There’s an irony in returning to Tufts after a semester abroad. Typically, in stories, after long journeys, the protagonist returns older, wiser, and more sure of him or herself. I’m thinking of Odysseus in The Odyssey, Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, and Frodo Baggins in Lord of the Rings. But this hasn’t been the case for me. Instead, I feel more like Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia—I journeyed far, I’ve grown older, I’m more mature, more confident, and more articulate. And yet, coming back to Boston, I can’t help but feel that I’m not far from the California freshman who first stepped foot on the Prez-lawn four years ago.
I don’t curse this return to youthfulness. In fact, I embrace it as one of the most useful things that Tufts has taught me. Freshman year me could ask, “Who do I want to be?” and take risks, try out different activities, new ways of being, different friend groups and ways of socializing.
Now, as a senior, there is an urgency to set what I am in stone—to discern exactly who I want to be and what I want to do. I feel that pressure around me as my friends frantically decide what career they want to pursue, which graduate studies are right for them, and what Senior Honors Thesis they want to write. There is an urgency to transform our Tufts experience into something definite and concrete. We want to come out of these four years waving banners that showcase the strong, confident individuals that we’ve become. We want people to think that we’ve finally discovered our true selves.
I want to urge you—regardless of what year you are—to resist this temptation. Rather than college being a privileged time to discover who we are, what if it was a place to build a toolkit that allows us to always reinvent ourselves? In this time of endings and beginnings, I want to return to our origins. I want to hold to my inner freshman, no matter how confused or foolish that person was. Why? Because it’s the freshman in me that resists the temptation to put in my headphones as I walk across campus and tune out the world around me. It’s the freshman in me that sees endless possibilities of what I could be. It’s the freshman in me that finds the students around me, the weekend nights on Pro-Row, and the student groups on campus mystical.
So, if I had to sum up what my time abroad and my time at Tufts has meant to me, it’s that being receptive to transformation is one of the best gifts college teaches us. It keeps us open-minded, excited, and willing to meet new people and travel to new places. Most importantly, though, it keeps us young. I fear one day, far in the future, looking back at these four years and lamenting all the paths I might have taken—all the things I might have achieved before settling into a single comfortable path. Staying young means always wanting to explore new paths. So lets stay young, Tufts. Lets not make these years the end of our most exciting adventure, but the journey that taught us how to keep on adventuring. In the words of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring.”