Learning from the World Around Me

September 14, 2023

Via Genzon (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

I’ve always liked learning. At seven years old my most prized possession was an encyclopedia. A huge part of my interest in learning was due to my upbringing. I grew up on a small island in the Philippines surrounded by farms and rice fields. We didn’t have a computer or internet, so the only way I could learn more about the bigger world out there was through books, magazines and television. Since then, my interest has developed into a passion for learning about the world, its languages and its cultures, so much so that I majored in international studies in university. 

When I moved to Canada at 15, I met a lot of people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Moving here helped me come out of my comfort zone and keep an open mind. I thrived in diverse spaces where I could learn from my environment and the people around me. There are things that I never would’ve learned or realized without having met people with different backgrounds and perspectives. Our differences can make us stronger and better people. These are the three things I learned from people during my journey that made an impact on my life and growth.

  1. You should always be kind to people without any judgement or expectation. What they do with your kindness afterwards is no longer your problem. 

When I was 16, I worked at a Thai restaurant. At some point, I was the only employee who was not Thai. We were talking about how some people are hesitant to help or give money to unhoused people due to fears that they will use it to buy drugs and alcohol, and the alternative is to give or buy them food instead. My coworker, who is also a Buddhist, told me that we should help people without any judgement or expectation. What they do with our generosity or kindness after does not concern us. We should help people because it’s the kind thing to do, not because we expect the person to use the money on certain essentials only. As he pointed out, that money is the other person’s now, so we need to reserve our judgement and preconceived notions. Since then, I’ve been keeping my old coworker’s words in my mind as a reminder to have more compassion and faith in people.

  1. Your academic background does not always dictate the trajectory of your career. You are allowed to choose a different path and discover new passions.

I met my close friend two years ago on Facebook. She had just moved to Vancouver from Japan. The first time we met, it felt like I’d known her forever, we had so much in common. I’ve never met anyone outside of university who had the same interest in living in and learning about different cultures. She had a similar academic background as me as a foreign languages major, but she currently works as a web developer post-graduation. Initially, she wasn’t sure about what she wanted to do after graduating from university, but knew that she wanted to explore the world and live in a different country. She was passionate about travelling and exploring different cultures, so she travelled to different countries, did various interesting jobs abroad and met people from all over the world. Having a remote job where you are not tied to a specific location pushed her to learn how to code and pursue a career in tech. She inspires me to do the same and carve my own unique path. Coming from an upbringing where change is not always encouraged, I choose to be open-minded about life and change. My friend taught me to embrace the discovery phase of your early 20s, when you feel lost and uncertain, and see it as a great adventure toward finding what truly makes you happy. 

  1. Whatever you do, choose something that fulfills your heart and soul.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a global assembly to coordinate international efforts to address climate change and environmental issues. Delegates from all over the world, from scientists to ministers of different countries, all came together to do important work for our planet’s present and future. An important person who helped make the event happen did an informal talk to the youth volunteers. He talked about his personal life and career, and we were able to ask him questions. One piece of advice from him that stuck to me was that figuring yourself out is a life-long journey, that you always have to ask yourself important questions to guide your decisions, like “Does this fulfill me?” or “Does this make me happy?” He emphasized the importance of staying true to yourself. As someone in my early 20s, this was the advice I needed to navigate my own journey through adulthood. Since then, I’ve been learning to let go of the unnecessary pressures society and I put on myself about what my life should be like. I’m learning to be more patient with my journey; instead of overthinking what’s next, I’m trying to focus more on fulfilling my heart and soul in the present. 

Learning doesn’t stop in school; we can learn so much from the world and people around us. Moreover, our connection to one another helps us grow, no matter how similar or different we are. As I grow older, I come back to my child-like sense of wonder. Life indeed is a continuous journey of discovery and learning. 

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