By Brooke McDonald
After 15 weeks in Philadelphia — with only one week to go — I’ve learned an important fact.
Or dish soap, or bread, or milk (trust me, I’ve looked).
I say this not to complain that Asian supermarkets don’t cater to my American needs (there’s plenty of stores for that), but because I had to laugh that in my urgent rush to find butter (I wanted to do some holiday baking!), I found myself in a store that has NEVER carried what I’m looking for. Yet it’s close to my apartment on 9th and Race, and I thought, “Wow, it’d be super convenient to not walk a mile to SuperFresh tonight.”
Convenient. Living independently in a big city is convenient, and not, in many ways.
SEPTA is convenient. A Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks on every corner is convenient, if you’re coffee crazy. If you work in New Jersey, the Ben Franklin Bridge is convenient.
But lugging my Thanksgiving turkey a mile home from SuperFresh is not convenient. No dumpster for our trash, and having to keep it inside until trash day — that’s not convenient. When it’s my turn to clean the floors or the bathroom — that’s never convenient. Walking 20 minutes to class is not convenient.
When I came to Philadelphia, I knew I was sacrificing some convenience in order to enjoy some independence. In other words, I knew the tradeoffs — trading a car for public transportation, a whole closet-full of cute clothes for two suitcases of carefully selected outfits, old friends for new friends — would be worth the inconvenience.
And honestly, learning is often inconvenient. How often do you learn through circumstances that exactly fit your needs, circumstances, and plans? How often does life go easily, without hiccups, without mistakes?
I think at semester at The Philadelphia Center turns kids into adults and prods college students out of naiveté into knowledge. After three months here, I feel skilled to navigate the world alone. Now I can maintain a city apartment, pay bills, interview for jobs, work, grocery shop, budget, cook, and sightsee.
I haven’t done it perfectly every step of the way. My housemates and I joke after every “learning experience” gone awry, every grand idea that ended in failure — we say, “experiential learning!” We say it in jest, but really, we all mean it seriously, too.
Maybe it’s not convenient that I can’t buy butter within a five-minute walk from my apartment — but the inconvenience is part of becoming an adult. You make mistakes, waste time, learn, grow, and move on a better person.
That sums up my experience in Philadelphia – full of inconvenient learning. Learning the hard way when I maybe wanted to learn the easy way. Learning in unexpected moments.
But enjoying, even in the inconvenience, the adventure of it all.
Life is richer when we take the experiences we’re served and let them teach us, inconvenient or not.