On growth

Final thoughts about my U.Va. experience

I feel compelled to spill out everything I’ve ever wanted to say in this column, seeing as it’s my very last one. For all I know, this might be the last time anyone ever reads my writing without my having to beg them. But at the same time, I know I can’t just turn my brain upside down and empty out all of its contents — in part because of word constraints, and in part because the fullest depths of my thoughts are still abysmally unexplored.

I’ve thought about my final column pretty much ever since I first became a columnist. I don’t remember exactly what I’d planned on saying in it back when I was a second-year, but it was probably something along the lines of how writing a column has given me a voice. Nowadays, having a voice doesn’t matter to me as much. Voices oftentimes change and contradict themselves. Voices evolve so quickly I don’t believe they actually exist.

Just like my voice, all parts of me manifest themselves on a continuum. Though I am a few weeks short of having a college degree, I am still learning. I am still growing. I have not yet reached my utmost potential, and I am perfectly content with that. If there’s anything I’ve learned over these past four years, it’s that I am so much better off when I can admit to my own shortcomings.

It’s liberating acknowledging that I do not have to be defined by the skills or accomplishments I may or may not have achieved up until this point. The beauty of a liberal arts education is that you come to understand there are no limits to the extent of your knowledge. As a scholar, you never stop reading, no matter how much you may appear to already know. Similarly, I’ve learned that to be truly human, you must never stop allowing yourself room to expand.

My University education still doesn’t feel like it’s complete. I find myself wishing the undergraduate curriculum was eight years long: four to discover what you’re interested in and four more to pursue your actual degree credits. I still don’t feel sure enough of myself to go out into the real world and apply my new sense of personhood to foreign contexts. I’m terrified that I’ll regress to the former version of myself, the one who chased after superficial dreams and never questioned the ways of the world.

I used to think all there is to life is jumping through hoops until you reach your final destination of blissful success. I thought, one day, when I’m rich and settled, all of this suffering will have been worth it. I repeated this to myself so often that I neglected to stop and think for a second about what it was that I truly wanted out of my life.

After taking the risk of coming to U.Va., I got to experience the true nature of what it means to be happy. I got to feel the unadulterated joy of learning and living not for the sake of populating my resume, but for the sake of adding richness to the newly uncovered layers of my inner life. Only when I stopped worrying about how I looked on paper did I discover how to live with pleasure and with purpose. By becoming aware of my personal needs, I grew more aware of everything I’m capable of. But can this awareness still pervade even after I move out of Charlottesville?

Perhaps it doesn’t have to fade away if I don’t let it. My younger brother recently committed to U.Va. In many ways, this has lessened the burden I feel of having to leave this place. We’re completely different people, yet I’ve convinced myself that his coming here means my journey isn’t over yet — that I can live vicariously through him, and he can serve as a continual reminder of everything this University has instilled in me.

In the years ahead, I hope I will still resist the urge to be complacent. I hope I can retain the strength to be kind, no matter how much my patience may be tested. And I hope, with all my heart, that my passion will continue to drive me into making contributions to the world that my University would be proud of.

I’d be lying if I said the thought of writing this concluding paragraph hasn’t been turning me into a complete emotional wreck for the past several weeks. I’m not sure where I want it to end. But maybe this doesn’t have to be the end. With that, I bid you farewell, and wish you the potential for infinite seas of growth.

related stories