ever helpful, especially when it comes to my own emotions. I need to embrace them, even when it hurts.
  • I’ve learned about vulnerability–about letting myself be open to giving and receiving love, on taking a chance on another person and trusting that even if they don’t meet you halfway, that it was still a chance worth taking. Because when they do meet you there, it’s a beautiful thing.
  • I’ve learned that I still have a weakness for bad pop music.
  • I’ve learned that with some friends distance doesn’t matter.
  • I’ve learned that I’ve already come a long way… but I’ve still got a long way to go.

So, what have I learned about myself?

Mostly that I still have a lot left to learn.

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