It’s almost spring in Baltimore, and the sun has started to ward away the chill winds. Now, I can sit in Keyser Quad and read my favorite books on the weekends.
Currently, I am reading a series of books by Mindy Kaling. The last one I read is Why Not Me, in which Kaling tells us about finding contentment in her adult life, seeking new people and new friendships in lonely places and most of all, attempting to be the first person in history to stay true to herself without any behavior changes.
While reading this book, I realized that I am not the only adult who feels so many conflicting emotions at once, as if one moment I’m on top of the world and the next I feel like life is so unfair. It’s almost too much to handle.
For me, being young is like being a walking paradox. I want to do everything and nothing at the same time. I want to be somewhere, but I also don’t want to miss out on another thing going on simultaneously. I want to be there for everyone, but I also want to be there for myself. I want to be both the doer and the watcher, and I am never in a position to choose.
But eventually, I have to choose, and what I choose affects my life in many ways. It’s like I always need to prioritize something over the other, whether it’s academics versus social life or hiking versus staying in a room by myself. With time I recognize which parts of my life affect me the most, and I try to keep my life balanced, but it wears me down. On the worst days giving your best still isn’t enough and this fact eats you up, but you have to live with it.
Being young means feeling both everything and nothing at the same time. Some days, you feel content and happy believing that this is the most exciting phase of your life, but on other days you find yourself wanting to grow older so you don't have to go to school every day, finish so many assignments and worry about your grades. Your best and worst comes simultaneously.
Every year I’ve lived until now, the achievements I’ve made, the strengths I’ve gained, the regrets I have for the things I’ve missed, the trips to other cities with my friends and boyfriend, the family visits — all of it overwhelms me because my heart doesn’t have the space to house everything. But I have to try anyway.
Being young is both overwhelming and underwhelming, and you can’t do anything other than be okay with it. Growing older comes with so many moments of learning.
I have come to understand that although you don’t become cooler with age, you do care progressively less about being cool, which is the only way to actually be cool.
I have met so many people in my life, and all they ever wanted was to be different, in a cool way — myself included. They wanted to be unlike anyone else. They wanted to know things others didn’t know. They feared being ordinary.
And one day, I understood. The problem with being different is that you end up spending all your life trying to find someone who gets you. Who would understand you? Who would be able to complete the rest of your sentence because they know exactly how you feel?
Being different comes with its own disadvantages. You keep waiting for someone who gets you, only to realize that there is nobody else like you. Being different comes with loneliness, and not everyone has the strength to make it through, all alone.
I understand from experience. I had a dream, a proper life schedule set up right in front of my study desk etched on sticky notes studded with pins. 16, high school. 21, undergrad. 23, self-independence but life inevitably decides to be ‘life.’ I am just one lucky person whose life plans are working out like those sticky notes on my wall, but it wasn’t smooth sailing. Sometimes, I also feel proud of that fact.
Close your eyes, take a quick breath and think about the things you’ve achieved, the adversities you’ve gone through, the broken friendships, the stupid haircuts and all of the family trauma you’ve survived.
You are a survivor. You know there’s more to life than satisfying your own desires to be unique.
So even after all this, if you say that you want to be something by the age of 23, just stop. While you’re busy trying to be someone, you could be busy just being yourself, and that is more important than anything else. If you are ordinary, celebrate it. It’s the most worthy achievement you’ll ever feel.
Sudha Yadav is a graduate student from North India in the Department of Chemistry. Her column, “Crystal From the Valleys,“ talks about the roller coaster ride of grad life, seeing beauty in chemistry and getting inspiration from nature.