Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Assignment

Yesterday Nadia gave me an assignment. I was supposed to go spend time with Monica, a young woman back in town on a break from her university. I'd briefly met Monica several months prior, but hadn't gotten to know her much. Nadia suggested getting a soft drink with her and then cooking dinner with all the other girls at the apartment. I was glad for the chance to do something sort of fun and new, so I put my shoes on and headed out.

When I got to the other apartment, Monica wasn't there, so I messaged her and waited for a little while, as she was out and about in town. Soon she returned, and we headed to the Centru, which has a nice bakery with many tables. We both got cokes and sat down.

As I'd been asking her about as we walked, Monica is going to university in a nearby city. She is studying music theory*, which I found interesting. How does one get involved in such a field? I failed to ask her this question, as I wasn't sure how to phrase it in Romanian, but I found out that she found her major difficult. She also told me there weren't many other people earning that degree. We had taken to using Google Translate to aid us in our conversation. I asked her what she liked to eat and she told me potatoes, rice, maybe some others...she just didn't like meat very much. She isn't a vegetarian, just not that big a fan of meat.

It was good to talk with her. Monica is an extremely gentle person. I tried to encourage her not to worry about what other people think. I feel like I'm similar to her, especially the Katie of the past. I was very quiet and shy and didn't speak up because I was sensitive and was extremely aware of other people's negative (or even just complex) reactions and got hurt easily. It's only now that I'm really seeing myself for who I was: a person who thought I had to read people's minds in order to communicate. Sometimes reading minds pays off, but mostly it's exhausting. I wasn't like this 100% of the time, but you get the idea. It might be because in certain areas of my life, I effectively was, in fact, expected to predict precisely how someone would think about everything, from the time I was a child. Some lessons are hard to unlearn.

Some people always say, think about the other person. And this is good advice. But no one should be obligated to read minds. It ends up messing with your own head.

Monica and I finished our cokes and went back to the apartment. She took a nap and I went out to browse in Humana, which is like Goodwill if Goodwill had two stories and a security guard at the entrance. In Romania. I've been trying to not spend much money on clothes, but I decided to buy a big sweater and a sweatshirt, since winter isn't going away anytime soon and my old sweatshirt is, well, old. Nine bucks for both.

I returned from Humana, inspected the food items in the kitchen, and decided to make a vegetarian version of my nameless potato concoction. There was meat but it was all frozen solid, and since Monica didn't much care for it anyway, I decided to make do without. After she got up from resting, we began cooking. No one else was going to help cook or eat. Half the people had sensitive stomachs (can't eat potatoes! can't eat onions!) or were leaving. So Monica and I continued to enjoy our time together, just us. She is very good about washing dishes.

We ate quietly, having talked so much earlier. Monica suggested I turn on the television. I put it to something with Romanian music videos, and without saying a word, Monica slipped away to her room after only one song or maybe two.

We can't rely on other people to make us into who we should be. Parents try to make their kids into good people, responsible people, successful people. Maybe this lulls us into expecting that if we do as others wish, we'll become better people. But it will only drive us in circles, because people will all expect different things from you, and especially the things that are bad both for them and for you. Growing up means stepping outside of the cycle and taking care of your business using your judgment, the judgment you have acquired through all of your experience and reliance on God.

What we try to teach our young people here at Next Generation, alongside love for others, is independence. Maybe those seem like conflicting goals. But they're not. There is a way to love others while walking your own path. It's not easy. We struggle with it often. But that is the way to peace, and to sanity.

Thanks for reading! Hope it made sense. To donate to what I'm doing here in Romania, please click here.

2 comments:

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