(This is a two-part blog post. Today, I will post the introduction and tomorrow I will follow up with the advice portion of this story)
Last year, I wrote a blog post about the things I’ve learned during my various J1 Summers. All of those things were honest, heartfelt pieces of advice I had gathered over the years. I was nineteen years old when I spent my first summer in the US and each year taught me valuable lessons that helped me grow into the person I am today. However, there has been no growing experience quite like the past year I’ve spent on the J1 Graduate Programme.
In terms of life experience, the Summer J1 is like your carefree college days. On the Summer J1 you are expected to make mistakes. You are expected to do drunk, silly things that make no sense. You are not expected to have your shit together. The J1 Graduate Programme is your quarter-life-crisis. It’s that moment when you became an adult before your mind had time to catch up. It’s that moment you realised you were supposed to be doing real life grown-up things but in your head you were still skinny-dipping at the beach at 3am (even though you’re not skinny anymore because…American food). The J1 Graduate Programme is the moment you completely lose your shit – emotionally, mentally and physically. It’s that beautiful, chaotic mess you find yourself in, right before somehow, miraculously, things sort of begin to just…make sense.
You will fight for it. You will meet people who promise you things and those people may try to break you. They will play with your heart and your dreams and your confidence and they will make you question your worth and your ability. But you will fight. You will keep fighting when your dream job offer is inexplicably taken away from you. You will keep fighting when the honours degree you worked so hard for seems worthless. You will keep fighting when you find out you left your heart open to someone who lied. You will keep fighting when you FaceTime your family on Christmas morning from your cockroach-infested Brooklyn apartment. You will keep fighting because there is no other option but to fight.
And then, one day when you feel like throwing in the towel, something will click. You will realise success is not working twelve hours a day, seven days a week in the hope that one day someone will notice. You will realise success is simply finding that thing that brings you happiness. You will appreciate the places that feel like home when you are thousands of miles from where you grew up. You will appreciate the friends that have become your family when you are so far from your parents and siblings. They will be the ones who are constantly there reminding you of what you are worth. They will tell you that you are brilliant despite your many mistakes and failures. Somehow, you will start to dig your way out of the chaos and the tears, the broken promises and drunk mistakes and you will rebuild yourself. You will remember that you are in charge of your own destiny and you will know that you are more capable than ever of achieving your dreams because you have truly struggled and it did not break you.
(Check back tomorrow for the ‘things I have learned’).