*This was first posted in my column at the Huffington Post.
It was three months ago when I first step foot on my college campus, but it seems as though so many things have happened already. The amount of things I’ve experienced in such a short period of time is unbelievable. The ability of college to expose you to a variety of fields that cover almost every part of every spectrum is unparalleled.
In these first three months alone, I’ve learned something new every single day. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with people from every continent, and interact with people, one year ago, I could’ve only dreamt of meeting. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet and learn from multi-talented students, serial entrepreneurs, best-selling authors, venture capitalists, non-profit leaders, award-winning journalists, renowned professors and unique individuals who inspire me to carve my own path.
At the same time, my definition of college has constantly changed every waking moment I’ve spent here in college. One day, I’m so set that college is supposed to prepare me for the workforce by teaching me practical skills. Then the next day, I read an article talking about college being the place where you should be taking advantage of the opportunity to learn things that genuinely interest you like philosophy, acting, art and other things that most people call “useless.” I then ask myself, “why can’t I just major in life?”
Fast forward a few hours later and I’m having 2 a.m. conversations with my hall mates about crazy ideas, prom stories and how we spent Halloween. A day after and you can find me spending the whole day in the library preparing for a midterm, and hear me mumble to myself, “how can I apply derivatives and integrals in my life?” Then the weekend comes and I’m running around New York randomly going up to people and asking them what their story is a la Humans of New York. Then I’m back on campus where I’ve gotten a chance to listen to some of the most brilliant minds.
Listening to serial entrepreneur and contrarian Peter Thiel talk about thinking bigger, being an optimist, and unlocking secrets has inspired me to be curious, to ask questions and to find answers to life’s toughest questions. Listening to women entrepreneur and best-selling author Jen Groover talk about perception and the power of our belief system made me pause for a moment and think about the things I believe in. Listening to social entrepreneur and life coach Marcos Salazar talk about creativity, meditation and saying “yes” to new things and new people made me realize the importance of exposing ourselves to different perspectives.
I have to admit that prior to starting my freshman year, I was scared. I was scared that I wouldn’t be good enough for college in the U.S. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in. But I’ve come to realize that I shouldn’t be scared that I won’t be smart enough or talented enough or accomplished enough to fit in because we never will be the smartest or the most talented because these are arbitrary terms. We all have different definitions of “smart” and “successful.” I’ve come to realize that there’s no point in comparing yourself with others because life isn’t about being better than the person beside you, it’s about being the best version of yourself.
All these events, talks, and experiences I’ve had in college have taught me that it’s okay to be different. It’s okay to try something new and to do the things we’ve always been afraid of doing. It’s okay to make mistakes and be confused about what you want to do in life. Even Peter Thiel never knew what he wanted to do with his life when he was in college; he even said that’s the reason why he went to law school.
All these people we look up to and hope to one day become all started out just like us, innocent kids. And as we grow older, we start stressing about our future, constantly wondering what our next step should be, constantly stressing upon what the next milestone should be, constantly comparing ourselves with others. Yet we have to realize that there’s no one right path in life. Like what one of my upperclassmen friends said, “There are a million paths to get from point A to point B, and every path is a whole different experience.”
We experience countless things everyday. We’re exposed to numerous opportunities. Yet it’s our decision what we make out of our days. It’s our decision whether or not we’ll take action and turn our dreams into reality. It’s up to us to find the silver lining in every moment we live in.
People always say that life is about experiencing new things, exploring new places, meeting new people, and constantly learning but we can’t forget about the importance of stepping back and taking time to pause for a moment, to see the bigger picture and how all these dots in our life intersect. Serial restaurateur and founder of Union Square Hospitality Group Danny Meyer said it best: “You want to collect as many dots as possible then connect them all.”
The mix of feelings, exchange of knowledge, late-night conversations, countless events, midterms, trips to other states have made my first three months of college such an exciting journey so far.
This is just the beginning, and I’m looking forward to seeing my college story unfold right before my eyes. One day, I’ll be able to look back at every tiny dot through my posts here at the Huffington Post, and see how they all connect. But for now, it’s time to collect more dots, and I challenge you to do the same.