Flashback: By listening, I slowly gained more energy...
When I was in my final year at Hunter College, I decided to complete my 6 outstanding credits while studying in Pescara, Italy. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
As I spent time abroad learning the Italian language, I soon discovered the value of active listening. Being out of my comfort zone intensified my educational experience as I remained suspended in a new level of vulnerability. I couldn't hide from fear of the unknown, I had to conquer it.
When I’m curious about something I love to talk and question it until there’s nothing left to explore. I enjoy deep, intimate conversations, and make sure to break them up with a laugh from time-to-time. The thing is, I couldn’t do that in Italy for a while... I had to focus so much on decoding the unfamiliar words that floated in my direction that there was no time for crafting a response.
More recently, I had a friend that didn’t speak for 10 days while on a silent retreat. I rejected the idea that I could do that until it hit me… I already did it in Italy. I enjoyed listening to people's stories about adventure, heartbreak, personal career goals, feminism, astrology, and other random things, like cooking and meditation. It was a game to understand what people were saying to me.
By listening, I slowly gained more energy to read and write... I became more present and mindful of my surroundings and naturally began to filter out negative thoughts and insecurities. Even the food began to taste better.
As I took time to get to know myself and just breathe, I became healthier. My morning routine included long walks on the Adriatic coast as the sun rose in the distance and a light breakfast with fresh orange juice upon my return. I slept 8 hours most nights. Rarely did my stomach become too full and stretched from overeating. I no longer worried about what other people thought of me. I accidentally uncovered how to live a life that had just the right amount of everything, or as the Swedish say, “lagom".
By become a better listener, I grew into a tolerant person. I am now less absolute about my opinions and beliefs. In fact, If there’s a case for change and it aligns with my values, I’ll happily flipflop. In opening myself up during my time studying abroad, I realized that I liked who I saw in the mirror more than I ever imagined I could.