Just under 9 months later, I'm 1/4 of the way done with my time at the University of Virginia. To me, it feels like there is so much time left. But I look at my friends who are only one year older - hear them talk about how they're already halfway done - and I know it's going to fly.
How do I even begin to put all of that time in one blog post? I've found my passions in extracurriculars, a community in the major I'll be applying into, friends in my scholarship program & sorority & dorm & beyond. I've taken a variety of interesting classes and learned more than I ever thought I could from some of the best professors in the game. And although my GPA is nowhere near as perfect as it was in high school, I'm a whole lot happier now than I ever was then.
I've recently been inspired by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who writes on a variety of topics and events in his weekly column. One of the topics he covers is the soul-searching, so to speak, that happens in many college students. In an article he wrote a few months ago about Anne Hall, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania, he argued that college isn't only a place to go looking for a multi-million dollar job. As Anne Hall says, "It is for developing the muscle of thoughtfulness." She echoed this sentiment when I emailed her to provoke a conversation, writing to me that "The hard part in life is staying away from the nonsense...figuring out... one's own self is the real point of college."
I couldn't agree more. In high school, I ran myself into the ground taking courses I hated and memorizing extravagant equations so that I would do well in math (a subject that is of no interest to me). In contrast, this semester, I got a "B" on a piece of writing - the first non-A an essay that I've ever received. And y'all, English is my thing. A year ago, I would have seen that grade and protested, because, surely, since I was so good at English, I should automatically be given an A. But I was strangely happy with that B, because for the first time in my writing career, someone was telling me that I could be better. The course, Shakespeare, used some of the same plays as a similar class that I'd taken in my senior year. A few days ago, upon looking back at my essays from last year's class, I laughed at how bad they seemed to me now. Getting straight As is great, and it looks lovely on a transcript, but do you really learn from it? A less-than-perfect grade on a paper this semester put things in perspective for me, and I embraced it.
Finally, I want to return to another NYT article that my mom sent me yesterday, by the very same author of the column I noted before. In it, some of the things I've discovered in this first year at UVa were made crystal clear and articulated wonderfully. I've listed them for you here.
- "Stop making the focus of your kids' education a job," said Joel Benenson in this second Bruni article. I'm lucky in that I have wonderful parents who haven't pushed me to major in something 'practical', or something that will 'guarantee me a job'. When I graduate in 3 years, I'll be graduating with a degree in poetry writing. Many people ask me, what do you want to do with that? I don't know. I want that to be an acceptable answer, for my major and for all of the other obscure majors like it. Further, there is a lot of pressure from high-achieving communities to not just get a job after college, but to ensure that it's a high-paying one. To quote from Anne Hall's email to me once more, "Both of my daughters are school teachers. They have to live fairly simple lives because they can’t afford complex ones. But when I hear them talk about their students, I know that they love their jobs."My dream is to find a job that I love, regardless of money. I know that if I'm surrounded by people I care about, doing something I'm passionate about, the money won't matter so much - because I'll be happy.
- Don't "put too much faith in plotting (and) too little in serendipity." In finding my passion in an atypical organization, one that really has nothing to do with my major, I have learned that sometimes you just have to go out on a whim. In the summer before my first year, I spent hours researching clubs and extracurriculars that I wanted to participate in solely because I knew how good it would look on a resume.Instead, in my first week here, I wandered through the doors of an organizaiton called HackCville at a friend's suggestion, and became a member on a whim. Now, I'm invested in the creative, entrepreneurial mission of the place, and hope I'll be a part of HackCville for as long as I'm at UVa. I have found another home there, in an unconventional place, serendipitously.
- "It's important to scribble. To wander, too. Discover yourself." This summer, I will be both scribbling and wandering. In May and June, I'll be traveling to Iceland & France & London to 'wander' and learn more about the world. In July, I'll be writing poetry about the Jersey Shore, a place very near to my heart: 'scribbling'.And I hope I'll be discovering, too. In this final week at UVa, as I've been doing a lot of reflecting on my first year of college, this last command made me think the most. Discover yourself. I've looked back at all that made my time here thus far so wonderful - and realized that I'm on my way to 'discovering myself' (an important first step in actually doing so).This summer, I want to take the next step. One thing that's been holding me back is, truly, technology. I'm losing my real sense of self in Instagram, in Facebook, in Snapchat. I've found myself doing things 'just to take a picture', or at a table in a restaurant with my best friends, on Snapchat. I don't want this to be my reality.So in three days, I'll be kissing all of these social networks goodbye. And I can't wait to experience Europe, the Jersey Shore, my friends & family, and more, through eyes (crazy idea, right??) instead of through the screen of my iPhone. Benenson said, "Think about what you want to do next." I don't know what I'm doing with my life, or my degree, or myself. But I'm starting to get a grip on that last one, 'myself', arguably the most important of them all. I can't wait to take the next step in discovery this summer.
Thank you for the most wonderful first year, Virginia. I'll be back, and I'll be better prepared to make the most of you. Here's to summer!