“Our potential is one thing. What we do with it is quite another.” ― Angela Duckworth
“Stress happens when something you care about is at stake. It’s not a sign to run away – it’s a sign to step forward.” ― Kelly McGonigal
“There’s nothing you can’t do if you get the habits right.” ― Charles Duhigg
A version of this blog post has long existed in the back of my mind.
It’s had multiple beginnings, different takeaways, but never a clear ending. The idea has never stopped morphing and evolving, growing alongside me. The thing is, I’ve never felt good enough to actually write this post. Instead, I’ve carried it with me across state lines, through deserts, over mountains, and occasionally to the beach, where I’ve protected it with a generous dose of high spf sunscreen.
Because how do I go about writing an expository essay (full of my trademark wit and signature charm) that adequately sums up one of the biggest lessons of my 20s? How can I succinctly summarize a journey that began 5 years ago — when I graduated college and started this blog — to who I am now and the person I hope to become? How do I write about a journey I’m still on?
Stories are powerful things, and the stories we believe about ourselves are perhaps the most important of all. So let’s start there, with a story. And let’s start NOW before I give up trying to figure out 3 years worth of WordPress updates I’ve missed…
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
America, The Beautiful Lyrics by Katharine Lee Bates – 1913
Every now and then, my father will tell me a story about my grandfather that will surprise me. Like how he got shot once, fled on horseback, and even though he reached safety, the bullet was never taken out. It’s moments like that one when I realize my grandparents had a very different life than I do.
I tend to reflect a lot on my family history, mostly on the vast life differences between generations. I especially thought about this during my college graduation. As I sat on the metal chairs facing the commencement stage, among all the other graduates, I kept thinking: How did I get here?
You are graduating from college. That means that this is the first day of the last day of your life. No, that’s wrong. This is the last day of the first day of school. Nope, that’s worse. This is a day.
Since I recently wrote about my college apartment by the cemetery and my current “noisy neighbor” (who is still singing every night, by the way), I thought of an infamous college dorm I lived in my junior spring. Enjoy!
I arrived late at night. I pulled my luggage through the snow and ice, the cold air hurting my eyes. Spring break in New England—delightful.
I stood in front of the white, shabby two-story building that would be my home for the spring quarter. The dormitory resembled a two-star motel, the kind you might invest in bedsheets from a local Walmart before spending the night. As I stared in disapproval, I promised right at that moment, that if I ever became a rich alumna, I would donate a whole bunch of money to tear this building down, build a beautiful new dorm, and slap my name across the front.
New England in the fall, and also the quintessential Instagram picture. I’m so proud.
“You can see how this book has reached a great boundary that was called 1900. Another hundred years were ground up and churned, and what had happened was all muddied by the way folks wanted it to be—more rich and meaningful the farther back it was.”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden
“The years go by, and I’ve told the story so many times that I’m not sure anymore whether I actually remember it or whether I just remember the words I tell it with… At this point, what difference does it make whether it was me or some other man that saw Moreira killed.”
Jorge Luis Borges, “The Night of the Gifts” (Trans. Andrew Hurley)
My senior year of college, I lived in an apartment next to an old cemetery.
The cemetery had headstones and crypts that dated back to the 18th century. Several of them belonged to the college’s first students. I always wondered whether they willingly chose to be buried there out of devotion to the college, or whether academic rigor got to them before they could graduate. I typically assumed the latter.
The cemetery was mostly green and wooded. Parts of it were steep, and it even had a ravine dividing it down the middle. With its tall trees and eery voices, the graveyard was hauntingly beautiful. During the fall and spring, I used to take a shortcut through the cemetery. I was drawn to the tranquility and quiet, and of course, the dining hall on the other side. I told myself it was a shortcut, but I still doubt if it actually was. I had to climb down a sharp incline then up another hill to get across, usually taking about as much effort as just walking around the cemetery. I never dared to take the path during winter, lest I came across winter gnomes, shout in surprise, then slip, break a leg, and freeze to death. Continue reading
If the security personnel do their job properly, they just might cause you to miss your plane, thereby possibly saving your life.
One piece of advice I give to all incoming college freshmen is to always have a funny, lighthearted embarrassing story to tell about yourself. Icebreakers are popular in college, particularly the question: “share your most embarrassing moment.” It’s a silly question because no one wants to share their actual most humiliating moment to a group of complete strangers and relive the embarrassment. My real low points would achieve the complete opposite of breaking the ice. The room would fall silent, and everyone would feel awkward because deeply embarrassing stories are painful to hear. The only thing worse would be to say that you don’t have any embarrassing stories. (LIAR.) No, what people want is a humorous self-deprecating story of mild woe. I’ve had to answer that awful icebreaker question so many times, I have a few stories ready to go at all times. Today, I’ll be sharing one of them. Hopefully, it’ll break the ice.
These days, my idea of living dangerously is going grocery shopping without a list.
-Someone on the internet
I already shared this story on Facebook, but I thought the event was humorous enough to repost on here. Enjoy!