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Refuse to settle

Bianca Almada | Wednesday, November 13, 2013

“What’s terrible is to pretend that the second-rate is the first-rate; to pretend that you don’t need love when you do; or that you like your work when you know quite well you’re capable of better.”-Doris Lessing


I can pinpoint the exact time in my life when I first became inspired by the possibilities of life. It was during my sophomore year of high school, in taking my first Advanced Placement class, AP European History, that I acquired an undeniable thirst for knowledge. Before that point, I had studied because it was expected of me; I was always a strong student, but only because that was what was expected of me. My parents ingrained in my head from a very young age that “Education is how you make it in life.” I listened to them because I wanted to please them and because it was the only lifestyle with which I was familiar. I enrolled myself in AP European History with the same mindset – my parents and teachers expected me to take the advanced courses and I needed them in order to succeed in college and in the future.

Upon entering the class and meeting the teacher, I soon realized that it was unlike any other course I had previously taken. Up until that point, school had always been fairly easy for me, and I had been able to get good grades without trying incredibly hard. In my first AP course, I had to push myself to complete assignments each night and prepare for the AP exam. I desperately tried to wrap my head around what seemed like such complicated concepts at the time – the economic theory of mercantilism, the philosophy of Nietzsche, the inner workings of Freud. I worked harder than I believe I ever had, and try as I might I could not seem to raise my grade above a ‘B.’ Before my sophomore year of high school, I cannot recall any school matter being extremely challenging for me. AP European History was different; AP European History was difficult, and it was a shock to my know-it-all, smarty-pants, fifteen-year-old self.

At the beginning of that school year, the textbook intimidated me, the teacher frightened me, and the AP exam seemed like a distant nightmare. As the year wore on, however, I felt as if I could literally feel my brain expanding. I was exposed to a completely new world that I did not even know existed – the world of culture, knowledge, philosophy, and intellectuals. My mind drew connections between art, literature, history and philosophy. I saw history repeating itself before my eyes in black and white and could feel the puzzle pieces coming together. I formulated legitimate political opinions for the first time and viewed the influence of politics and economics on art, literature, and social stability. I discovered that there was so much more to life than my parents’ views, my economic position, and the beliefs with which I was raised.

There had been an entire world that I was unaware of and I suddenly felt enlightened for discovering it. I suddenly wanted to know everything. I wanted to know the story of every great empire in history; I wanted to read every great novel mentioned in my history book; I wanted to speak with every great political official. I wanted to be a historian, a philosopher, a writer, an intellectual. I wanted to absorb every ounce of knowledge that I could and attempt to make sense of it all. I wanted to be as great and intelligent as the figures in my history book.

This is my life’s goal. This one class is what originally instilled in me a passion for learning, and that fresh-faced inspiration is what I try to channel when I feel overwhelmed with the stress of college life and the pressure of the fast-approaching real world. Although I am positive that I will never acquire all the knowledge in the world, it is my goal to try. Yes, the aim is to have a successful career – I want to live in a nice house, travel, and help provide for a happy family one day. But being truly fulfilled is so much more than that – it is working on something meaningful, contributing positively to the world, and opening up to acquiring as much knowledge as possible.

Find your passion and refuse to settle in this world, because real life has the potential to be so incredibly rewarding.