Marking the end of summer, I wrote two reflective pieces today, which I’d shared on my Facebook;
A month ago I received an inquiry about my decision to pursue grad school. What were my reasons? I responded that two years ago, I sincerely felt a bachelors degree was insufficient and… I wasn’t ready to head home. (Truth from my 2012 write-ups: I had romanticized notions about grad school, pfft) But then I paused in afterthought and typed, “…but if I could have a do-over, I think I would choose to work for a few years first.”
My first-year experience is unique to myself and thus can’t be generalized, but I think (I think) the main reason I struggled so much finding my footing in my first year was because I lack the mental maturity that age and experience would’ve provided me. Over the two months I’ve been home, I’ve been asked plenty times “How’s it like at Stanford?” I’d chew on my thoughts and it’s only after the nth time realize that my response almost always begins with, “I’m grateful for the experience, but…” which honestly, is drenched with negativity.
When I was nineteen, I learned the concept of rezeki (blessings) for the first time. I was in bed with one of my cousin sisters, sharing tales of my first six months in the US. She listened excitedly and later in a quieter voice had said, “This is your rezeki, Jane.” I laid awake in the dark for hours after that with the weight of her words heavy in my heart. The other day I confided to an old pal how shaken I was when another friend admitted to me that “the kind of opportunities you get and want to throw away are the ones I’ve tried so hard to make happen.” Perplexed, I’d thrown these questions to my pal, “How much does opportunity determine the roads not taken or is it that our opportunities have been unequal from the beginning? Does it all come down to our different lots in life…?”
One may think I’m exaggerating and I can’t deny that, while another school of thought is “it’s just grad school, pfft big deal,” and both sides have valid presumptions. However, maybe because education was and is all that I know to turn dreams and wishes into reality, up until now it’s hard to erase that image of my nineteen year-old self, wide awake in the dark understanding for the first time that her whole life would’ve played out differently; would she have found herself in China this weekend and now-familiar Stanford the week after? Would Stanford even happen, given the turn-of-events that led to it? She could easily have never known the larger world and visited, lived even, in parts of them. What shapes her perspectives would’ve been aspects which are totally alien to the person she is now.
In the end opportunity is what anyone makes of it, but I think I’ve been somewhat ungrateful about my Stanford experience; I sincerely apologize. The other day I told myself that I need to maximize my second year; go big (have fun) and go home, you know? Admittedly it’s also such a different feeling, realizing that after the one-year time frame I’m 90% headed home – this time I think I’m ready.
For eleven years throughout primary and secondary(high) schools, I experienced so many friendship fractures and breakups that I eventually lost count. I was the kind of friend who’d (embarrassingly) send personalized handmade cards, heart on my sleeve (of course) …and then was left standing alone when it came to picking sides (for real, teenage girls are the meanest).
At the end of seventeen I was convinced I was doomed to be forever alone with nary a friend I can trust and by the time I turned eighteen, I was even more convinced I knew exactly how to hold my heart: guard it with walls so thick I’m impenetrable and begged myself to quit being so emotionally attached to anyone who extended the simplest gesture of kindness. I survived eighteen by holding myself at bay but something happened at nineteen and again at twenty-one: I made friends who… like me for the person that I am. Who want to be there and… sincerely listened. “You’re so difficult,” was the line I heard many times during my schooling days that I got so used to it to the point it’s like I’m just waiting to hear it again. But… it never (hasn’t) happened, strange. At twenty-three I still get to keep them. Unbelievable.
We’re often told that friendships are harder to come by the older one grows but you know, maybe that’s not always true. Maybe we needn’t be afraid to move backwards because maybe some of us have our beginnings at the finish line. Or maybe I just got lucky. I now know that I don’t appeal to everyone and that’s totally okay – I’ve no interest in wasting my time either …and lucky me that I have enough of those who don’t find my flaws as defects they’ve to “put up with” (I’m out on a day trip with two of them soon; beyond excited!) As Tablo aptly puts it,
Thank you for being a door and
not a wall when I knocked.
You don’t know how much this small gesture means to me, all you special people (thank you).