(a pause in thought)

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me and how the trajectory of my life would have played out, had I decided against coming to Stanford.

For a few weeks now I’ve been trying to put to words, what I feel and think about the past two years. Funny, I keep coming up empty. I am unfeeling, still empty-handed.

When I think of the girl I was before Stanford, I have a hard time conjuring her from memory. I don’t remember. I just know that she’s… different from the person I am now.

In many ways of course, but most striking of all: confidence. She knew her self-worth and valued that without a hint of doubt – believed in herself irrespective whether others did. Whenever others, whoever they are, tried to devalue her worth and credibility, she knew to stand up for herself. She wholeheartedly believed she had what it takes to prove them wrong. The last thing she wanted to be, was small. She did not believe in being obscure; she was all about becoming somebody.

Sometimes I think I miss her.

I miss her, even though I understand she was imperfect in other ways. I miss her, even though I know I probably wouldn’t, had she known the things I know now. I miss her, even though I am well-aware how foolish I am for missing a figment of myself that could have only existed in a specific time frame and space in time: youth.

My first mistake was believing that Stanford is a destination.

Because what happens to the countless ‘next’ if the destination has been reached?

My second mistake was to let this place define my person.

I should not have given the school and its reputation more credit than necessary. I should not have allowed it to define who I am, because once I strip away everything that the school is, separate from myself; what am I? For the longest time, like a fool, I had based so much of my life and therefore, self-worth, on my academic achievements. Getting into this school felt like my life’s peak was here and now.

And so… what happens if the pinnacle is nothing like I’d imagined and anticipated? Worse, what happens when it turns out to be nowhere near to the dream I’d nurtured and returned to, over and over, the same one I promised myself I would realize?

(a pause in thought)

My crash to reality is to be completely honest, nothing to write home about. Trivial compared to the sufferings and plights experienced by those who struggle to put food on the table; the homeless; the differently abled… the list goes on. Compared to their struggles, objectively speaking, I have worries of the privileged.

(but) Sometimes I remember a different life.

Sometimes I remember a different life, one that could easily have become mine. I understand how easily the tables could have turned, had I not received the opportunities I did. This realization never fails to humble me, then leaves me with shame; I should have taken full advantage of being here. I should have done more than my best, gave more than what I am willing to – make the past two years worthwhile.

I could too easily have turned out differently. I know this much.

My third mistake was believing I am not worthwhile simply because I could not ‘fit in’.

“These days I’ve been trying to put to words about my time in Stanford,” I confessed to my friend over a warm breakfast of delicious piroshki buns and freshly brewed coffee. “When I’m gone from here in a month’s time – I’m gone for good. Shouldn’t I miss this place? Wax poetic about it? Isn’t there anyone I would miss? Friends I ought to make sure to meet? It’s not like the experience is totally bad and whenever I look at my classmates, I think: wow, they’re so happy. Then there’s me. I keep finding myself with nothing… nice… to say.”

Every adjective that comes to mind sounds like a lie.

(to be continued)

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