Over winter break, I had a bit of free time to file old documents that were lying around the Bridge Peer Counseling Center. Looking through old teaching manuals hand-written on yellowing paper and sorting through old documents about outdated protocols made me think about just how repetitive our time here at Stanford can seem in the context of the thousands of alums who have come through this university. How novel can our experience here be when there are so many students that have done the same thing before us? This realization, that I am just one in a huge number to come through Stanford, is particularly disturbing to me as my time here winds down.
More and more lately, I’m starting to realize what is perhaps simultaneously the most frustrating and invigorating thing about college – we run out of time. In the past few weeks since coming back from winter break and facing the daunting challenge of selecting the second-to-last set of courses of my college career, I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I simply can’t squeeze everything I want to do here into the next few months.
I’m just now figuring out who I want to be on campus, how I want to spend my time both inside and outside of the classroom, and how I can most effectively give back to the Stanford community. And now, now that I’m back from abroad, done exploring majors and minors, testing the waters of student groups, and I’ve have settled into my niche, it’s time to start thinking about apartment hunting, graduate school, job applications and moving on. From both personal reflection and conversations with friends, it seems to take about three years to really figure things out at college, to make the right friends, find a good adviser, become entrenched in projects that are both challenging and exciting, and really start to call Stanford home.
I’m frustrated that I couldn’t have started out here with the knowledge and inspiration that I now have to make changes I’m just now realizing I have the power to make. I’m sad that I will graduate and leave dozens of projects related to mental health unexplored, research questions unanswered and experiences left undone. In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself returning home to my dorm room, stymied by all the lost opportunities that will surround our graduation – especially since the Class of 2013 won’t be able to use the knowledge learned from our time here to make great changes now that we are finally in the perfect position to do so.
I’m also inspired by this same dilemma, though, because realizing how many things I would do now if I have the time makes me realize how much we’ve all grown since freshman year when we listened to the convocation speaker on the Quad, nervous with excitement and startled by the seemingly unlimited pathways that lay before us – before we even set foot in a classroom.
I’m now more than ever starting to understand what connects so many alumni back to their alma mater. Although we may not realize it, we are all connected to those that came before use, the people whose names we may never know who started the projects that we work on today. Although I’m sad to be passing off the reins of my life at Stanford to an incoming freshman in just a few short months, I realize that this is a move characterized by great opportunity for both of us. We’ll all take what we’ve learned to do on the rather small scale of a college campus and apply it to new communities and populations, all the while remembering where these seeds were planted.
One day, maybe two, five, or even 20 years down the road, some future Bridge peer counselor will find my files and documents tucked away and might have the same realization – that we are all connected in our service to the Stanford community while we’re lucky enough to be a part of it.
Connect with Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org.