By Jeong Shin
Starting fresh can be a beautiful thing. At least for a little while, past mistakes, awkward moments and tense relationships can be ignored. I don’t have to live in the fear that my past may be brought up to stain my present. I’m given a blank slate.
Starting fresh, however, can also be incredibly scary. Because I’m given a blank slate, I tend to do everything in my power to avoid making my same past mistakes, tiptoeing around new experiences instead of diving right in. I divert my attention away from the here and the now, instead planting my feet in the realm of my past.
But the truth is, we are given very few blank slates in our lives. I’m a firm believer that if you don’t take advantage of those blank slates, the potential to transform and develop into an individual you could’ve never imagined before becomes limited.
For the class of 2023 — myself included — Stanford is your blank slate. You have the power to explore your interests, your likes, your dislikes, your curiosities, your identity. You can dabble in hiphop, creative writing, basketball, medicine, service projects. You can do things that your “old self” might have never tried because of whatever pressure restricted you. And that’s an amazing thing.
In general, I feel as though you don’t owe anyone anything. But for me, it was sometimes hard to practice that mentality because I felt that I owed it to the people around me to stay molded as the person that they expected me to be.
If I could tell my past self one thing, it would be to never take crap from anyone. And if there’s one thing that you should take away from this article, it’s also to never take crap from anyone. No one has the power to define who you are or who you will become. Only you do.
As you navigate the blank slate that is Stanford — the blank slate that is your sophomore, junior, senior year — surround yourself with people who are accepting of any changes you make in your life that you think will make you happy. You aren’t obligated to be friends with certain people. Before Stanford, you may have been friends with certain people because it was expected of you to stay in the same friend group from grade seven to grade twelve. But here, these next four (or five, or six, or seven, or ten) years are your years. You have the blank slate to make your time at Stanford whatever you want it to be.
So, pick up your blank canvas and a paintbrush, and let the colors flow into your life. Do whatever the heck you want (but be safe <3) and don’t let anyone tell you that what you’re doing “isn’t you.” You have the liberty to explore, explore, explore. Embrace that.
Contact Jeong Shin at jyshin ‘at’ stanford.edu.