Life forms a surface that acts as if it could not be otherwise, but under its skin things are pounding and pulsing.
-Musil, The Man Without Qualities
The past few years have brought only a handful of days when on that day a year before I could have imagined where I’d be a year later. That’s a good feeling, mostly, but was the result of a lot of curveballs and disappointment and attempts to convince myself I was where I was supposed to be. I’ve written and thought a lot before about the way we like to rationalize decisions that are made for us (and therefore not decisions at all) that lead us to places we once didn’t want to be, but to places in which we find a lot of good. I’ve come to find this rationalization a little shaky; I don’t think it’s smart to see the world and the places you go and the decisions you make (or that are made for you) as having any sort of correctness. Such attitudes make it hard when what you once thought was correct by the hand of something greater comes crashing down as dreams and plans are wont to do. Instead, I’ve deemed it healthier to accept what is and to find good where I can in that, but to avoid the belief in small destinies that has the potential to remove faith in one’s own volition. To say that things happen for a reason is blatantly obvious, but I can’t make logical jumps to say that reason is to redirect my course.
We are the amalgamation of every person we’ve ever interacted with and every experience we’ve ever lived (mostly, right?), but those experiences and people aren’t necessarily there for some grand end result. They may, however, make up some larger piece of us that draws us in a direction we hadn’t thought we’d go. And that shit is the kind of magic that makes rationalization and causation so tempting. I say this now because even with the crazy and exciting and wonderful twists and turns things have taken I have never before wanted so badly to say that I am where I’m meant to be.
That where is literally Mountain View, CA, but more broadly a Computer Engineering student at UW (a recent and very exciting development) and an intern at Google. I’m ecstatic for what the future holds and can feel the world at my fingertips; hopefully I’ll be able to use my computer science skills to do good things in areas I care about like education. I’m grateful for the college I couldn’t afford, the gap year I had to take, the catering job that introduced me to MS Excel, the Hill internship that helped me realize I wanted to learn how to use computers to make my world more efficient, and the girls I coached who taught me exactly who and what I was passionate about. All of those things (except the last) came with some tough spots and were brought on by some very difficult moments. I used to feel with all of my being that I was ‘meant’ to be a journalist, and then a politician, and then an economist, and in a few spots a traveling peanut butter maker. Instead of trusting in the process I sought comfort in belonging and to feel the sort of fire I’ve seen in so many I look up to. I wanted to find a sign that I was finished searching for enough, but I feel happier than ever before with where I am now and still hope I’ll never find it.
I may want to say I’m where I’m meant to be, but I just can’t bear to validate that premise. Instead, I’ll say that I feel that I’ve found a field with which my brain very nicely aligns and that I can’t imagine myself being happy doing anything else. I remember being in math classes and seeing kids who understood everything just by skimming the textbook or after a single lecture and I always wanted to be one of them. I can say for sure I know how they felt (good!) based on my time thus far learning computer science.I’ll also say that the passions I’ve had before aren’t gone, I hope very much to carry them with me wherever I go. Stories matter, and I want to bring as many as I can along with me and to someday be an influential part of many more.
To say that we are meant to be anywhere would mean that had something been even the slightest bit different (like if I’d not been accepted to UW’s CSE program), I would have been in a place in which I wasn’t meant to be. I think this removes the type of hope and resilience and trust in oneself and the multitude of paths one can take that come with rejection. Rejection sucks; I know this and feel crushingly inadequate on a regular basis because of it (& even when I don’t face it), but you have to trust in the knowledge that there is nowhere to go but onward. I remember times I could not have felt worse when the only thing I had to hold onto was hope for the future (there was just a Glass Castle preview on the TV that’s humming in the background talking about the importance of this very thing). It’s been excitement for my future that’s brought me a good bit of disappointment from daydreams and grand plans that turned south, but I think it’s okay to embrace these feelings. I’ll never stop craving structure and the ability to see into the future; I have to be working towards something after all, but to assume I have the privilege to arrive at the places I see myself in is to ignore the importance of effort and trial and failure and all the work that goes into getting there. It’s also to ignore the power of the random universe and of the people and experiences I’ll have along the way.