Dear Readers,

When life gives you lemons, you have the opportunity to make something out of it. Lemonade, lemon meringue pie, lemon bars… sometimes life doesn’t give you the ingredients right away and you have to go and get them yourself.

Educators and child authors love to spew nonsense about how “easy” it is to make a goal and run for it. When you’re a child, you believe you can achieve anything and live your life by YOLO (You Only Live Once) code. “The world is your oyster!” Except, it’s not. With each passing year, I realized that life is less of a leveled ladder and more of an extremely complicated Rubik’s Cubed labyrinth.

You need to be flexible to life’s curveballs, adaptable to ever-changing conditions and confident in who you are and where you want to be. That is a small list on paper—a mess of “dungeon bosses” in real life.

Why is it so hard for people to take that first step toward their dream job or check off something on that bucket list? People are scared. Scared of their financial situations, academic obligations and societal boundaries that were set in place while we were children.

Currently, I’m a junior. I realized sometime in the middle of last year that I had become caught in a standstill. I was not happy with my classes or relationships, had no sufficient job that was building to my future career and I had a hearty, untouched bucket list. With just barely enough money to pay for my junior year, I decided I needed to do something that could change my life forever: study abroad for the summer.

After I realized I couldn’t study away, I felt defeated. I couldn’t get a loan and the college wanted around $6,000. Which, I can promise, I did not have.

So how did I have such an amazing experience this past summer? I had already bought the tickets and paid for my next semester. After a lot of planning, rearranging and panicking I exchanged $500 to roughly 15,000 Thai Baht, found a ride to the airport and went for it.

Why was this the biggest thing I have ever done for myself? I had almost no support. I had one friend who told me to do what I felt was right, and she was out of the country. Almost every person in my family and friend group told me all the horrible things that happened to “little white girls” in foreign countries. Against so many people’s opinions on which road I should go down, I can easily say I almost left my life here to stay in Thailand.

Before heading overseas, it was incredibly hard for me to look at my Nana in the face and say, “I love you, but you’re judging a whole country based on one fear.”

I had to learn how to fight back to people like my uncle when he made crude jokes like, “Well, make sure when you’re sold off that you send some of that money back home.”

This is not easy. When people who say they love you are so afraid of the horrifying stories and rumors that they don’t see the beautiful opportunities, it can distort your own views and ambitions.

To keep myself in check, I made a short list of things I needed to do to get the trip rolling. I made a half-itinerary to make my mother feel like I wouldn’t just be wandering blindly around Thailand alone and I packed my bag and did not touch it until I left.

There is no easy algorithm but one: just do it.

If your life was one big cookbook, there would be some recipes that are amazing and some that you try and put a sticky tab on it labeled “DON’T REPEAT.” Sometimes, you’re not given those lemons. However you decide to harvest and use them is your decision.

Angelique Ichierca can be contacted

at ainchierca@kscequinox.com