“Embrace the Unknown”
One early-spring afternoon, sitting on a park bench in Valencia, Spain, a good friend once told me, “Joel, embrace the unknown.”
At the time, I was going through one of the mini-panic attacks that occurred while I first got overseas. I doubted my ability to speak Spanish and was afraid to step outside my comfort zone. It was an entirely new culture, and I was on the verge of cracking. My friend, Evan, sat me down and said, “Joel, relax. It’s going to be okay. Sometimes it is good not to know what’s next.”
Sitting there, I thought Evan was crazy.
I was the type of person who needed to plan every single second of my life. If my plan failed, then my anxiety would hit me like a Mack truck. However, after our long conversation on a park bench, Evan’s words eased me. Slowly over time, I began accepting my fate. I understood that whatever happened, happened for a reason. A reason that I might not understand at that specific time, but would become clear as time evolved.
Within today’s society, everyone our age is concerned about the next step in our life. What grade they will get in a particular course, whether they will land that rockin’ summer internship or gain admittance into a well-known graduate school, or even accept a well-paying job. All college students need a well-thought-out plan in place. They want to prepare for the next step so that they are ready to tackle that next obstacle. However, like myself, when that plan fails and adversity hits, people struggle to roll with the punches. This often leads us to blaming ourselves for the outcome that happened and not accepting the new outcome. For the longest time, I was that way. As a society, we must learn to embrace the unknown. Accept the new path and understand when one doors closes, another one opens.
There is a reason for everything -even if it is not clear at the time.
We must have faith in the universe.
Step Outside the Lines
For about the first twenty years of my life, I was terrified to make a mistake and step outside my comfort zone and go for it. Like me, people in our generation are afraid to separate themselves from the pack and be different. They want to fit in to avoid judgment. The famous poet Robert Frost said, “two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” The most successful people in the world chose to be different. They find new ways to be the best. Do not seek everyone’s approval because it is not even humanly possible.
Chose to be different and strive to be the greatest. Do things for the betterment of yourself. Ultimately, it is about proving to ourselves that you are capable of accomplishing anything you want to do. Do not worry about everyone else. There will always be critics.
You must learn to block the hate and keep your eyes on the prize. Remember, going away from the crowd is not the easiest thing to do. Understand there is extreme discomfort when you step outside your comfort zone. When you are uncomfortable with a situation, realize that you are working through a weakness. When you stretch your boundaries, you are learning and growing as a person. Take what you learned from that former, uncomfortable situation and know you are a better person for it. Be proud of your growth!
“Get Out of your Hand Computer”
The power of human interaction is incredible. While I was in Spain, a pair of Romanian gypsies stole my phone. For the first time in a long time, I was without a cell phone. How was I supposed to communicate? What was next?
“Man, Joel you are an idiot.”
All of these thoughts and questions were ringing in my head after the incident. As a result, I was without a cell phone for two weeks.
Before I often found myself getting lost in my phone. If I was in an uncomfortable social setting, I used my phone as a coping mechanism. An escape. I would bury my face in my phone to avoid any social interaction. I was afraid to connect or even meet new people. When I lost my phone, this forced me to work on a weakness. It caused me to step outside my bubble and work on my communication skills. I began connecting with people like never before. I slowly started noticing other people around me, who spent way too much time on their phones. We all see it now when we go out dinner somewhere -a couple or family sitting down to eat and instead of talking with one another, they are busy flipping through their phones. It looks horrible and trust me, it is! I am guilty of it too!
Work on disconnecting from the world. Understand whatever update or notification on your phone will be there later. Put your phone on silent, do not disturb, or even turn it off.
Connect with your friends and family, the people who genuinely want to know how you are doing and love you. Soak up those conversations, connect with loved ones, and live in that moment.
Trust me; you will not regret it.
-Joel Janak ‘19