Everyone’s specific experiences in life are influenced immensely on the particular surroundings they are living in. To an extent, we are able to change our surroundings based on the decisions we make as we age, and in doing so, the experiences we make available to ourselves. Decisions such as: where we choose to live; what we do for work; how we interact with others; how we let our relationships with family, friends, love interests, and random people take their course. Without opening your world to new experiences and perspectives you will only limit the growth you are able to achieve in your lifetime. Your world is what you make of it, and I believe life is about opening yourself to new experiences by changing the environment you are in.
When I was a freshman at the University of Oregon I struggled with being fairly introverted other than with those I knew prior to college. One of the best friends I made was actually someone I had hung out with occasionally in high school. Had it not been for reconnecting with him while taking Geology 102 in Willamette Hall, greater than half of my best memories would not have existed. Another of my good college friends I met in Accounting 101. I was looking for a seat in class on the first day and spotted an open seat next to a guy who looked a little Persian to me. I simply walked up to him and asked if he was Persian, and we’ve been friends ever since. He introduced himself, shook my hand and ended up being my roommate a couple years later until he graduated. I am sure I would have met other great people and had an amazing college experience without these two friends, but by opening myself just to the experience of studying these two subjects I was interested in I built lifelong friendships and memories.
College is a great opportunity to meet people from different walks of life, and you begin to realize how much people have to teach outside of the classes you’re taking just to get your degree. I put my introverted nature behind me to learn lessons from my fellow students in life. In some respects, I learned more about life outside the classroom during college than I ever really did in it. Big loud parties weren’t my cup of tea. I tried going to them but as a fairly shy person around new people, they just weren’t my thing. I preferred hanging out and talking about life over a few beers, playing some video games, or going for longboard rides down by the paths next to Autzen stadium and hanging out next to the Willamette river. Some of the best nights I had in college were nights spent with friends just playing Wii Sports for hours followed by a late night quest for delicious food at Burrito Boy or Dough Co.
Sophomore year, I lived in the Walton dorms on campus, which was a nice change from living slightly off campus in the Barnhart dorm building. When you go to school in Oregon, you tend to want the least distance to travel in the rain, and being on campus definitely offered that (my attendance rates were much better than freshman year at least…). Our specific dorm wing was a mix of international students and transfer students and was really close to everything. I made friends from Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Malaysia, South Korea, as well as students from all over the US. The only thing that kind of sucks about meeting so many great friends who are from around the globe though is that when they graduate, most of them move back home. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to meet these friends and share time together however, and look forward to the days I can see them again.
The next few years, I reconnected with a friend I played Little League baseball with and met a great group of people through him, had classes with three different Super Bowl winners and other NFL players (LeGarrette Blount, Spencer Paysinger, Jeremiah Johnson, Walter Thurmond, Jairus Byrd), and just enjoyed life until graduation.
After graduation I had to figure out what how to be an adult. The obvious first step as a “millenial” was moving back home with my parents and being unemployed. I applied at a bunch of jobs in the field I studied only to be told that I lacked the experience for an entry-level job. It wasn’t a great time for jobs as our country still lingered in recovery from the recession, so I gave up looking for work with my degree and did odd-jobs. Worked on the family orchard for while, sold cherries in a stand with fruit from our trees, took care of my grandma for a while as her chef and company, and just lived life day to day. Things got boring though. I didn’t feel like I was growing as a person and felt stuck in the midst of prolonged stagnation without any motivation. Out of nowhere, an opportunity arose to pack up all my things and move to Los Angeles for a job. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Today I am living on the edge of Los Angeles county. I packed up my bags and left all of my friends in Oregon two years ago. I live in a small town at the edge of the Angeles National Forest, where mountains tower in the horizon and the amount of green foliage defies the ominous drought we are experiencing. It hardly feels like I live near LA (besides the smog), but I am still fairly close to the big city and within fifteen minutes of Glendale, Pasadena, and Burbank. It’s all a very big change from the lush green forests of Oregon I came to know growing up. I barely know anyone and am starting out even more on my own than when I went to college, but I didn’t leave everything I knew back home because I would be comfortable; I left to change my surroundings, experience new views on life, and grow as a person.
Don’t be afraid to change your your environment. Don’t be afraid to experience new things, meet new people, or go new places. Even within the seemingly monotonous routine of daily life, every new person you meet in that routine can offer a multitude of lessons you had never even considered and change your world view. Study things that interest you, try new foods that you are afraid to mispronounce, genuinely ask someone you don’t know how their day is going, hold the door for someone instead of rushing through and on with your day, ask someone who looks like they are struggling if they need help. Every experience you come across is a learning opportunity, and every single person you meet is a teacher. If you don’t change how you interact with your environment and who surrounds you in it, it will be harder to grow as a person and you won’t learn as much during your shared time on this planet with the rest of us.