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Letter #20 from a Learn-it-all

5 min

picnicking in the park, running, your future self, standardized tests, a letter from my past self, sonder, my plant Minty

Hello fellow learner,

Greetings from Chicago, Illinois.

Yesterday, I had a lovely picnic in Lincoln Park, Chicago’s largest park on the northside. Its nature is breath-taking, and there’s the added perk of being connected to the zoo with free admission. I have been running through this park every day. Since moving here a year ago, this was my first time actually sitting and enjoying the company of some friends. It was filled with snacks, sunshine, and smiles for my new roommate’s birthday. I never want summer days like these to end.

It made me realize that I don’t need a special occasion for a nice day in the park. I decided I am going to be spending more time enjoying this marvelous place. I went back today and enjoyed my first swim in Lake Michigan this summer. 😎

Now, let’s leap into letter 20 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

Some things I’ve learned through…

👣 Doing

I'm on a mission to become a runner and haven't missed a single day of running in August. In high school, I started running Turkey Trots for Thanksgiving. Eight years later, I have stuck with it, thanks to my siblings! I always dreaded the training and typically end up injuring myself from not training at all.

This time around, I want to run for the sake of enjoying it instead of forcing it. I really like how simple and reliable the improvement can be. It affords me time to intentionally think or not to think. Running can take my mind off of life to relieve stress. It’s so reliable to make me feel better than I was before.

Enjoy this collage with these goofs over the years:

If you'd like to track my progress, look here.

🖊 Writing

This week I reinforced my daily writing habit and shared 5 Ship It posts. Each of the pieces is less than 400 words. I explained my rationale behind starting it here. My favorite piece was Create High Agency COVID Projects. I compressed it down into this Tweet:

My other Ship Its from last week are below:

Classes should start with why

Paying dividends

My Write of Passage

Progress over perfection

If any of them resonates with you, I would love to hear from you.

🎬 Watching

I watched the movie Divergent. It is a dystopian story based on a society that creates a perfect world by dividing people into five factions: abnegation, dauntless, erudite, candor, and amity. Each person takes an aptitude test to be placed in one of the factions. It is still your right to choose which one you go to. Once you select, your faction is valued before your family. The ‘brilliance’ of the faction system is creating conformity and removing the threat of exercising independent will. The protagonist, Tris, is tested as belonging to multiple factions and gets inconclusive results. Those who test as divergent threaten the system of not belonging to a single faction. If found, they are killed or become factionless. Since your family cannot take you in, you become homeless.

This movie made me reflect back on the standardized tests required back in high school. In order to pursue college, I had to take the ACT. I took this test five times. Each time I took it my score went down. It was one of the most humiliating stages of my life. The more I got tutored and studied, the more I stressed out and poorly I performed. It was an inverse relationship between my effort and my score. I was resistant to the system, but that test score was required for all of the nine colleges that I applied to. Part of the reason I never was admitted to my favorite schools was that my test score couldn’t compete with other test scores.

💌 Reading

I read a letter I wrote to myself last July before I started my full-time job. It makes me smile as I reflect back on surviving this exciting and scary time. I grounded myself with these words and felt much more confident after pouring this onto the page.

A lot has changed since this letter was written. It makes me skeptical of why I should stress myself out in asking where I’ll be in five years? I didn’t even know where I’d be in one year.

First impressions still (unsurprisingly) scare me. What happens if you don’t get a second chance? It makes me wonder about what qualities make for an effective first impression. Who have you met that has blown it out of the water and why?

🔎 Word to define

Sonder: The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passed in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it.

As defined by Seth Godin, it is that moment when you realize that everyone around you has an internal life as rich and as conflicted as yours.

Through recognizing that everyone has a unique story to share, I have begun to seek out sonder in my life. This includes: having more silence on Zoom calls to listen, to ask more open-ended questions, and to recognize that as I people-watch in Lincoln Park, I have no idea what the story is of those I see.

🌱 Quote to inspire

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow." -Audrey Hepburn

Optimists and forward thinkers plant a garden because they have hope in the process along with faith in themselves to form a daily habit of quenching each plant's thirst. One doesn't invest in a garden if they think it will die. A baby sprout signals that you believe in its future growth. You are entrusted with supplying its need for sunshine and water. When the going gets tough, it's a nice reminder to see a plant beside you.

Meet my small but mighty plant Minty that I have kept alive the past three weeks.

💭 Question to ponder

How can you recognize more sonder in your day-to-day to empathize more with those around you?

Thank you to Bardia and Nate for helping me to edit this letter.

I appreciate you reading this! If any of the ideas resonated or you have feedback to improve, feel free to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet.

Never stop learning 😁

Until next week,


P.S. here is a video of one of my favorite artists (Quinn XCII), creating his most recent album.

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