– Joni Mitchell, ‘All I Want’
This may be the most cliché statement I’ve ever typed, but here it goes: sometimes, it seems, you learn the most valuable lessons in the least likely places at the most inopportune times. Sometimes they’re lessons you didn’t even know you needed to learn.
I’m typing to you from Melbourne, Australia, which is roughly 10,285 miles away from Hawk Hill. Two weeks ago, I left the United States with four Beatles pins, three stuffed bags, two pairs of glasses, and a broken laptop in my backpack.
You read that right: my laptop decided to stop working a mere two hours prior to my flight from New York to Los Angeles. This was not the first time I’ve had issues with my MacBook, but it was certainly the most inconvenient one. I felt like I was in some sappy dramatic movie as I sat in tears in the terminal, my fellow soon-to-be plane passengers staring at me and my defective piece of technology. What a stellar way to begin the trip of a lifetime.
In all honesty, though, it was a great way to begin my journey because it immediately forced me out of my comfort zone. (Granted, it’s much easier saying this from a future perspective — and from a fixed computer — but hear me out.)
After I stopped sniffling and dried my swollen eyes, I found some students from my exchange program who had recently filtered into the terminal unbeknownst to me. They all listened sympathetically while I described my sorry situation and offered their support as best they could. Although I had only met these people a few short minutes ago, they were already collectively lending me a shoulder to cry on — something I didn’t realize I needed until I had it.
At times I find it can be difficult for me to admit that my life is not perfect. I have trouble asking for help, often preferring to struggle on my own self-righteously. When something goes wrong in my life — even something over which I had no control — I tend to consider it a personal failure.
Needing the assistance of others, though, does not make you weak; rather, it means you are pushing yourself beyond your self-imposed limits. You are doing something different and you won’t always know what lies ahead. But someone else might, and they might be able to shed a bit of light on an otherwise pitch-black path.
In the past two weeks, I’ve needed to ask people for help and support multiple times, including (but not limited to):
- when I begged for an appointment at the Apple Store in Sydney so my laptop could get serviced before leaving for Melbourne,
- when my phone died and I had to frantically ask for directions while on the tram after seeing Ira Glass at the Arts Centre,
- the many, many times when I didn’t understand how class registration worked at uni,
- when I needed a laundry powder suggestion in Woolworths.
These may sound like mundane moments, but to me they were milestones. If being abroad teaches me nothing else (though I highly doubt that, since I’ll soon be attending the prestigious University of Melbourne), I’ve discovered how to acknowledge my shortcomings and embrace the knowledge of others without berating myself in the process. And that, my friends, is a great lesson to learn.
(That being said, I still kind of wish I didn’t have to find it out by sniveling feverishly in a crowded airport. But alas, that’s life — and we all know it never goes quite as planned.)
I won’t be seeing Hawk Hill for another few months at least. I now know, though, that the next time I stroll through Barbelin courtyard, hang out (I mean… toil over intense academic work) in the library, and attend lectures in Merion Hall, I will be a better version of myself than when I left thanks to moments like those I’ve experienced thus far. I already can’t wait to share that version of myself with all of you.
But for now, I’m off to explore — and learn from — the glorious city of Melbourne as a Global Hawk.