adult learner, Advice, self care, Undergraduate

Loving Yourself in the New Year

JD 3

J.D. Melendez

B.A. Pre-Law Studies

NU Scholar – October 2019 Cohort

close up of christmas decorations hanging
Exploring Love as a single person during the Holiday Season

Regarding that four-letter-word… LOVE

Here we are. Another holiday season, and the New Year is fast approaching. I gave up the whole “New Years’ resolution” thing a while back. Instead, I wanted to reflect on what I feel like I got right in 2019, which is LOVE. In November, I turned 38 years old, making it more than four years since I was in a committed relationship. If someone were to tell me five years ago that I’d be single and living alone with my dog Tita today, I probably would have laughed.

To be single at 38 was never my plan. More and more of my friends and family members are having children, getting married, building families, or adjusting to life with their new partners. As for me, I am instead learning the art of falling in love with who I am. I’m proud of my decision to separate from the person I am not, to move away from old behaviors that no longer honor the man I want to be. I have finalized my divorce from toxicity- both toxicity that was self-created, and the type of toxicity that I was welcoming into my life, ignoring the red flags that kept popping up everywhere. I had developed a habit of looking at those red flags, and then just painting them green. Sound familiar?

Being single by choice is not an easy thing, especially in one’s late 30s. Throughout my singleness, I continue to challenge myself to fight for my own happiness, without using another person as a crutch. By trial and by many, many errors, I have learned how to be self-sufficient, starting with something as simple as walking to the pharmacy on my own to buy flu medicine when I needed it. I forced myself to go to a movie theater by myself, to enjoy a solo steak and lobster dinner. I’ve traveled all over the world by myself (or sometimes with my dog). Through all of this, by learning how to love myself I became better equipped to love my friends for who they were, and I found myself spending time with and getting to know family members that I had rarely engaged with. I pushed myself to find a meaningful cause in my immediate area and volunteered my time and my resources to others, with no expectations or reservations. More than anything else, I started to live an authentic life; in turn, I found that others were more and more showing me who they genuinely were, with no pretense or masquerade. Traveling the world enabled me to connect with others and experience the joy of the universal language of humanity: A smile, a polite “thank you,” a nod of acknowledgment to complete strangers in the London subway, hugs from both Palestinians and Jews while in Israel, and a humble interchange of life experiences with students in China. Each time I get to experience another slice of life in a different part of the world, I come back home completely in love with humanity as a whole.

If you’re dreading the fact that you are not in an intimate relationship with someone this holiday season, please know that there are many others like us who choose to give ourselves the most valuable thing in life: Our time. You can’t get time back, you can’t promise anyone your tomorrow because there is truly no day but today. So, today, please take the time to vote for YOU, to be YOUR best advocate, and love and accept yourself unconditionally. You cannot read a book or take a course on love because it’s a spiritual journey that’s uniquely yours. You’re the author, and you have complete control of the narrative.

Perhaps you and I will meet as we travel this journey together. Work towards love, it is there for the taking. I promise you that LOVE NEVER FAILS and that it will ALWAYS be the answer!

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Excited to continue this path in 2020!
adult learner, Military, Navy, Parents, Undergraduate, Veteran

Going Back to School as a Veteran

Kevin Matzke headshot

Kevin Matzke, Bachelor of Science, Biology

San Diego Region

U.S. Navy Veteran

https://portfolium.com/Kmatzke88

The decision to go back to school as a veteran was not a difficult decision. The military always pushed education and the need to better oneself. Knowing the large veteran population attending National University helped in making my mind up to attend. The challenges that came with working full time, studying full-time, and maintaining a family were not what I expected. When I first started at National University, I was married but had no children. The transition into becoming a student was fairly streamlined, and because of the way the military uses intensive training, the 1 month compressed format of National Universities classes seemed natural to me. As a veteran it is sometimes hard to find common ground with people who haven’t had the shared experience of military service. I have often found myself feeling alienated or uncomfortable because my time in the military had changed my way of viewing things. This sense of alienation was one of my biggest fears going into starting up as a college student. I quickly found that a large portion of my classmates were also prior service, or active duty, and shared the same struggles as I did. The veteran community at National definitely helped in smoothing the transition from being fresh out of the military, to being a successful student, while supporting my family.

As I progressed in my education I also was growing my family.  My first daughter was born in 2016, and my second in 2018.

The addition of children definitely adds new stressors and time demands on top of the already busy work/ school schedule I was maintaining. There are days where it can be overwhelming, and on those days I remind myself that completing my education will help to provide a better future for my children. It has not always been easy, but the faculty has been very accommodating and understanding of the fact that many of us attending are parents, working to support our families while attending school. The smaller class sizes allow me more interaction with the instructors, and a makes learning and understanding the material easier, when everything outside of class is trying to distract me from my studies.

adult learner, Graduate Student, Military, Navy, Parents, Study Abroad

Studying Abroad as a Parent

Brent Harris headshot

Brent Harris

https://portfolium.com/baharris123

Creative Writing MFA

29 Palms Region

“Freeeedddooooommm!”

Shout that in your best Braveheart voice, for that’s the euphoria I felt as I stepped onto the curb, kissed the wife and kids goodbye, and sauntered into the Palm Springs departure terminal.

In January, my Navy wife went away on deployment – for seven months – leaving me at home with two kids, a Master’s program, community volunteer projects, and a perpetually empty cup of coffee. Those months were challenging. My daughter had ballet twice a week and a residency in Anaheim, my son had Toddler Tumbling and was not yet in school. I was teaching on Tuesdays, in between two back-to-back scripts for school.

A break loomed.

The NU Scholar’s program offered a study abroad opportunity to Tijuana. A weekend away from the kids, a break when there was none, to go down South of the Border? Sign me up! I dutifully did the repeat photography assignments, finding pictures of the past to compare with pictures from today. I was all set. And then my son got pink-eye.

I couldn’t go.

The joys of parenthood.

Flash forward several months, and I was afforded an opportunity to visit Vancouver to study abroad. And I’m so very glad I did. Vancouver is a beautiful place with beautiful people. It’s not an old city, but it is rich with culture and vibrant nature. Had I gone to the city by myself, as a tourist, I would have failed to see the splendor beyond the tourist traps. Going as part of the NU study abroad program, travelling with others, allowed me to see parts of the city most would have passed. An amazing coastline, foggy bridges, strange statues, a shower of autumn-red maple leaves, and buildings with a history all their own. The food was great, the people better, and at the end of each day, our phone cameras were full, and our feet were worn.

While there, my first feelings of Freedom! slipped away as the greatness of the experience enveloped me. It was no longer a trip to escape, but the forging of a new friendship. Vancouver will be with me forever.