I entered college with a clear strategy. I would run track and cross country while balancing a rigorous biomedical engineering and premedical courseload. I would make time to develop a robust network of friends, maybe learn some new languages and explore the city of Boston. Somehow four years later, after stopping athletics for dance, quitting engineering for science, and having doubts if medical school was the right path, I was wondering what any of my previous planning had accomplished.
When I started my freshman year in college, I fell back into my routine. I ran in the morning, studied during the day, and squeezed in another run before some more reading. It all felt the same, but it didn't bring out the same enthusiasm that it did in high school. Something was missing.
I hadn't started running because I had a calling for it. I chose it out of a number of available options to occupy my time. Suddenly, on this campus, my options had increased a hundredfold, and I was still doing the same activities I had always done. I went to the freshman activities fair determined to find a new outlet. In the back of my mind, I thought about what intrigued me. Well...I had developed an interest in dance the summer prior - mostly out of the fear of looking ridiculous at my prom if I just stood still while the music played. But I had never taken a formal class. Was it too late to start? The moment a turned the corner and saw a campus dance group blasting music, jumping around and laughing without a care in the world, I knew I was going to sign up. It's never too late to have that kind of fun.
It was one of the moments that showed me I didn't know who I was before I started exploring what was out there. My experiences became a mirror to my real self. Here was something I had never done for the first 18 years of my life that now consumed every hour outside of my studies. Where had this been? And how was I -- an introvert -- suddenly performing in front of hundreds of people, talking for hours with my new dance family, and eagerly awaiting the next party.
It took me a while to realize plans unfounded by experience are useless. There are way too many unknowns to feel confident about where the hell I was going. Up until that point, I was living as if I already knew the road ahead though I had never walked it. At 18 years old, I had never experienced life on my terms so why was I convinced I knew what was best. So when I traveled over a thousand miles from my hometown, I had the chance to actual explore who I was outside of the context of other people's expectations. There wasn't anyone on campus who knew who I had been or held any expectations on who I would be. And that was the best environment for me to begin and figure myself out.