I entered Stanford excited to finally be living the life I had always wanted, one full of adventures and new experiences. All the movies I had watched and all the novels I had read throughout my adolescence gave me high hopes of some magical world that had previously always excluded me.
Then I had my first 9 a.m. class.
As I adjusted to real life on campus so many years ago, my romanticized idea of the world slowly started to fade away. I still enjoyed my time and created memories I will continue to cherish, but the repetitiveness of daily life often left me feeling that there was something out there, in my own version of the Great Unknown, that I was missing.
I was sure that the world and the people that inhabited it still possessed a spark, a form of liveliness that was at the heart of my favorite photographs and stories. So, I set my heart on using one of the few opportunities I would have in life to experience this phenomenon: studying abroad.
As per usual, this sounds pretty dramatic, especially to those of you who have frequently traveled throughout the world. Yet as I spent last spring quarter at Oxford, I believe that I finally experienced what I had been missing. I was continually in wonder at where I was and what I was doing.
My last night at Oxford, as I listened to the Royal Philharmonic play the Imperial March at a castle and gazed up at fireworks with my friends, I truly felt this magic that I had so desperately longed for. In spite of the boring day-to-day rituals that follow you wherever you go, my time abroad was everything I had wanted. I achieved my long-term goal.
Then I came back home, broke, jobless and alone, in my hometown in the Mojave Desert. Life was no longer magical but boring and depressing, as I was left with nothing to do but lay in bed all day for three months. I faced the kind of disappointment one feels the day after Christmas, but this feeling extended for months. I didn’t know how to cope with the fact that this dream of mine had become a reality, and that that reality had now finished. I let my summer pass me by with eyes half-shut and an aimless heart. I didn’t have any other major life goals, and that hollowed me out. I was successful, but why wasn’t I happy?
Everyone likes to talk about the failures that lead to success, but they ignore the failures that follow success. The idea that success could be met with failure is often ignored in our society, especially our campus. This summer of depression taught me that success is not a place in which I can take up permanent residence. It is a temporary feeling, or as temporary as you let it be. That extreme low made me appreciate the feeling of the extreme high. I had to experience that failure to realize that there is more of that magic to come, if I’m willing to continue working for it.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.