A Day of Lasts

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On my last full day in D.C. as a resident–as I see it for the moment, I checked things off of a list of lasts:

go to the third floor of the Smithsonian where I took the coolest forensic anthropology class

eat at the GW Deli

sit at my favorite places on campus

and, visit the Reading Room of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress as a student.

The last time I was here, I was a doe-eyed freshman hoping to channel her inner Hermoine as she studied for a chemistry exam she aimed to ace. I did maybe 10 problems and then spent the hours letting my eyes roam over the intricate work on the walls and ceiling. And when that wasn’t enough, I took a slow walk around the stacks of books, running my fingers over the countless spines that held the ultimate key to power: knowledge.

I thought that being in our nation’s greatest atmosphere of wisdom would help the chemistry sink into my pores and carve its place in my brain. And while there is something to be said about the grandiosity of this academic arena that sends shivers through my spine, I still had to put the work into learning my chemistry (which I did later from my plain desk in my plain, crowded dorm room, with a plain lamp and a bottle of soda).

I wanted to come back here as I tied up the loose ends of my undergraduate career to feel the shivers of grandiosity once more as I look forward to a path of work, travel, and graduate degrees. I was hoping for the wisdom of the great minds whose words weigh down these floors to sink into my pores as I face life’s next big decisions: What jobs to accept? What career path do I want? What should I be studying next? How can I make my way across the globe again?

The LOC doesn’t quite work like that, but there’s a calm that settles over you as you gaze at the intricacy and feel those book spines: the wisdom that with a lot of hard work, everything will be okay.

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Coming Full Circle

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In my last week and a half of school, I had a conversation with a person I met in my first week and a half of school. While waiting for the elevator in the lobby of Gelman, our library, I ran into a guy who I had class with freshman year. We actually got lunch once, which was my first time ever going to the GW Deli. Every time I pass the grassy spot next to the deli, I remember trying to sit in the grass with a white skirt and a sandwich that dripped mayonnaise left and right as I made a new friend. I think he ate something with meat it in–bacon, he said? Either way, I remember the simple pleasure of having someone to eat with at a time when no one knew anyone. 

Four years later, after a three minute encounter in an elevator, I’m pretty sure he thinks I don’t actually remember that lunch–because it took me a minute to make the connection. I’m pretty sure he thinks I faked the whole thing. But it’s one of those random, displaced memories that I’ll probably have forever.

And I’ll definitely remember it now because it’s made me realize that it’s really quite awesome how, when things come to a close, the universe has a way of taking you back to the beginning, where it all started, so you can see how much you’ve grown.

goals

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March 2, 2014

Over the past few days, as orientation week unfolded and I mixed and mingled with the other enthusiastic exchange students, I have been mulling over this essay favorite: “What do you hope to achieve from your study abroad experience?”

Of course, I wrote a whole essay on said topic in order to even get here. But after two weeks of actually being here, the question means something else entirely.

Studying so far away from home appealed to me because it would take me away from the things that I was used to: family, friends, and my home. I am one of those who think people are capable of change (or at least deserve the opportunity to change—fostered by the ‘right’ situation and all that). But I think that it’s hard to change yourself when everything around you is the same. Somehow, picking up and coming halfway around the world just made sense.

I want to allow this experience to change me. I hope this short time in such a dynamic place will replace some of my fears and insecurities with more comfort in my skin and some easygoing confidence. I hope to learn to forgive some of my mistakes, to forget the regrets, and to finally live by the many lessons I have learned in my years away from home. And, I think most importantly, I want to gain back that drive I used to have to go for what I want without looking back.

I have definitely taken steps towards the person I want to be, but, somehow, some of the rocky terrain made me lose my footing, causing me to stumble back a ways. I needed to start over somewhere new, to have a second chance with a different uneven path.

I don’t know what’s at the end of this one, and, for the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I don’t care about the destination. This path is all about the flora and fauna and soil along the way. I think I’ve been too focused on the future for too long. I’m putting many, many aspects of my life on hold for six months as I focus on this journey—and I’m okay with it.