People learn from pain. It's psychologically proven and can be observed in almost any situation surrounding a lesson we've learned. You live and make decisions on the basis of pain avoidance, whether it be physical pain or emotional pain, from some kind of repercussion to an action or decision. I'm not here promoting violence or hurtful manipulation of any kind, I'm simply stating a fact. It's pretty sad to think that many times we won't learn unless we experience something painful yet for myself, I've found that it is sometimes the most effective and efficient solution.
A quick disclaimer before I begin spilling my soul to you: by no means am I implying that I have it together or that my lessons make me superior or an expert on this topic. I simply aim to share my experiences with the hope that someone somewhere out there can get something from it. And, besides, does anyone ever really have it together? In high school, I prided myself in knowing who I was and what I wanted to do, something that fell perfectly into the stereotypical teenage know-it-all syndrome. At that age, you don't really spend too much time evaluating who you really are and what you believe in or whether everything you're doing falls under your personal brand and your expectations for the future.
At least, that's not what I spent my time doing. The second I strayed from everything my mom had taught me and tried to be my own person and figure things out for myself, everything seemed to go horribly wrong. I wish I could tell past-Alex to stop being an entitled, arrogant teenager and get it together. I picked up terrible behavioral tendencies and counterproductive mentalities and because I wasn't surrounded by people who noticed them and called me out on them, I grew into my own personal demon. I was my own hindrance for growth. From that point on, everything seemed to snowball and I rolled into college ripe with subtle arrogance about who I was.
The way people come and go in our lives is such an interesting thing. Sometimes the people who are only around for a short period of time can have more of a lasting impact than people who have been around for years. While reevaluating myself and taking steps to be the person I am today was something I had to do on my own, I credit the kick start and driving force of this renewal, if you will, to one of my closest freshman year friends. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, this was one of the most painful times of my life. No, I wasn't going around sulking or being bitter all the time. I had a great freshman year. Nevertheless, underneath it all, I wasn't entirely content with who I was. I was restless and unhappy because I wasn't using my time wisely to work towards where I wanted to be in life.
I was the worst thing you can be according to my mother: stagnant. My friend saw through all of my excuses and poor decisions and called me out on everything. The pain stemmed from my longing for acceptance and from having the worst case of cognitive dissonance. I was so certain that I had it together and knew myself yet, despite all of that, my actions weren't in line with my thoughts and words and I wasn't content with what I was doing or where my current path was leading me. He broke everything down to the simplest of levels for me and provided me with all of the tools I needed to understand who I really was. He told me that until I was truly honest with myself about who I was and why I did certain things, I could never be better. Honestly, he was right but as anyone receiving harsh criticism would, I shut down and denied everything and told him he just didn't understand me. I heard everything he had to say to me but I didn't listen or truly begin to apply it to my life in the way I should've. I was drowning in my own excuses and denial and running from facing my problems by spending all of my time with other people because I was afraid to be alone with myself.
I spent months tossing what he had told me around in my mind until I realized on my own that I had digressed into a self-destructive monster. I was ready to go all in. Here are the five most important things I took away from that time in my life.
Knowing who you are starts at the simplest level of truly understanding your morals and what you believe in.
This applies to virtually everything from religion, to politics to socially acceptable norms. Once you know these things and are brutally honest with yourself, apart from the judging eyes of others, it's important that you align your behavior and what you portray to others with this. If you find yourself having to fake it, you're probably just not being completely honest with yourself.
Perception and emotional control are everything.
Nothing can ever upset you unless you give it the power to. Of course, it's natural to be upset over something but instead of sulking and digging yourself an even deeper hole, try to channel that energy into something productive. Your perception of any situation and your grasp on your emotions dictates much more than you may think. Taking a position of complete gratitude, for example, will do wonders. Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool that should be working for you, not against you.
Time is the most valuable and precious currency we have.
Once it passes, you can never get it back. This being said, you should live maximizing your productivity in any way you can. I'm not saying that you should overload yourself with a million things. You don't have to be out and about to be doing something productive. Taking time to learn something new from a good book or just taking a few moments to write your thoughts can be just as productive as working on a professional project. Evaluate your actions and pick out what is holding you back from moving towards where you want to be in life.
If you cannot learn to be genuinely happy where you are, you're not ready to leave.
This plays into the whole concept of perception. For the longest time, I hated living in New Jersey; all I wanted was to get out and explore. I wasted so much time making myself miserable over the fact that I couldn't leave yet instead of exploring NJ and learning to appreciate all the great things it has. Being able to say you're genuinely happy with where you are goes hand-in-hand with the saying, "bloom where you're planted." You should be able to find the good and thrive wherever you are instead of blaming your problems on your surroundings.
It's OK to be alone.
In fact, it's absolutely necessary for you to be perfectly content with being independent and doing things on your own. If you're an extrovert like me, the easiest way to run from your problems is to surround yourself with other people. Speaking from experience, this is the absolute worst thing you can do for yourself. Being able to be completely happy on your own is one of the most important things I learned and am still learning to do. You should never rely on others to make you happy; you should be able to generate your own happiness. The second you learn to do this, I promise you, your life will improve drastically.
One of the most important things that I want you to take away from this is that this kind of change and introspection cannot be started by the desires of anyone other than the person at hand. You should also never change to please someone else. It's OK not to have it together or have a complete grasp of who you are. We are all here to learn and grow so as long as you are continuing to do so in some way, you're already off to a good start. Talking to people helps sometimes, but the most helpful thing is spending time completely on your own.
This is about you, not about anyone else. I'm on a perpetual journey to being the best version of myself that I can be and no matter how painful the process was at certain points, I am eternally grateful for everything that happened and, more importantly, the knowledge and self-awareness I gained from it. Many people wouldn't even know the difference this has made in my life, but I can tell you, for a fact, that it was the single best thing that has ever happened to me. So, to the person that unintentionally hurt me while having only the best intentions that I simply didn't understand at the time, thank you, thank you, thank you. You were right.