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How A Year Of Unemployment Changed Me

Today marks the end of my first post-college year. I’ve been through the hardest and most confusing year of my life. I first thought that this is the worst year ever. I felt that I’ve hit rock-bottom and there’s nothing lower than that. The only question that went through my mind day and night was “Why?”. I kept wondering why this is happening to me. And why me?? I mean look at everyone around, they’re all busy doing something useful in their lives. I am not a lazy undetermined person who just wants to stay at home all day watching TV!! I am a hard worker who wants to accomplish something. But as everything else that happens to us in life, this was just another experience. It was a massive bump in the road, but it wasn’t for nothing.

I’ve already mentioned in a post before the story of how I ended up like this. Today I want to talk about what I gained from going through such an experience. A year of unemployment right after college sounds like a nightmare that a person can get nothing good out of. But I did. I’ve learned maybe the most important lessons of my life so far.

I’ve spent the majority of this year in solitude. You can imagine how hard it can be to transform from an active college student with a fairly good social life to an unemployed isolated adult. No you can’t! You can’t unless you’ve been through it, or something similar. It messes with your head. It makes you depressed and unable to think clearly, or sleep peacefully, or want to wake up in the morning. It was a psychological turmoil. I can’t write about my emotional ups and downs in details because it will take me a whole post to do so, but I can only tell you what I got out of it.

A break for my mind 

I was very busy during the last year of college. Most of the day was spent in classes, and at night I would stay up till late hours to study and finish required projects and papers. I rarely had time to relax. And even during my free weekends I’d probably go out somewhere with family or friends, and that somewhere is probably a crowded place because I live in the city. I was so used to the fast noisy busy city life, which made my staying at home kind of a trauma to me. At first I didn’t know what to do with my time. I have no schedules and no deadlines to meet; I have no structured days. It made me think about our lives and how we live it. This was a break for my mind. It allowed me to see that there’s more to life than being busy 24/7. It taught me that we need to relax and have fun. It was good to take some time off the stressful days. I had more time to do what I like, and even learn new things. I started catching up on the books I had on my to-read list, enhanced my poetry-writing skills, learned baking and improved my cooking, started learning Italian, and of course started this blog.

Spiritually rewarding

Another thing I was able to do is reflecting on my life. Given lots of free time, I had a chance to do a lot of thinking about how my life has been so far, the wrong decisions I made, the mistakes I learned from, what I really want to do with my life, and what should be my next step. It was a spiritually rewarding year.

Peace with my person

I spent most of the time alone (I didn’t have any other choice), and that allowed me to get to really know myself better. You think you can know who you are from others’ opinions of you, but that could be far away from the truth. We all have some kind of a dark side that we might not be aware of. Spending our time being busy working or hanging out with other people doesn’t give us the chance to confront the dark depths of our personality. By hanging out with myself I was able to make peace with my person. It wasn’t easy at first, not the least, but eventually we became best friends.

More understanding and less judgmental

Being an unemployed fresh graduate put me in an awkward position. When my friends ask me that annoying question “so what do you do now?” the only answer I have is “nothing!”. But that’s the short answer; the real answer is a long story that I can’t keep telling every time someone asks me that question. This taught me that sometimes we don’t know what others might be going through; we don’t know everyone’s story, so we shouldn’t make assumptions based only on what’s apparent for us. I learned that I have to be more understanding and less judgmental of others.

Things we take for granted

Losing almost all the things I cherish in life was one of the difficulties I faced this year. However, it made me appreciate every little thing I have and every small blessing I’ve been given. There are lots of things we take for granted in this life, and I had the time to look around me and observe these things and be thankful.

Finally I would say that as much as this year was hard, it was a fruitful experience. What comes to my mind when I think about it is a quote from Batman Begins movie that says “And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

Stay Away From Dorian Gray

My favorite book is Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (I highly recommend this book). You might’ve heard about this character before or even seen the latest movie adaptation starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth. Basically, this Gothic Fiction book narrates the story of a young man, named Dorian Gray, who was blessed with striking good looks. An artist, Basil Hallward, was fascinated with his beauty and decided to draw a portrait of him, and this is how it all started. Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil, had a talk with Dorian about youth and beauty right before he saw his portrait. This talk definitely corrupted Dorian to some degree so that when he saw his graceful painted face he said:

“How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be older than this particular day of June. . . . If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that — for that — I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

And yes, Mr. Gray’s wish came true. He continued to be young and handsome while the painting became old and hideous with his sinful deeds. Without going into further details, I just want to take Dorian Gray as an example of a person who was a victim of vanity. He thought of superficial beauty as the most important thing in a human being (thanks to Lord Henry of course!). So what I want to discuss is the outer and inner beauty and how we perceive each.

You can’t help but be overwhelmed by the amount of emphasis on outer beauty in the media and among your friends and people you know. They seem to concentrate too much on this and forget that what really defines us is who we are from the inside rather than how we look on the outside. The truth is your looks are something out of your control; it’s the way you were created. On the other hand, your personality is how you choose it to be. I am not saying that you should throw your mirror from the window and forget your grooming routine. No, I am saying that you should pay more attention to your personality, attitude, and values.

People were created different. You are beautiful on your own way. And as they say “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”. There are no fixed beauty standards. Only society and media wants you to believe that. That’s pretty shallow, don’t you agree? The only reason why you should go out everyday wearing nice clothes, with a decent haircut, and looking great is to feel good about yourself. It doesn’t matter what look you choose, just be yourself. Being yourself isn’t just about the outside, but also, and more importantly, about the inside. As human beings, we should aim to become better people. We should try to find different ways to become a better version of ourselves. This could be in the form of helping others, being a good listener, participating in community work…etc.

I’d like to give you a tip for developing your character in a constructive way. It’s simple: identify your positive qualities and feed them, detect your negative traits and suppress them. I bet you’ll find that you have a lot of fine traits which will make you motivated to change the bad ones. This way you can become a better person without the harsh negative self-criticism. The key is to know that you are special in your own way. You just have to find what you are good at and enhance it. As for the things you don’t like about yourself, you need to find a way to turn it into something positive.

Trust me, taking care of your inner beauty will be rewarding. People will respect you and see the true you. You will feel good about yourself because people will like you for who you really are. When you achieve that, you will stand out between others. When you have a pure heart and good intentions it does show on the outside. Finally, always remember that “True beauty is not outer appearance, it’s located in the heart and soul, reflected in one’s eyes.”