A work in progress

I’ve almost gotten used to all the construction happening throughout campus. But as I bike past several makeshift walls and orange signs, I can’t help but feel a familiar sense of mild frustration as I’m forced to make a detour. I approach the narrow passageway behind the Stanford Bookstore and dodge several oncoming bikes that zoom by, barely avoiding a crash. Everything feels so chaotic, temporary, and messy — like a work in progress. 

Even though I’m disappointed that I can’t take my old route from Meyer Green into the Circle of Death, I can’t stay upset for long. My mood shifts when I pass by the liveliness of White Plaza. It’s a cheerful spring day. I cherish this moment. I’m about to graduate, and this may be one of my last bike rides through campus. 

As I pedal forward, I look back on my time in college — it’s certainly not what I imagined it to be. I remember when I first stepped foot on campus as a nervous frosh. My mind was overflowing with uncertainty. What would my life in college be like? Who would I become? What would I end up doing with my life? The path to adjusting to my new life in college felt very bumpy. But as time passed, I settled into a routine with my classes and activities. Campus life slowly but surely started to feel more comfortable. 

But sometimes, life throws you surprises, and you’ve got to take the detour. I, for one, would have never predicted that a global pandemic would be a defining influence on my time in college. After returning home from my first winter quarter that was abruptly cut short, I learned that this new situation I found myself in because of the pandemic wasn’t going to be a short-term thing. A sense of uncertainty returned as I adjusted to a new life of taking virtual classes from my childhood bedroom. My time away from campus was markedly different from the busy newness of campus life. Time flew by as days blended into each other. Before I knew it, I had spent a year and a half of college away from campus. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I missed out on a big part of the picture-perfect ideal that I had imagined “the college experience” to be. 

After having taken a very long detour, I eventually returned to campus. So much had changed, and once again, I felt uncertain. Campus life was quite different from what it was before. On top of adjusting to new norms and restrictions, I was also adjusting to changes in other areas of my life. I noticed changes in my interests, priorities and outlook. I noticed changes in the people I interacted with, and in the ways I spent my time. In my final two years on campus, it seemed that at times, change was the only constant. I have experienced so much change during college, and I will continue to experience even more change after I’m done with college. 

I thought that I would be able to figure it all out by the time I graduate. I would finally find my identity, and everything would make sense. But instead, I’m left with this feeling of continued uncertainty. A lot of my experience in college was marked by transience. Everything felt so unofficial and so fleeting, and I couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. 

As I continue my bike ride, I wonder where I would be now if the main path weren’t closed. What scenery would I have seen instead? Would I have bumped into different people? Would I have saved more time and energy if I didn’t need to take this long uphill route? Would my final destination be different? 

There are different ways to react when the main path is closed. We can mourn the possibilities of what could have been and wallow in regret over what was lost. But, alternatively, we can choose to be thankful. Even when traveling on an imperfect path, there is still so much to admire. I am so appreciative of the many great (and not so great) memories that I have from my time in college. I will be moving forward full of gratitude for what did end up happening. 

My time in college was not what I had originally imagined, but it was a fulfilling experience, nonetheless. Though inconvenient, the construction on campus introduced me to new paths and has taken me to places on campus that I would have never bothered to visit otherwise. The construction, though chaotic, was also a promise of hope, possibility, and growth. Without the construction, I would have never realized the surprising number of routes that lead to Main Quad. I may not have emerged from college with everything figured out, but that’s completely fine. I still don’t have all the answers to who I will become and what I’ll end up doing with my life, but I do know that I have come a long way since I first stepped foot on campus as a nervous frosh. My college years were messy and imperfect, but still oh so beautiful. 

I look back. I look ahead. My life is a construction zone. It’s a work in progress.  

Originally posted 2023-06-13 20:15:03.