Something(s) Good (The 3rd Thing I learned Sophomore Year)
Right now I’m sitting on the couch near the 12-foot Christmas tree in my living room. The lights are down, the tree is lit, and the fireplace is decked with stockings, ornaments, and snowflakes. It’s 2 AM and my favorite symphony, Sibelius Symphony No.2, is playing on the radio. This past two weeks of Winter Break have given me so much time to process. Most of this may seem like common sense, but I’ve discovered there’s definitely a difference between ‘knowing’ and ‘knowing.’
There were five main places in my life at Vanderbilt which taught me to find the good in things, the “something[s] good,” like Belle! I’m definitely a pretty optimistic person anyway, but things not going my way often turned out to be such a blessing. Here are all the blessings!!!
1. Research: When doing MatLab-based research, it is very easy to mess up. The general rule of thumb is that for the first year as a undergraduate research assistant, you’ll inevitably be figuring this whole thing out and messing literally everything up. Six months in, you’ll only be half done figuring things out. You’ll still be making mistakes. And frankly, even as you continue in research, you’ll still make mistakes. (Those, however, will be much more well-informed mistakes than the ones you make in the first year). Anyway, constantly making mistakes in MatLab throughout a full year of research taught me that persevering is the most important part of research. Every PhD has experienced countless mistakes, and it was only their perseverance at doing something that they fundamentally loved that ultimately got them through it. Starting research as a freshman, getting that full 12 months of experience in MatLab, taught me to persevere and that everyone makes mistakes in research, all the time. Also, not doing research I loved taught me that when you love something, you will be more motivated to do something
2. Academics: I’ve written a fair amount about this, but not getting the best grades taught me (a) to trust God that everything will ultimately be okay (b) that I’m not defined by my grades or scores (huge paradigm shift after being National Merit in Texas & valedictorian and whatever) (c) to not get too involved first semester and (d) very importantly, how to study effectively and *cue cymbals* the “power of deep work”
3. Extracurriculars/Leadership: Being in leadership taught me much about working with people and different personalities. Not being in leadership but still ‘leading’ taught me that leading is more than leadership. If I had received positions in Vanderbilt that I didn’t, I don’t think I would have learned nearly as much about informal leadership. Just applying for things and knocking on doors because I had some idea that I wanted to make happen in an extracurricular also taught me a lot about reaching out – just go for it!
4. Friends: When I had to step back from a friendship, that whole experience taught me that what some may see as “failing” at a relationship is okay. Friends at Vanderbilt how to grow in generosity and how to sacrifice more, even when it’s hard. They also taught me that even when I feel totally inadequate in how to help someone, just trying to show them I care is sometimes just what they need, as my bible study girls have taught me over and over. Even though I don’t always know how to help them or how to relate to them, they know that I care.
5. Family: No mistake here – I was definitely one of those kids who challenged my parents a lot in nearly every subject. But something that my mother and I shared when I entered college from a high school experience of stacking AP classes, strategizing about service and leadership, and working on the violin as an ‘arts supplement,’ was this belief that academics were literally everything that mattered. It wasn’t exactly her fault or anything, it’s something that my grandfather had passed down to her as an Indian immigrant who saw academics as the way up. People at Vanderbilt taught me more than that – while academics are very important and do help determine your future, they are not everything. Making an impact as a good friend, a good person, and for me, getting to know God better, are all more important and higher priorities than grades.
I didn’t know how much Vanderbilt would change me and how much I would grow here. Finding the good in my experiences has definitely helped me hold on to life lessons as I continue to learn. If you’d like to email me about anything, my email is email@example.com!