“We can’t make anything grow, but we can foster environments where growth is a byproduct of living.”
Believe it or not, this incredibly inspirational quote was sent to me by a friend via TikTok. The video features Marcus Bridgewater, also known as Garden Marcus, who shares life advice from his garden. Given that the first week of my final year at Hopkins has just come to a close, I can’t help but reflect on my past three years at Hopkins and how much I’ve grown from the little freshman who didn’t know where the Fresh Food Café was… even though she lived right above it.
If you know me personally, you know that I spend a lot of my time either with my friends or talking about them. I can’t help it; I really attribute a lot of my personal growth and who I am today to them. Without them, I’m not very sure where I’d be or even who I’d be.
I was lucky enough to meet most of my closest friends in college during my freshman year. I remember being completely nervous at the start of orientation, not knowing a single person on campus. With my First-Year Mentor group, I sat in a circle on the football field and played the name game. My awful memory betrayed me yet again and left me remembering only the first three people in the circle. Luckily enough, they were the three nicest people I could’ve asked for freshman year. We talked about our different hometowns, our families and our aspirations for the future. They gave me the confidence I needed to push forward at Hopkins.
They even pushed me to go to the first club meeting for the Neuroscience Honor Society on campus. I remember arriving and wanting to leave immediately. I sat in the corner of the room, shrinking into my seat while the e-board introduced the community service activity we were going to do. I was about to sit down closer to the group, ready to start the activity, when I saw two really nice girls on the other side of the circle. To this day, I really couldn’t tell you what pushed me to talk to them, but I did. It was this gut feeling I had — something telling me, “You’re going to want these people in your life.”
Today, three years later, I can confirm that all of those people really did create an impact on my life. Through them, I met other people and, before I knew it, I had a whole community who cared about me. From that initial gut feeling stemmed memories of birthday celebrations, intense study sessions (where we never actually studied) and deep late-night talks.
Through these people, I grew the confidence to be more myself. I ran for president of the Latinx student group and got the position — twice. I added a second major to my curriculum even though I was constantly on the fence about it. I have started cooking more, which was one of my early childhood passions. I’ve been listening to and playing even more music than ever before (something that I’ll admit I’m still terrified of doing in public sometimes). I faced and am still facing internalized insecurities that I have ignored most of my life.
It was through my friends that I could do all of this and more. They’re always there for me when I need them. They were there to push me to study, to think more positively of myself when I was down and to seek therapy when I hit my lowest low last year. They were there to push my limits of what I believe I can do. Just like Garden Marcus said, I was lucky enough to have friends that constantly fostered a positive growing environment for me.
Even though I can acknowledge that this semester is completely different than any other before, that doesn’t discard the idea that we can create, to the best of our abilities, an environment where positive growth is a primary byproduct. I encourage anyone who’s at home right now, especially the freshmen who have yet to step foot on campus, to really prioritize cultivating this environment for growth around them, wherever that may be.
Think about what you need right now ,and be real with yourself. Listen to your body and your internal conversation. And if you ever get that gut feeling that pushes you to talk to someone in one of your Zoom classes, do it. You have no idea where that can take you.