Stressed. Alone. The feelings of overwhelming isolation could lead someone to success… or possibly failure. For most of my life, I believe that it led to the former. Recognizing that I wanted to join a stronger community of students and researchers in order to make an impact on this world, I worked relentlessly to leave home. But things changed significantly with college.
Harvard was a place where I felt comfortable growing up. I embraced the face that I was surrounded by people who were smarter than me. I have enjoyed it thoroughly. To some extent, then the idea “I’m leaving soon” loomed on the horizon, lulled me into a quiet desperation to stay. Why sever connections that supply me with the “life” that I had always dreamed of? The cliche joke of letting failure lead one to stay another year arrived as a false chariot of hope. For the most part, it found a place in my life: a fallacious sense that I was needed if the work didn’t get done… and this of course, failed.
I look at the community I have at Harvard and the many lessons I have learned through failing. I have passed every course, sometimes just barely… quite literally. Other times – many times – I have let people down. I have’t followed through on commitments. I could hardly gauge my own demand and have been overwhelmed by the opportunities presented in my life.
The best wisdom I have received involves committing to what I can handle, doing what I commit to well, and, above all, loving on the community surrounding those commitments. The first two bits I have received from conversations with people I respect immensely. The third, actually, is my own observation of the advisors of the first two bits. That third point could be artificially simulated but, really, when genuinely applied, makes the added difference, I have noticed, in the world around me. Whether it has been through personal or professional life, leaders who have chosen to these three principles have had no shortage of followers or respect offered to them.
I have experimented in social situations, both personal and professional, more than I would like to admit due to the hurt that I believe my curiosity has caused. One outcome however is a desire to seek reconciliation for past wrongs. These wrongs are the times when I have reached for more than I could handle. In reality, the idea of “shoot for the moon and, if you miss, you’ll at least land amongst the stars” when applied too individualistically has caused too much hurt.
Of course, no one ought to deny the value of these experiments. The fruits have been lasting friendships, leadership, growth, and love. Risks come with experiments. The lie about empirical science is that we remove ourselves from the equations. We are bound intrinsically to our work when we step out of the theoretical realm.
But, truly, we immerse ourselves in the product of our labor. And this is beautiful.
My hope is finish my time year recognizing it not as an end (or a cliche beginning), but a continuation of this shared narrative that we are all on. My hope is to be edifying to others, to make up for past wrongs, but strive for what’s better – in research, at home… in life.