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one of the biggest things that i learned from my year in massachusetts is how to listen to and appreciate someone’s story, without taking on their circumstances as my own burden. living with someone during my YASC program in westford, massachusetts who was so drastically different than myself was such a challenge. some days i wanted to quit and just move back to ohio because it all felt like too. damn. much.

my roommate there was at a pivotal point in her life and was processing and coming to terms with a lot of her own stuff, and, simply due to close proximity, i got caught up in all of it to an extent. soon her circumstances were bringing me down and i got lost in the mess — i didn’t know how to separate myself from all her emotions while still being a supportive presence for her.

after many amazing months of helpful counseling to process the experience and my reaction to it all, and the amazing support of my coworkers and best friends at NEFF, i was able to find a healthy distance from which to relate to my roommate. by the end of my time in new england i had found a good balance of listening to her and supporting her through her struggles, without compromising my own mental health in the process.

this is honestly one of the biggest things that i gained from my eleven months in westford: the ability to listen to a persons life story and current struggles in order to better understand them and their response to the world around them, without taking it all on myself and having it become a burden for me.

listening is such a vital part of life, but i’ve learned in the last year that it’s what we do after we’re done listening that’s even more important. do we let the narratives of others take us over? do we ignore it and fill our head space with other information? or do we use the new information we’ve learned to better inform how we react to and understand a person, while still staying true to ourselves?