Lessons Learned: On Love, Travels, and Food Poisoning

For those that don’t know, this past week I was gallivanting around Chicago for a conference and loving every minute of it. The conference, Creating Change, was absolutely amazing. It focused on LGBTQ advocacy and social justice, and I learned so much.

Among other tales from this past week, I saw the Bean, tried authentic deep dish pizza, fell in love for the weekend, and suffered a major bout of food poisoning. And as much as I would like to go on and on about any or all of those stories, that isn’t necessarily the point of this blog.

Out of all the sessions I went to, out of all the people I met, there is one lesson in particular that is still sticking with me, even after the love, the poisoning, and the flights back home. I was in a workshop, How to Create Non-Oppressive Spaces for Queer Students of Color. And in the workshop, the facilitator said this: “We can’t let our need to learn keep us from action.”

We can’t let our need to learn keep us from action.

This resonated with me in all types of ways. Mostly because, as a 24-year-old graduate student, I sometimes still doubt my knowledge and my ability to create change. I went into this conference thinking I had a whole lot to learn. I’m still in the beginning stages of advocacy work, social justice movements, and really understanding the bigger picture. But, I was surprised to walk into that conference and be able to share some knowledge that maybe other people didn’t necessarily have.

We can’t let our need to learn keep us from action.

We are all learning. We are life-long learners. At least, I hope we are. Regardless of whether or not we are in school, whatever level of formal education you have, there is always something to be learned in the world. This past week, I learned multiple things about LGBTQ advocacy, social justice issues, etc. So I’m here to report back. Now, granted, I know that not all of us work in Diversity Centers or in Higher Education, so I’m mindful of that, but these are some lessons that I learned or was reminded of during my time in Chicago.

  1. Embrace new adventures
    • I was PUMPED to go to Chicago! New foods, new people, and an amazing conference that I heard nothing but good things about. Take risks and embrace the adventures in your life – from the every day adventures in the coffee line to traveling to new cities.
  2. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction
    • “Eat whatever you want!” they say. “It’ll be good!” they say. Yes, until you are hugging the toilet bowl at 3am, 5am, and 6am after eating something that was clearly poisoned. Now, here’s the thing. What was the alternative? I couldn’t not eat. The new lesson here? Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, whether or not you know what that reaction will be. Oftentimes, the reaction is hard to predict.
  3. Expect the unexpected
    • Never in my life did I expect to meet anyone of substance at this conference. Hooking up, sure, maybe. Professional connections, definitely. But someone who can hold a conversation and is super cute and is nice to spend time with? Well, I didn’t expect that. And I feel like it’s only when you don’t expect it, that it happens.
  4. There is always something to learn
    • If people want to talk about diversity programming with university students, I’m your guy. Student development theory? Hit me up. But I also have so much to learn. At this conference, it was evident that while everyone had their own special and unique interest areas, we were all able to learn and grow from each other.
  5. Make coming home a positive experience
    • I was sitting in the airport, sleep-deprived, drained of all fluids, thinking of nothing but work and school starting back up tomorrow. But as soon as I saw my friend pulling up at the airport to pick me up, I knew that I was back home, and that was a good feeling. It was so good to see her, and I know it’ll be great to see work friends tomorrow, and to be in the classroom again. By viewing it as a positive, it’s making me feel less sad about leaving Chicago, and happier to be back in Buffalo.
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