To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Enjoying the ride

As I write this, I have submitted the biggest academic project that I have undertaken in my life: my senior honors thesis. In it, I described the framework of adult development, “emerging adulthood,” developed by J.J. Arnett in 2000 to describe adults between the ages of 18 and 25, who are somewhere in the middle of being a child still dependent on their parents and a fully-fledged adult. For people in this age group, this time is marked by uncertainty and instability as they explore different life choices and career paths. And it’s safe to say that this framework checks out, especially for those of us in college.

Nearly four years ago when I first came onto campus, I thought I had it all figured out. How naïve of me. But reflecting on my undergraduate experience, I’m glad I thought I had it all figured out. Because it took me thinking that I had my life together to help me realize that I actually didn’t.

But hey, that’s what the whole college experience is about, right?

In typical Brandeisian fashion, I overextended myself throughout my Brandeis career by double majoring, joining and running (probably) too many clubs, all while trying to find a balance between academics and having a social life. For my first two years at Brandeis, my weekdays were filled with classes all day and meetings all night before running to Upper Usdan to grab dinner before settling into the library at 10 p.m. for a late night of homework. I can still imagine the sound of the bell in the library that rings at 1:50 a.m. as a nudge to get out before closing, scaring me and causing me to almost fall out of my chair while sitting in the quiet room or down in the dungeon trying to finish my assignments.

But despite the constant stress and pressure that I felt, I loved it. Or so I thought.

I’ve grappled with this question a lot over the past year, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Do we really have control over the path that we’re taking in our lives? I definitely do not think that the path is a straightaway that we can just run down but that it is filled with crossroads that we decide to go down. A choose-your-own-adventure-esque sort of thing as we go through life.

Committing to Brandeis almost four years ago to the day that I’m writing this was a terrifying crossroad for me to take; I chose to move halfway across the country to go to a school I had visited for about three hours total. These past four years have definitely been a time of instability, marked with uncertainty, but I wouldn’t have changed a second of it. Cliché of me to say, I know.

But for me, I think the most important junction that I’ve come to so far in my young life was deciding to abandon a career path I thought I was destined to be on. When I applied for graduate school this past cycle, the first line of my personal statement was “I always thought I was destined to be a doctor.” Though not entirely true, I truly did think that medicine was the path that I was meant to take. But turns out, it wasn’t. But it’s really funny how something that seems so horrible in the moment can set you on a path forward. The path that you’re truly meant to be on. 

Finishing my undergraduate career amidst a global pandemic and online learning is, of course, bittersweet. But instead of thinking of all the things that I’m missing out on, I’ve come to appreciate all the things that I’ve gained, especially the little things in life that I often took for granted.

Everything happens for a reason. So, all we can do is hop onto the crazy roller coaster we call life and enjoy the ride.

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