Widgets Magazine


Traveling towards forgiveness

Touching down in an unfamiliar place and the surrounding stresses that come with doing so – securing bags, finding transportation, withdrawing funds – can be more kindly understood as getting one’s bearings. Because we have become so short with ourselves, we have the highest expectations of a nearly nonexistent learning curve; we enter into new situations with delusions of mastery and transform our inevitable shortcomings into momentous flaws.

We can only lose in these alien scenarios, misreading arrival boards because they are written in an unfamiliar language and second-guessing ourselves with a new key in a novel lock. But all of this must be – and is – okay.

Human beings were not meant to encounter newness in such enormous quantities as globalization has made accessible, a never-ending stream of stimuli. Communities of familiar faces, landscapes we could navigate by feel, skies we knew to be constant in their variability – those were the elements of life in which we are built to flourish. We may have made leaps and bounds in this very “modern” society, but we have also crafted a life for ourselves defined by shallow attachments to people and things, a state vastly different from the way our ancestors showed us how to live.

This first week of school will likely be no different from the arrivals gate of a new place, even for the more seasoned among us. We will purchase textbooks for classes that don’t end up piquing our interest, try to do too many things on the bike ride to class and fight with the shower head for just the right temperature of water. But as the weeks stack up, our quarters will develop (as they always do) into part of our larger experiences as students at Stanford, ripe with unique and personal textures. We will winnow our morning routines down to the essentials, block in time for exercise and, once again, rest our feet on solid ground.

My standards for the start of anything are unrealistic. For instance, I won’t immediately grasp the nuances of whatever literary text I am reading, but it is for this understanding and appreciation that I am here, pursuing higher education. I’m not going to meditate every day during the first week of classes, but I will work towards it – perhaps beginning with every other day. It is in these moments, when I fail to meet expectations thawt I never should have set for myself, that I recite a simple mantra: “I love myself, I love myself, I love myself.” And after that, I take small steps towards forgiving myself and giving things a second go. Those of us on the quarter system have the unique opportunity of getting three chances each year to practice how we begin and how we forgive ourselves for the starts and stops of the beginning.


Contact Hannah Broderick at inbloom ‘at’ stanford.edu.