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If you blink, you’ll miss it. Just like that, four years are coming to a close. Four magical, frustrating, incomparable years full of love, learning and growth. There are so many things I want to say and so many people I want to thank — I could fill volumes with words, but for now, during my last week, I’ll keep it concise and reflect on some things I wish I had known during my first. So, to freshman year San, this is for you:
My mother has always been my icon. She’s a strong, career-driven woman; I grew up watching her get dressed at 7 a.m. every morning and have been an audience member at countless panels where people attentively listened to advice I cribbed about receiving on a daily basis. There is no question that my feminist ideologies largely stem from living with a powerhouse, but many equally important teachings have come from my father.
Let’s talk about priorities today. This topic came to mind because, unfortunately, I was plagued by a particularly terrible case of food poisoning yesterday. Not to be too graphic, but I spent half the day on the floor of my bathroom, unable to keep even water down. Pale, dehydrated and flustered, I hobbled across campus to take a PCR test to rule out the possibility of COVID-19. By the end of the day, I could barely stomach half a banana and a whole piece of toast.
I guess I’m officially an adult. As a huge Taylor Swift fan, I’ve waited for the year I turn 22 since the year I turned 15, but I didn’t think, “happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time,” would resonate as much as it currently does. Up until this moment, I’ve always known where I have to be and what I have to be doing; the next step was always right there. Now, I am responsible for no one but myself, and technically speaking, I can do whatever I want.
Only five weeks ago, I was at a birthday dinner, sitting opposite a gentleman who was berating me endlessly about how useless coding and data science are. “In 10 years, we won’t even need humans because there won’t be computers. The computers will just run themselves,” he proclaimed. If anyone can make any sense of that sentence, do let me know. I’ll buy you a cookie.
I haven’t been alone on a Valentine’s Day in six years. From traditional dinners to dorm rooms creatively turned into makeshift restaurants, I’ve always had the most wonderful experiences being in relationships on this day. But this year is going to be a little different, and I’m really excited about that.
When I say I miss being able to travel, I don’t mean exploring new cultures or backpacking through cities. I mean I miss knowing that if my family needed me or I needed them, either of us would hop on a plane, no questions asked, and be there in a heartbeat. It’s no easy feat going to and from home these days. Each journey is almost 30 hours of paranoia, requiring constant sanitizing, continuous mask-wearing and cutting off and throwing away protective clothing at every destination. And then, of course, there is the collective month and a half of hard quarantine I will have completed in the 12 months alone.
This has been a strange and unprecedented time. The year 2020, for the most part, has been hell on wheels. That said, the personal growth I have achieved in this one year is comparable to that of the last six years combined.
On Tuesday I deleted all of my social media. There were many factors behind this sudden decision, but the overarching one was that I felt like I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t always: I had to pretend to be okay.
What makes you feel at home? I’ve been asking myself this question a lot. I’ve never felt as homesick as I do now, and I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly changed to make me feel this way. After weeks of uneasy mornings and motivation gone out the window, I’ve finally settled on an answer: people who make me feel safe. I don’t mean physically safe; I mean safe in the I-can-let-my-guard-down sense of the word.
The past few weeks have been challenging, to say the least. The difficulties presented by the already fluid schedule of college life have only been exacerbated by the fact that I never technically have to leave my bedroom if I don’t want to. This flexibility makes it easier to procrastinate, shortens my attention span and all but kills my motivation. To add to it, the lack of human contact, or repeated contact with just a few humans, has made this somewhat dull routine even more mundane.
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a well-known cliché. Though Nietzsche was a little more eloquent in coining the phrase, this is the version that’s ingrained in our minds, thanks to Etsy’s wide array of T-shirts and pillowcases sporting it and Kelly Clarkson’s 2011 hit song. So it’s no secret in 2020 that failure is an opportunity to learn as opposed to something necessarily negative. But I’ll be the first to admit that when I’m down, I don’t want to hear that.
There’s no denying that this has been an incredibly strange summer. For me it began with frantic plane rides, a hotel quarantine and a country-wide lockdown. Everything I thought I valued and considered important was put into question. As the world battles the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this summer has turned into an extended period of self-reflection. I understand how incredibly privileged I am to have typed that last sentence. Essential workers and healthcare workers are working tirelessly day in and day out to keep us safe and minimize the damage of this horrible virus. Yet I have the ability to wear a mask and spend time with my family and close friends.
Our semesters were cut short almost five weeks ago. Since we received that first email announcing that classes wouldn’t resume until April 12, I had been struggling with the decision to go home to Singapore. The uncertainty surrounding when the University would reopen and the perils of airports and airplanes at a time like this were some of the reasons that this decision was extremely difficult.
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve felt everything from ecstatic to guilty to so upset that I found myself sobbing uncontrollably on the floor.
For the longest time, my relationship with food has been something that I’ve wanted to write about. I’ve wanted to bring it up in conversation, but I have never known how.
This is the weirdest possible time to be in a relationship. We’re adults, but not really. Still kids, but not really. Totally independent, but not really. Mature, but not really.
Sometimes it’s as simple as wishing that a pair of shoes that are currently sitting in my closet in Singapore were with me in Baltimore, and sometimes it’s wishing my mom could drive to me in three hours when I’m having a crappy mental day instead of having to travel upwards of 20 hours in cars, planes and trains to get to me.
So it’s been a stressful week (as every other week at Hopkins tends to be) and all you want to do is curl up on your couch with warm cider and watch a movie.
Let’s begin with some context: When I was 13 years old, all I wanted to be in life was a corporate lawyer. No, seriously — beyond just watching Suits, I read LSAT prep books and even joined Model United Nations (because there was no mock trial) to get some experience formulating arguments and public speaking. Then I turned 15 and was introduced to astrophysics; I’d always loved physics, but I really didn’t want to spend my life looking at hypothetical frictionless ramps, and at that point I didn’t even really think there was more to it.