I was in Ann Arbor recently, visiting my local team there.
Lately, I’ve gotten in the habit of getting up early and starting the day with a long walk. So, off I went with a coffee in hand and Tegan and Sara’s new album in my ears (very good, btw) to explore the vast campus of University of Michigan. Go Blue!
I was reminded how college is where many of us go to find ourselves. Far from our parents’ watchful eyes, we’re free to become whomever we want. For me, this took the form of experimentation and trying on various personas.
College was the first time I was presented with diversity and I was intrigued to know these different people. Coming from the lily-white suburb I was raised in, this was a fun experience.
I got to meet the Ethiopians. One from Addis Ababa, who was very worldly. And the other from the rural mountains, who was a refugee of political violence and had the scars to prove it. I met the Singaporean who loved alternative music as much as me. The Bahamians, whose love of life was just infectious. The Bermudians, who were similar but maybe more reserved.
I met the anarchist. The hippies. The Quebecois. The rural Nova Scotians. The Hongkongers. The mainland Chinese. The Indians. The Ontarians.
People wax nostalgic about college. And for good reason. It can be a very fun time indeed. But it can also be a confusing time. Free to experiment, and confronted with people who are very different from one’s self, who are we really?
We emerge from college with a clearer sense of self, which guides our early adult life. But I don’t think that’s the end of the story. At least it shouldn’t be.
To me, life is comprised of chapters. And with each chapter we have a chance to reexamine ourselves. Do we still believe what we did? Value what we did? If not, what does that mean to the life we will lead going forward?
Perhaps we should maintain the college mindset. We can be constantly exploring who we are and who we want to be. That feels like growth to me.