“A lion is brave,
A mouse can be too,
Courage depends on what you have to do.”
What does it mean to be strong? This question has kept me up at nights and has steered my focus away from some things that I should have been focussed on for the past weeks.
Perhaps you are reading this and think: ‘Nooo. I always read this blog because it describes fun activities and has pictures. What is going on? Why this difficult question?’ If you are that person, I will warn you that this will definitely not be your favourite blog post (although there is one other picture at the end, yeey!)
Because the question is big. Huuuge. I still don’t know the full answer to it, despite having thought about it over and over again. What I have mainly learned is that there can be many right answers to that question and that the answer for me right now is different than what I perhaps thought it would be before (uuh, suspense…). It is not the only question I have been thinking about. I have been thinking about big questions we use to frame our classes (e.g. “should we clone?”) but also about the small, day-to-day question: “what should I cook tonight?” I could dedicate a blog to answer these questions, but somehow I just don’t think they will be as interesting or as meaningful (okay, cloning would be interesting, but maybe this blog isn’t the right format 😉 )
Alright, let’s start by explaining why I have been thinking about this question. The main reason is that I have been feeling very conflicted about it. I have always thought of myself as quite a strong person, as someone who is able to make independent decisions and can get through difficult situations. But the past weeks, I felt challenged to choose between these two definitions of strength. Should I make an independent decision? Or should I persevere and push myself through difficulty?
Okay, I realise this might still not make that much sense… (like, what am I even talking about actually?) To put it bluntly: I didn’t know if I wanted to leave San Francisco and come home. In my last blog, I already admitted that I was confused about this place. This confusion changed into more certainty that I won’t flourish here joined by a form of exhaustion and some mild depression of spirit (okay, depression sounds really heavy…The Dutch word I have in mind is a lot less scary). There is a part of me that felt and still feels like I should push through this. That I should be more positive and focus on the good things. Be more open-minded. Try harder. Realise that there will be hard moments in life that I can get through. ‘A smooth sea never made for a skillful sailor.’ ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’ That sort of thing. But then there is this other part of me. The part that was tired each morning, the part that skyped my parents while crying, the part that had headaches after each class, the part that just really wants to go, and the part that feels like I am losing myself here. Should I not listen to what that part is telling me? Am I not staying simply because I feel like I have to prove something? I told myself that I am not listening to this part of me because staying brings the potential to learn things. And perhaps that is the truth, I can’t say. But deep down, I think that the main reason I refused to hear that part of myself is because I was scared to choose. Scared to come home. Scared of what people will say. Scared I am making a mistake. Scared I won’t belong anywhere. But mostly scared I will remember this time as a failure and find it hard to move on.
I told myself all I needed was time. But I had been given that, and not much changed. So perhaps what I needed and still need the most is bravery. The bravery to make a decision and stand behind it and to trust myself, my emotions, my judgements , that everything will be okay, that I can find my place elsewhere. I think I found some bravery, enough to make the decision that I think is right for me. But I am still struggling to find enough bravery to feel strengthened by this decision.
So that is my answer to the question of this blog. What is strong depends on you and your situation. Sometimes it is strong to push through hardships. And I think I could have done that too: I could have stayed here to finish the term (I wouldn’t want to continue after that, for various reasons which I am more than happy to share with you if you are curious). But sometimes it requires even more strength to have faith in yourself and walk away with your head raised high if you know that mentally and physically that will be better for you. To stay close to yourself and trusting yourself is really hard and is something that I struggle with. To not compare yourself too much to others who do belong somewhere is hard. And then to not be swayed by their voices. This decision is harder than my decision to come here, bigger than most decisions I have made in my life. But I think it is the right one, for me. Minerva’s rough sea will make skillful sailors, but perhaps this water isn’t where I need to learn.
Although I am struggling with my emotions these days, I do know that I am also grateful. For the fact that I have been given this opportunity. For everything I have learned from both being here, which has made me reflect so much on who I want to be and what I need in life, and leaving here, which is teaching me a lot about standing up for myself.
This has been the most personal and vulnerable blog I have ever written, and I hope you can accept these thoughts. Thank you for reading it.
If you are someone considering applying to Minerva: don’t be scared by my personal experiences. Many people do love this place for very good reasons. If this place is what you are looking for, you can have an awesome time here.
If you are a Minerva student: I hope you know this decision is not based on my experiences with you guys, you are all genuinely really nice and I really appreciate the connections I have made.
If you are one of the people supporting me through this: seriously, thank you ❤
And if you are from the Netherlands: you will see me soon.
Lots of love,