Seven Reasons Why Ignorance is Bliss (…or not)

We’ve all heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss.” But is it? When I was a young college student, I never realized how ignorant I was to some aspects of life. You could even say I was in bliss. But now as a twentysomething, I’ve learned a few things about life that I feel may disprove this “ignorance is bliss” phrase.

  1. Taxes? What’s a tax? I’m not sure, my dad always does my taxes. I don’t know what all those little numbers mean, and I don’t know how many claims or whatever I’m supposed to have. Zero? One? Does it really matter? Those government forms are all so complicated anyway.
    • Yet, doing my own taxes this year made my bank account a little fluffier when it came around to receiving my own tax return. I guess being a single person paying back college loans does have some benefit…
  1. You know, I’ve heard alcohol has some negative effects on behavior, but I’m just going to forget about all those for tonight. What’s the occasional drunk text conversation? Blame it on the alcohol, right?
    • Well, not exactly. As a twentysomething, alcohol either plays a huge role in your life, or no role at all. Your life could be filled with happy hours, social gatherings, and work events…all with alcohol. Or you could be like me, a fifty year old man, who barely drinks. Regardless, not consuming vast amounts of alcohol (or at least keeping track), might be better for your physical health, or for your conscious.
  1. I’m sorry, HOW many calories are in that?! It doesn’t matter. I’m just going to ignore you and eat whatever the hell I want. And because I’m so busy running around being a grown-up, I will barely even notice what I’m putting in my body. All I know is that it tastes pretty damn good.
    • Yet, buying all my own groceries and cooking all of my own meals has taught me a thing or two about nutrition. Always drink a glass of water right when you wake up and don’t stuff your face right after a meal. Surprisingly, you don’t feel like a rock is living in your stomach anymore.
  1. I don’t feel like doing anything today!! I don’t want to go to work, I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t feel like being responsible at all right now. Can you write me a note to get out of today? Please? ::coughcough:: I’m sick.
    • Not how it works anymore. I can’t just skip class or call out of work. It takes more effort to not be in class than it does to drag myself there, and my precious vacation days at work are limited. Yet, at the end of the day, there is something rewarding to be said about actually getting up out of bed and making a living for yourself, financially and otherwise.
  1. Hi, new friends! Over 150 clubs and organizations on campus? Great! I’m bound to find someone or something to catch my interest. Oh wait…what do you mean adult friendships don’t work like that? You have to put in actual effort to create and maintain friendships now? Huh, who would’ve thought?
    • And yet, those friendships have now become so much more meaningful. Being a twentysomething has made me question probably 90% of my friendships. Were we friends just because it was convenient and I saw you on campus every day? Or are we actual friends who enjoy each other’s company and make the time for each other? And when you figure it out, an infinite value is placed on those true friends.
  1. Can you repeat that? It costs how much?! That’s okay, I work a little part time job on the side to pay for everything, which mostly consists of beer and pizza on the weekends. Luckily for me, all of my finances (meal plan, on-campus room, and tuition) are all accumulating into this black abyss called student loan debt that I know nothing about.
    • Although, having financial responsibility does hold some perks. First of all, I actually know what I’m spending my money on. If someone wants to go out to dinner, or if I want to buy a new bike, I can confidently look in my bank account and then assess whether or not my bank account can afford it.
  1. What was that? Great, now I’m going to overanalyze everything you just said, think about it for weeks, only to come to the conclusion that you must hate me for something that I have absolutely no idea about. So please, just allow me to sulk over here because I have no idea what I did to make you so upset, or why you just said that.
    • Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore. As a twentysomething, there is a bliss in an awareness of self. In other words, you know that everyone else can just take off. You are confident in who you are as a person (with some minor blips along the way), and you can tell others where to go, being comfortable and confident in yourself.

Exploring Self

This past week is a week that I will never forget. I was on an alternative spring break service trip in the Dominican Republic teaching English to students in elementary school. One of the coolest things I think I have ever done.

Regardless, I have to say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Also one of the most challenging. I fell in love with every single kid that I interacted with and was heartbroken to find out that at the end of the trip, I couldn’t pack them in my suitcase. I was heading back to a life of luxury while the students were left in poverty, hunger, and broken families. It was difficult to see that. I could write a whole blog about my experience working with these kids in the Dominican Republic (and maybe I will), but for the purpose of this entry, I want to focus on one particular experience that occurred while I was there.

During reflection on the last night of the trip, I vocalized a thought that I had been creating in my mind since the first day of teaching. I realized that all the kids I worked with in the Dominican Republic, with the exception of one or two, were young boys from kindergarten to fourth grade. This surprised me. Never before in my life have I ever really interacted with young children outside of family members. And even then, I felt completely awkward about it. I was a grown man who had no idea how to interact with children at all. Even further, I rarely find that I can relate with other men. Most of my friends are female, I connect better with females…it’s just something that has always been a part of my life experience.

So I was surprised that I found all these boys in the Dominican Republic grabbing my arm, throwing their arms around my waist, and pulling me (literally) to their desks to work individually with them.

The thought I vocalized on the last night was this: the boys in the Dominican Republic didn’t see me as a twentysomething trying to figure out life. They didn’t see me only as a student or only as a professional or only as a twentysomething. They saw me as a person. They saw me as Michael, as a role model, as someone to look up to and build a connection with for the week.

It was an amazing feeling that I encourage you all to explore. In the states, I find myself being trapped within one particular identity. During work, I am my Professional Self, someone who is quick to avoid controversial issues, laugh at inappropriate jokes, or pretend to work harder than I actually do on days that are a little less busy. During class and during most of my free time, I am my Student Self, grinding away on papers, tearing through textbooks, and diligently studying until all hours of the night. Recently, I’ve tried exploring my Personal Self, the one who makes time to play piano, spend time with friends, and call family members back home more often.

Yet out of these three categories, I have yet to find Me. I am one of three, never just Me, an integration of all aspects of self. When working with the students this week, I found it. The students looked to me as Michael, my one self. They didn’t know I was a student, they didn’t know I worked full-time, they really didn’t know anything about me other than my name and that I knew how to speak English. To these students, my name was my identifying factor. Michael. And even though they pronounced the “i” in my name in a drawn out stretch, they could see me. They knew who I was. They didn’t need to know that I was a student, a professional, or anything else really. They saw me as a person, and found something within me that they could flock to.

One main principle of Outreach360, the organization that we worked with, was to Communicate Love. When working with other people, that’s one thing that I like to think I do really well. The kids could feel the love I had in the classroom. I really do care about these kids…in such a way that I’m considering altering my entire life path to work more with nonprofit organizations that specifically focus on education. Even though my Professional Self is screaming against that idea, I need to listen to Me. Myself. Love was reciprocated on both ends, a reciprocal relationship, and I don’t ever want to lose that feeling.

It’s exhausting trying to please three different ideas of self—Professional, Student, and Personal—all under the same umbrella of a lost twentysomething trying to find his way. Yet working with these kids, it provided me with a purpose. They made me feel a little less lost, and a whole lot more like myself.

And for that, I am forever grateful.