It’s a New Year: resolutions, reflections & appreciation
I used to never make New Year’s Resolutions because the idea always seemed a little silly to me. Instead, I have always concluded a year by pulling up the letter I wrote to myself the year prior, reading it, reflecting over the words and pictures I have collected from the past year, then typing a new letter to myself for the new year. Goals are stated, but I never quite desired committing to a resolution that I had to keep tally of. Heading into 2021, maybe it was the newfound resoluteness or the many weeks spent alone at home with just books and rented movies that I decided to commit to a different sort of resolution.
Online, I found a link to “365 Days of Writing Prompts” posted by WordPress.com from several years ago. To be honest, I don’t often write in my free time, but as I was writing my 2020 reflection for the year, I must’ve felt a compelling drive to collect more of my thoughts throughout the weeks and months, instead of summing up my life on the singular night of December 31. Thus far, I have held true to this one resolution I have made for myself: to respond to a prompt every day. It excites me to think that at the end of 2021, I will have basically a novel’s length document of random musings for 365 days that I can look back on. I don’t spend long on them, maximum ten minutes. Some of the prompts are more fun like “Vanilla, chocolate, or something else entirely?” Other prompts, I have to sit with for a little longer before I respond.
The prompt for January 21 was this: When you were 16, what did you think your life would look like? Does it look like that? Is that a good thing?
Admittedly, 16 is only three years ago for me, so it’s not like I’m that much older or wiser. But 16 is when I was beginning to look into colleges to start applying for, trying to decide what major I should apply as, feeling the pressures of standardized test scores, and agreeing with my classmates that junior year of high school is a thoroughly unenjoyable time. At 16, I had no idea I would be attending Vanderbilt University now. Responding to this prompt filled me with the sort of gratitude for the path of your life that you can only appreciate years later.
Recently, I came across this idea of a “thick community” from a book I am reading called The Second Mountain by David Brooks: “A thick institution seeks to change the person’s whole identity. It engages the whole person: head, hands, heart, and soul” (294). Frankly, I don’t think I can fathom quite yet the everlasting impact my time here as a student will have on me until I am years into the future. But it’s the way in which I speak of returning to campus with such excitement while I’m at home, the way I admire the professors who are already shifting the way I view the world or planting seeds inside of me to shape my ideologies, or the way my thirst for knowledge is fulfilled by the brilliant chatter from the student body that I recognize the boundless impact the culture of this institution is already having on me.
Yes, coursework is demanding. Yes, students do care about their successes and their GPAs and their job prospects. Yes, it can feel individualistic and specialized sometimes. But the thread of community, search for higher meaning, and a love for humanity prevails on this campus.
So to my 16-year-old self, did I think I would be at Vanderbilt? No. But am I so glad I am? Yes. And to my December 31, 2021 self getting ready to write a new reflection, I hope you stuck with your resolution for this year. And to you, prospective student or other, where do you see yourself in just a few months time, or few years, from now?