Oh, the places I’ll go?

As a second-semester junior, I am expected to have the next part of my life charted out. Some of my peers have the rest of their lives planned: where they want to go to graduate school, and to study what, and in which area they envision themselves settling down.

I can’t say the same. Up until three months ago, I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to medical school. I have no immediate plans to take the MCAT, still have two remaining pre-med classes to take, and have no dream medical school.

I knew I wanted to take a gap year after graduating, but I didn’t know to do what or to go where.

Trying to map my future feels like trying to complete a 9×9 Sudoku puzzle with only 3 clues. The possibilities are endless, and anything can be an answer.

Most of the time, I am pretty good at taking life one step at a time. But some days, I am overwhelmed by the thoughts of the future – immediate and distant. These last three weeks have been especially difficult.

As the semester begins to wrap up, I am confronted with a mountain of schoolwork and exams, as well as extracurricular commitments that have built up. This is the immediate hurdle I must overcome.

At the same time, this is no regular semester – it is my third to last semester as an undergraduate. At the conclusion of next semester, some of my peers will know where they will be spending their next four years as a graduate student. In the semester after that, we will be graduating college, and heading off to another bigger, and hopefully better, chapter of our lives.

Much of the planning, then, takes place this semester. Much of this planning, though, feels like grasping for air – much time wasted, but very little gained, if at all.

Fortunately, I am now at a much better place than I was three months ago.

In the upcoming year, I will be working to attain a Master’s degree in Bioethics. In my near future, I see a career as an ethicist, which lines up neatly with the bulk of the research I have been doing in the last three years.

And hopefully, one day not too far away, I will attend medical school and ultimately become a neurosurgeon or neurologist.

As the dust settles, I am starting to see a path.

I am reminded of a Chinese idiom, “车到山前必有路,船到桥头自然直。” The literal translation is, “When the train gets to the mountain, there will be a way; when the boat gets to the pier-head, it will go straight with the current.”

Things are finally starting to fall into place. I am beginning to have a direction in life, and can rest easy that I have an ultimate goal I’d like to achieve.

But very little of this was planned. I ended up in Cleveland for college because all of my other plans fell through. I joined a sorority on a hunch. I applied for the Bioethics program on a whim.

Still, the old Chinese idiom was right – when you get to the mountain, there will be a path.

For some people, this path is planned. But for me, it is forged, one step at a time.

Fin.

Writer’s Note:
Some translators equate the Chinese idiom with the English saying, “We’ll cross the bridge when we get to it.” I personally think that these two sayings convey slightly different messages.

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Old Friends in Old Places

Since being back home, I’ve met up with some old friends and revisited some old places.

One such place is SoHo, or South of Houston St, a booming shopping and art district in lower Manhattan. Honestly, I’ve become pretty disenchanted with the store offerings at SoHo (and consumerism as a whole), so I’m more interested in finding places to take fancy photographs. So far, the hunt is still on.

Angelika Film Center HQ. SoHo, NYC. December 27, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
Angelika Film Center HQ. SoHo, NYC. December 27, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

Day time activities aside, my favorite thing to do in the city is walking around at night. I absolutely love the night lights of New York, and although it means I grew up never seeing a star in the night sky, I still would not have traded it for the world. Luckily for me, I got friends who are more than glad to indulge me in some nighttime city exploring.

Rockefeller Park, North End in Battery Park City. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
Rockefeller Park, North End in Battery Park City. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

Our original plan was to go watch one of our friends get a tattoo – but he got the tattoo without me! So we rearranged our itinerary, and settled for walking around our old high school neighborhood instead.

New Tats. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
New Tats. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

I finally got the chance to visit The Oculus, the main building of the World Trade Center transportation hub. A friend I was with said it best when he described it as a Venus fly trap from far away. A beautiful Venus fly trap, but a Venus fly trap nonetheless.

The Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
The Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava. December 28, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

The structure was designed by Santiago Calatrava, a Spanish neofuturistic architect (think the late great Zaha Hadid). If I am being honest, I think the architecture on the outside is eye-catching, but doesn’t necessarily belong. The interior, however, is absolutely breathtaking with its clean white lines and futuristic feel.

Changing lights at the Oculus, World Trade Center Transportation Hub. December 29, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
Changing lights at the Oculus, World Trade Center Transportation Hub. December 29, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

Lastly, I rounded the last few days off with a belated holiday party with another old group of friends. This group of friends is very special to me—they are people I’ve grown up with. We’ve known each other for ages, and it is honestly always such a joy to round the year off with them.

Secret Santa with some old friends. December 29, 2016 // Pentax KS2.
Secret Santa with some old friends. December 29, 2016 // Pentax KS2.

The end of the year is always a time for reminiscing. I love catching up with old friends to share stories about our college lives, which for the time being seem like a distant fairytale.

That’s the thing about college, especially when you go to a college so far away. Any break or return home feels more like a vacation or an escape from reality. It is a weird feeling, especially when you think about how this very same place used to be such a big part of our lives, and now we’re completely focused on a different place.

But that’s life, right? You complete one chapter and you move on, but you really don’t think about how far you’ve come until you take a step back and revisit all the chapters you’ve already written.

Until next time! Happy New Year’s (soon)! I’d have a toast to that. 😉

Fin

Writer’s Note:
Benjamin Kabak over at CityLabs @TheAtlantic wrote an interesting critique of the shortcomings of Calatrava’s design, specifically the sacrificing of function for form. It can be read here.