While I’m grateful for the chance to go to college, the spring of each academic year often sees me aching to end it. Perhaps it’s simply the plight of being an international student, but by the time March rolls around, I am itching to get on a plane to some place else. Because no matter where I end up, I get to be reminded that the world is so much larger than my college campus, and that my life has so much more value than what my GPA dictates each semester. Even the 20 hour plane journey that I take each year serves that purpose. Once I step into that airport, I am on a journey that’s entirely my own.
For many of us reading this, our lives have been so carefully structured that it leaves little space for space. All around the world, we’ve been sent off, no questions asked, to the conveyer belt system of elementary school, middle school, high school and college. Each stage is a means to get to somewhere else. High school gets you to college. College gets you to a job – supposedly. Some people spend all their lives so used to structure that they don’t know what to do with themselves when they find out that life doesn’t have an idiot-proof plan for success. Some friends who have graduated from the protective bubble of college are still figuring out what they want to do and who they want to be. Some extremely motivated, talented friends have seen opportunities fall flat. Others have gone for more school. And while I’d like to think that everyone goes back solely because they are passionate about academia, we all know that sometimes it’s just because we don’t know where else to go. We’ve been told all our lives that we’re on our way to an elusive destination, whose name is loosely titled Success, or Happiness. But when we rub the dirt away from our eyes and take a closer look it seems that the fabled brick road is merely a dirt path that trails off into a million different directions, and that the end point that we chase after is hardly visible on the horizon. And for some of us, this realization is terrifying.
But anything that is new and unfamiliar can be uncomfortable, even terrifyingly so. Maybe our fears exist because we’ve been keeping our eyes on the wrong finishing line.
This summer, I’ve been blessed to spend time in Burma, Singapore and New York, with an extended period of time in the lattermost. While I have been doing a fair bit of work (work being writing and taking photographs, so work being doing what I love anyway), I’ve also had the time to sit back and take stock of things. I’ve had the freedom to read what I like, walk where I want to, and think about what matters to me and what kind of person I want to be. This is the first time in my life that I’ve been living on my own for so long, without the comforts of family or a college schedule, and I am so grateful for it. Because being is far more important than doing, and this time on my own has yielded discoveries and passions that will lead me to where I need to go.