Perspectives from Mindful Living Students
What can a first-year student hope to gain from being part of the Mindful Living Community?
video by Cameron Evans, Electrical Engineering, (Class of 2019)
video by Shilpa Daliparthy, Economics with minor in Business, (Class of 2018)
video by Nicholas Schmidt, Mathematics with concentration in Actuarial Mathematics, (Class of 2019)
video by Aminata Jaffa, undeclared, Keyonia Driver, Human Development and Family Science, and Starr Baker, Integrative Studies, (Class of 2019)
From the Desk of a Mindful Living Student: Ten ways to Really Cultivate a Community
Ashley Fortner, Integrative Studies with an Individualized Concentration on Wildlife Biology and a minor in Conservation Studies, (Class of 2017)
As a sophomore beginning her second year in the Mindful Living LLC Community and as an intern at The Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, I can confidently tell you that I am well in tune with the term “community”. Whether it is a group of friends, a team at work, or simply you and your dog hanging out you are always part of a community in one way or another (well in the case of your dog the correct term is pack, but you get the point.)
However, when you are a part of so many active communities, there is no way to make sure they all are smooth sailing. Or is there? To be honest I don’t have an answer for you. I think everyone has a different experience and a different aspiration in a community, but I do believe that we all have a common goal, which is to thrive and grow. That being said, below I have outlined the top ten ways, in no particular order, that have worked best for me to thrive and grow in my communities, more specifically the Mindful Living LLC. I make no promise that any of these will work for you, but they aren’t too extensive so I recommend you to give any (or all!) of them a try.
- Similarities are fun, but quirks are more memorable: When we all go to make connections, we always seem to look for common ideas and common interests. While yes that can and does build friendships, I prefer to do something more out of the box than something that makes you and I the same. I made my very best friends in Mindful Living the night I was able to put my whole fist in my mouth, and to this day they haven’t let me forget it. Interests are noteworthy, but memories are forever.
- Don’t be afraid to have an opinion: This one kind of falls in line with the similarities aspect of building community. It is very easy (and I am guilty of it to), to withhold your opinion because if you agree with someone else they may “like” you more. Wow this concept sounds even dumber on paper. That being said, withholding your opinion will do nothing but hurt you in the end. Not only are you not being true to yourself, but also you are not presenting your true self to others. Put that fear aside and speak up about how you feel about something. Who knows, you may even spark a whole new conversation and find allies in your own opinions.
- Don’t rule something out because it isn’t in your comfort zone: I am one of the plainest people you will ever meet. If this is any sort of indicator, when I go to Einstein’s I get a plain bagel with plain cream cheese. So yeah, I’m very good to sticking to what I know and not taking leaps of faith. So when one of my floormates asked me to go to a Korean Bakery with him, I couldn’t say no fast enough. After much coaxing, he was able to get me there and I reluctantly admit I need an “I told you so”. Not only has this bakery become our regular place when we need to get away and stuff our face, but I’ve also become very fond of Thai food as well (which was even farther out of my comfort zone). In reality, new things aren’t that bad so put all your reservations aside and just go for it. You will more than likely be pleasantly surprised.
P.S., if you every go to Breeze Bakery get the Taro Bubble Tea. It is the scariest and most delicious thing I have ever tasted.
- Compliments can be everyone’s best friend: I think most anyone who has been in the Mindful Living LLC or at least visited us knows that we are infamous for our ability to compliment almost anything. Whether it is the nail polish on your toes or your super ugly sweater it is a natural born talent on this floor to find something nice to say about it. While this may seem like an annoying curse, I think it is a blessing in disguise because believe it or not, people actually like having nice things said about them! I wasn’t much of complimenting before joining this community and I still haven’t quite figured out the perfect way to reply to a compliment, but if you feel like saying something nice just say it. It is a good way to strike up a conversation with a stranger or to just make someone’s day a little bit better.
- You do not have to love everyone: I repeat. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LOVE EVERYONE. Actually, don’t tell everyone you love him or her. Because you are lying to yourself and you will probably scare some people away. Now in saying this, I’m not saying pinpoint someone to hate, but if you can’t find a connection with someone, but mindful enough to let the situation go. There are billions of people on this Earth, and you are not going to like everything each person has to offer. Find those in your community that you are kindred souls with and those that you are not do not push the friendship. A smile and wave in the hallway or at work is plenty friendly and shows that you are accepting of who this person chooses to be. You do not have to compromise your feelings and values to get along with every single person you meet.
- You can get to anyone’s heart through his or her stomach: This is absolutely true and I can attest to this. Everyone has to eat and every person loves food. It is a fact of life that we can’t ignore and it makes it a very hard offer to turn down. So offering to go out to eat with someone rather that just sitting and talking not only provides a reason for the conversation but sets the stage for a less pressured environment to get to know someone in. Although it could be awkward at first, in the end you’ll probably learn something about them that you wouldn’t have learned if you hadn’t spent that chunk of time with them. Plus, if there are silences in between talking you can attribute them to stuffing your face. Want evidence that this really works? There is a girl on my floor that makes cupcakes once a week for the 50+ of us, and I promise you I have not met one person who does not want to be her friend and get to know her better. Chicken Soup is good for the soul, but cupcakes go straight to the heart.
- First Impressions can and will probably be wrong: This is by far my favorite rule of creating a functional community because I believe in what it means wholeheartedly. Let me tell you a story. My first year in Mindful Living I was in a room with three people. Yes, three is a crowd to answer your question. I gravitated towards one roommate and ousted the other. To be fair, she was very high energy and impulsive, which is the absolutely opposite of my personality and not what I was really looking for in a friend, let alone a roommate. The first semester was uncomfortable living with her, but once we came back in January I was much more refreshed and ready to give her a chance. Much to my surprise, I started gravitating towards her personality. I loved that she wasn’t like me and that I could learn so much for her. Not only did our friendship grow, it thrived. This time last year I was determined to get as far away as possible from her and now she sleeps in the bed 5 feet away from mine and I couldn’t be happier about it. So long story short, don’t set your feelings about someone in stone. You change every single day and so does everyone else, one day maybe the puzzle pieces will come together on an unlikely friendship.
- Recognize what you bring to the table: Most of these tidbits are about what you can do to others to create a better community, but I don’t want you to forget that you come first every single time. Do not get lost in what you think others want you to be, be who you want you to be. Take the time to recognize your strengths and talents and showcase them like you are on a Broadway stage. A good way to do this if you are unsure is the StrengthsFinder test on the Well-Being University website! (Shameless advertising for Jeanne!). Once you know your strengths and weaknesses not only do you open yourself up to turn your weaknesses into strengths, but you open yourself up for others to learn from you and do the same.
- Throw your shoes away and put yourself in someone elses: I know I am contradicting what I just said, but as much as it is still about you, it isn’t all about you anymore. Just like a drop of water into a lake, the things you do and the things you say have a ripple effect that touches all those around you. While you may think that you are only impacting yourself, your reach is much farther than the outskirts of your mind. So while your opinions and views are important, realize that the opinions and views of the people around you are also important. If you can teach yourself to look at something through someone else’s eyes, not only are you going to learn something about the way they think, but you will also be able handle your own feelings much more wisely. If you can treat people’s feelings with the same significance you treat your own, I promise nine times out of ten the situation will be mutual.
- Don’t worry about it: This is the last and most important thing to remember when you are trying to cultivate a community. Simply, don’t worry about it. Recognize and accept that things are not always going to go the way that you expect or want them to. You can only do the best you can and hope that the energy you expend will be the energy you get back. Not one of the ten things I just told you about are fool proof, and I hope you don’t expect them to be. Creating a community is a lot of trial and error, but I’ve found that through that there has been a lot of laugh, cries, and cake in your face on your birthday (you know who you are). I’m not promising that things will work themselves out, but I promise that they will constantly be changing whether for better or for worse. So hang on, enjoy the ride, and don’t be sad when it is over. Just smile that it happened.