On unexpected paths and broken boxes
When I look back on my elementary school years, I can easily characterize myself as a quitter.
I quit softball, clarinet, ballet, guitar, ice-skating, soccer—you get the point. What ties all these seemingly disparate activities together is that I lacked a natural aptitude for them, and I didn’t want to be the worst one on the field or in the band or on the ice.
Instead, I stuck to the activities at which I succeeded: theater, writing, art. And by the time I reached sophomore year of high school, I’d narrowed myself down even more, to just writing.
For the last three years at Washington University, I’ve pushed myself into the same corner I’d been in all through high school. While I initially wanted to join other activities besides the student newspaper, I fell back into the comfort of Student Life (I’d participated in the pre- orientation program) after a few rejections.
I’ve really enjoyed Student Life—I’ve made some wonderful friends through my time on staff and grown as a writer in the process—but I can’t help but wonder what life would’ve been like if I’d carved out a less definable terrain here at Wash. U. Could I have mastered
some new skill? Could I have made friends with interests completely different from my own? Could I have solved the seemingly unanswerable question of what I want to do for the rest of my life?
“What-ifs” are tricky—after all, we can never really know what might have been. But what I do know is this: Some of my proudest achievements are products of my riskiest decisions. And some of my biggest regrets are about the times I played it safe.
So, here’s my challenge to you all: Think of something you’ve always wanted to do, but have always been too scared to try, whether that’s a sport or an instrument or an academic club.
And then just go for it.
You know what they say: It’s better to have tried and failed than to never have tried at all.
For the past few years, I’ve often wondered why people put me in a box. Why would someone assume I’d want to go into journalism for a career, when I’d actively done journalism (and talked about it incessantly) for as long as they’d known me? Why wasn’t I given room to grow?
Well, guess what—I’m the one who shoved myself into a box. But it’s not too late for me to crawl out of it and try something new.
And it’s not too late for you to explore an unexpected path, either.