What Have I Learned About Myself?

Reid Larsen
May 26, 2017

It’s a good question. When I first left for Madrid, I was kind of nervous. While I was extremely excited to come to a new place and start a new life here with new people, it kind of felt like I was running away from my problems -- that I was just pausing life for six months. Most of the time I was super happy last semester, involved with lots of activities, doing well in school, making lots of new friends, but I could tell a little something was missing deep down. Maybe I was trying to find ‘the meaning of life’ or ‘my purpose.’ I wasn’t sure what it was or how to fix it, so I tried to figure it out. I asked my friends deep questions, trying to incite long emotive talks where I could figure the world out. I read articles like ‘7 keys to happiness’ and even tried a book called ‘The Happiness Advantage.’ I’d follow their suggestions, like writing what I’m thankful for, but after a time the habit would fade because that underlying twinge that something was off never got cured. Over winter break, I got bored and turned into a bum. I’m never lazy, but during this period, it seemed like all I did was watch Game of Thrones, eat chicken quesadillas and sleep. It was frustrating and it wasn’t me, but I didn’t know what to do about it.

Only when I came to Madrid did all of this change. I stopped thinking about what would make me happy, stopped trying to be happy and just lived. It wasn’t even a conscious decision, it kind of just happened. With so much going on and so many new people and places, I didn’t have any time or mental energy to spend reflecting. Everything was go-go-go. This continued for over a month until I started to have more good talks with people. As the semester went on I started to realize that I understood myself and the world a lot better than I ever had despite the fact that I had hardly spent any time thinking about these things. Just by letting go, unintentionally living in the moment and focusing on my surroundings, I was able to understand myself so much better; and was happier than I had ever been. These have been by far the best four months of my life. My friends and I have talked about it -- of course there are ups and downs of life, but recently the equilibrium line between the two has risen much higher than it’s ever been.

Moving forward, I wouldn’t say I know what’s most important in life or how I want to live it, but I have a much better sense of what I want from life and what I want to give. I’ve learned to be a do-er. I was a do-er before I left but that was always with respect to school and career. Here in Europe I’ve been doing a lot more fun things – going on adventures, letting go and just seeing where the days take me. Going new places, trying new things, meeting new people is the most exciting part of life and for the first time I’ve been able to live my life pursuing that as my main objective. Deep down I’ve always known that this is what I wanted but I’d always pressured myself to spend my time trying to be successful even though I knew that wasn’t what made me happiest. It just took being in a vastly different and new situation with little to no responsibility to push me to act on what I’ve always wanted deep down. While it was obviously a lot easier to do while studying abroad, I fully plan to keep exploring within the areas close to me in the United States.

Now that I’m turning the page on this chapter of my life, it’s time to look forward. It’s crucial that I keep going about life with the same enthusiasm that I’ve had this past semester. I don’t think it will too difficult because I have a new head on my shoulders and I’ve learned so much. I know a lot more about how I want to spend my time and I’ve gotten better at following my gut and trusting myself. This semester has gone by in the blink of an eye, faster than I wish it had, but it has been more than anything I could’ve ever asked for. Thank you to everyone who made it so incredible, you know who you are.

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Reid Larsen

<p>There&rsquo;s nothing like late night, deep talks, and solving the world&rsquo;s problems. In Madrid, I&rsquo;m looking to learn as much as I can, get to know as many people as I can, and get outside my comfort zone as much as I can. Come join the adventure.</p>

2017 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Engineering - General
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