Dear freshman self, let yourself take a risk once in a while

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I really had no idea what I was doing freshman year when I walked into the Northfield campus. Like that circus clown who your parents invited to your birthday party but repulsed all the little kids with his bad jokes and puns, I felt like I didn’t belong there.

In response to this insecurity, I had a fixed, rigid mindset about what what I’d do during my time in high school. I thought I knew what classes I’d take senior year – Political Science and Economics. I planned out in my head what I’d pursue in college – probably some Science path, I thought. In short, I micro-managed everything down to the minute details, hoping to set myself up to never be vulnerable in a new, uncomfortable situation.

Now, as I plan to head out of the Winnetka campus, I recognize that the parts of high school I most appreciated weren’t the ones I planned out, but the ones I sort of just fell into without much prior thoughts. They’re “happy accidents,” as Bob Ross calls them.

That’s the main thing I wish I could go back and tell my freshman self – to stop planning, to stop worrying, and to just appreciate the spontaneity of any given moment, the hidden gifts thrown your way without you knowing.

I didn’t end up taking Poli Sci or Econ, and I certainly don’t see myself majoring in Science of any sort anymore.

Despite wanting to do clubs and follow in my older brother’s footsteps, I somehow committed myself to running year-round in cross country and track, where I met some of my closest friends and had some of the most rewarding discussions on runs.

Even though I had participated in band since fifth grade and wanted to continue with it, I took a chance and dropped it to take Advanced Journalism without really knowing what it was. If I hadn’t done so, I never would’ve discovered my passion for writing, nor would I have realized that writing could serve some higher purpose beyond just pleasing your English teacher.

It’s easy enough to just go through the motions and keep scurrying on towards your destination – and many of us definitely have Destinations in mind.

As you’re pedaling along in life, regardless of if you’re a senior who’s already checked out or a sophomore stressing about next year, take a risk. Try out that class you’re curious about. Ask those friends to hang out. You won’t get another chance.

If one risk doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean all the ones you take will end the same way. 

I’m not saying don’t think – just don’t let your thoughts get in the way of you appreciating and taking advantage of the opportunities available to you.

You know what? I’m glad I didn’t accomplish what I thought I would. I’m glad to have failed, for that is how I succeeded. I’m glad I don’t know what will happen next, so I don’t have to worry about it.

There’s a beauty in walking forward, eyes blind to what’s ahead of you, and just floating to an unknown destination, doing what comes to mind.

My only question now is this: what Arjun going to do?

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