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Nope, you can’t navigate life by yourself

| Friday, September 6, 2019

Try not to laugh too hard as you imagine me sitting in my tight dorm room developing a passive aggressive relationship with the extension cord I just bought simply because I couldn’t figure out how to use it. There I was tired, homesick and offended that after flying 6,118 miles from Lebanon to attend Notre Dame a mere extension cord was prohibiting me from charging my laptop and submitting my assignment. 

Extension cords are very different back in Lebanon. A lot of things are very different back in Lebanon, and truth be told I was not navigating this change as gracefully as I thought I would. 

Yet, I told myself repeatedly that everything was perfectly fine. I could do all of this by myself. I didn’t need to call my mom when it was 3 a.m. back home because the laundry frustrated me. I didn’t need to ask my roommate what bubble tea was. I thought I could figure it out by myself. I’ve always thought of myself as the “do it by yourself until you ultimately and painfully hit a brick wall.” I had always had a strong sense of self-reliance.

It was right there on that cold tile floor that my overwhelmed self reluctantly admitted that things were not perfectly fine. I always thought that pride made me reluctant to ask for help. Yet, in this very moment I realized it wasn’t just pride. My reluctance to ask for help stemmed from a fear of being vulnerable. I did not want to admit that I couldn’t do it myself. 

A year ago, I experienced the painful repercussions of being too dependent on an unhealthy relationship. It took me quite some time to pick myself up, to believe that not everyone around me was unworthy of my trust. 

Maybe it was the insecurities. Maybe it was the fatigue. Maybe it was the frustration. I picked myself up and went out to the common room shared with my roommates. I mustered up my most chirpy casual voice, “I’ve had this extension cord for two weeks now but I have no idea how to use it” 

“Really? Why didn’t you say that earlier! There, let me show you how!” was the friendly response I received.

Well, it wasn’t that hard. Damn, I could have saved myself 45 minutes. 

To some this may seem like a pretty basic uninteresting story. But for me, that 15-word statement I uttered to a person I met two weeks ago and barely knew was a little success story. 

Life can be messy and chaotic. It’s complicated. It often blindsides you with twists and turns and ironies. Life is so confusing that some days I feel like God always gets a good laugh as we try to climb over the walls only to come tumbling back down.

I know that sometimes it’s tricky to ask for help. Author M. Nora Klavere so powerfully stated in her novel, MayDay! Asking for Help in Times of Need, “Most people have never been taught how to ask properly…We solicit pity when we want assistance, or we ask the wrong person. We might have felt humiliated doing it in the past, so we fear doing it in the future.”

I am well aware that there are no hordes of people out there dying to do your laundry or do your homework. Yet, this past week, I have challenged myself to find help in the smallest of ways. And trust me I have found it. I have found it in the people who held the doors open for me when I was obviously carrying more than I probably should. I have found it in the people who returned my keys to my dorm after I had dropped them in math class. I found it in the people who gave me quarters to do my laundry. I found it in the people who got as excited as I did when I tried my first fortune cookie. I found it in the people who saved me a seat in class. I found it in the people who loved to hear about Lebanon and Arab culture when I felt homesick. 

Help doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Asking for it shouldn’t be either. Don’t let guilt lurk around as you contemplate asking someone for help. Dear confused international students, dear overwhelmed college students, dear introverted young adults, help comes in so many divergent ways. If you find yourself in a tricky situation try not to hesitate when debating whether to ask for help or not. Notice here that I used the word try because at the end of the day I’m just a confused international student, an overwhelmed college student and an introverted young adult (do not let the word adult mislead you) who recently found out that it was perfectly okay to ask for help.

Krista Lourdes Akiki is majoring in management consultancy and global affairs. Coming from Beirut, Lebanon, she always enjoys trying out new things and is an avid travel lover. She hopes to take her readers on her journey as she discovers new lifestyles and navigates new cities. She can be reached at [email protected] or via Twitter @kristalourdesakiki.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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