As dramatic as it sounds, I often reminisce on my three years here at Stanford as if they were great loves from decades past. I began each year as a uniquely different version of myself, though my head was often crowded by the same unrealistic expectations of the new me that this year would bring. These expectations usually resemble self-given commandments that would lead me into a life of ‘adulting’:
I will spend less money on Lag Late Nite chicken tenders. I will do my laundry every week and not leave my clothes in the dryer for five hours. I will not forget that I have class. I will not sneak food into the library during Dead Week. I will not wear impractical shoes that I will later have to run to work in.
Unsurprisingly, I don’t often succeed, and I have never once felt comparable to the person I envisioned myself becoming. This is not a bad thing. Instead of becoming some idealized version of a responsible adult, I’ve become a me that I’m proud of.
I’ve learned that sometimes going broke for that concert is worth it, that being too hard on myself won’t help me succeed and that the quality of my education and my friendships is directly related to how much effort I put into them. Most importantly, I’ve learned that doing laundry twice a week is not as important as re-watching “Pride and Prejudice” (the 2005 version) with your friends.
I cannot pin these changes to specific moments in which I experienced a magical John Hughes-worthy metamorphosis. Single moments cannot hold the strain of our lives — everything it has been, is and will become. My life has not balanced on the fulcrum of one specifically brief period of time, despite how much I’ve wanted it to. The new you’s that you find here (because you will continually find newer versions of yourself) are found in the daily decisions to persevere, to improve.
In these deciding moments, you can choose to embrace the clean slate ideology trademarked by the new “Reputation” era of Taylor Swift. Swift’s recent strategy of killing off the old public versions of herself in order to present the new-and-improved Taylor is very appealing, as mistakes, heart breaks and embarrassing moments of the past can be a troublesome burden to carry.
A new year should call for a new you, right? Except for the fact that Taylor Swift is still the Taylor Swift that writes songs about her love life, that shifts blame when she can, that still has Joseph Kahn direct her music videos, despite her new look and self-awareness. This new image shift can only be successful upon public recognition of her past as a celebrity and is not actually a legitimate clean slate after all.
This is not to say that we have to be trapped by who we were in the past; rather, we should let the past inform our future selves. There are some facets of my personality that I did leave behind in high school (as well as the years following), and I am glad that I have outgrown them. But they still exist, continually informing what kind of person I decide to be. I have chosen to accept my reputation as I move forward in life, hoping that I don’t become a new me, but a better version of me.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.