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Twenty years from now

Somewhere in Indiana I will discover myself, I hope.

On Tuesday, I entered my twentieth year of life. There is so much life I have already lived. So much time spent laughing and crying and crying some more. Where do I see myself twenty years from now?

Hopefully, I am far away from my haunting past and bad decisions, but I doubt I will be. Where does anyone see themselves twenty years from now? Worst case scenario, still in the Midwest. Best case scenario, also, still in the Midwest. I think a house with a fireplace would be nice. Somewhere to sit and read my books and drink my tea. I may own a cat or two, depending on how large that said house is. I would most of all want for it to be a home, filled with people I love and who love me.

It’s not fair to try to predict where my future leads though, so I won’t be picky on specifics, like kids names, or professions. All of it will be a product of moving forward. Each day now brings a new part of myself I didn’t know existed, a little part of myself who I am beginning to acknowledge.  Especially these days I wish I could meet myself as a child, the blunt bangs and spunky attitude combined with big dreams. My parents would always tell me I was braver than my brothers, no. Always taking risks. No fear, no pain, nothing to lose.

Would that little girl, with the bright colored sweaters and painted nails, look at me, look at the life I am living and be excited I made it? What would I tell her? I may not be much different than that girl now. Maybe she is braver than I. When did I lose that? And how do I attempt to get it back? Will I twenty years from now and think the same thing about myself now? I hope not. I think my younger self would like the way I hang important moments on my wall. Quotes and photos and memories, illuminated by twinkling lights. I think she would like the friends I’ve made. The ones I can sit in silence with and laugh about how life has brought us together. I think she would like the amount of concerts I’ve been to, and the places I’ve seen, the nature I’ve been able to take in. I think she’d love my hair, and my nose, that took me a little too long to grow into. I think she would love the books I’ve read and the love I’ve been able to express.

But most of all I think she would like the strength I continue to have every day. I continue to push myself to make her proud. And to make my future self proud as well. Twenty something, such an odd time to be living in, somewhere I was terrified to be, but somewhere I can find comfort in reaching.

You can contact Cora at chaddad01@saintmarys.edu.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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On snow and purpose

I have very little idea of what purpose means, but today I’m writing about it anyway. This is how I make sense of things. I’ve addressed it in this column before: purpose, meaning, being 21 and utterly confused. My dedication to seeming continually lost is less of an artistic choice, and more of a direct representation of what takes up the majority of my brainspace lately. Most weeks, when I see my editor’s deadline approaching on my planner, I crack open my journal and scan through my most recent scribbles and streams of consciousness until I find something that might be just substantial enough to lengthen into a readable column. But the whole precedent of my writing, in my head at least, is that it will never be read or given hardly any weight. Yet as these things go, from time to time, an odd column of mine will be discovered by a family member and sent to an aunt in New York, a cousin in Seoul. On a recent phone call with one such family member, I was offered the heartening redundancy of well-meaning assurance: You’re meant to be figuring things out right now. Then, the question: So what do you want to do? 

The question reminded me of weeks of profusely typing out drafts of college applications, changing my mind about the prompts every hour. The snow that fell out my bedroom window that night I found out that I wasn’t accepted to my top choice school. Much like the snow that drifted through campus this morning as I walked to my favorite class, for a major I hadn’t even considered two years ago. The question reminded me of sitting cross-legged in front of the television in my grandmother’s living room after kindergarten, watching a documentary about female firefighters and convincing myself that was my calling. It reminded me of the rush I felt when I put on my name tag at MUN conferences, taking myself a bit too seriously, chairing committees and editing resolution clauses. My years of drilling the Spanish subjunctive conjugation coming to fruition on a trip to Madrid when the Spanish cashier at the boutique told me that my accent sounded Madrileno. Shaking hands with the news anchor I met on a field trip and imagining it being my name on the screen, as I announced breaking headlines. 

What do you want to do?

If I had superpowers, I swear I would do it all. The apprehension comes from the sense of impending conclusions. This be-all, end-all feeling that I need to make a decision, and that I’m doing it on some sweeping deadline. Because here on campus, you blink and the semester is nearly over. Halloween has passed and the silver Christmas tree is set up in your dorm room, and the only remaining exams are finals. Every month or so, a career panel will come into your accounting or management class and urge you to arm yourself with the skills you will need to be, in a few years, exactly where they are now. Graduation is nearly just as far away as Welcome Weekend was. And still you have no concrete perception of who you’d like to be. The scariest part of all this is admitting it. Going into a meeting with an advisor, right after the pre-law student and right before the one fervently set on being an investment banker, uncertainty becomes the biggest possible vulnerability. 

On the harder days, I’m half convinced that I’m at the wrong place, chasing all the wrong dreams. A while ago, I saw a clip of a Kendall Jenner interview, where she talks about keeping a childhood photograph of herself taped to her mirror. The idea is that in any moment of doubt or self deprecation, she reminds herself it’s that little girl that she is talking about. Looking through pictures of myself when I was a child never comes without a hint of sentimentality. In dramatic circumstances, maybe I’d describe it as heartache, because it feels easy to consider it a loss. A loss of youthful carelessness and looking ahead to becoming someone, to formation. But really, it is more of a numbing, anesthetic feeling, knowing that you know all the things that the little girl could only wonder about. 

We listen to music penned by celebrated composers like Mozart or Brahms and marvel at their genius. Their symphonies are reinterpreted and performed to death by world-famous orchestras, braved by the most renowned conductors. We read the great novels by Tolstoy or Melville and scour criticisms and analyses, the decades of writers who followed, trying to crack their inspiration open. We’re told to follow, to be influenced, galvanized. How convenient it must have been for them, we think, to know exactly what they were placed on Earth for. To have melodies and words flowing out of their fingertips. To have such infatuating, permeating purpose. 

Sensory memory is a funny thing. Stepping out into the snowy front courtyard of McGlinn this morning, for the briefest, most dizzying moment, I was transported back to the day after I received my early admission result — my winter coat zipped up to my chin, heading to brunch and coping with my redirection. The air smelled the same. All of high school, I thought an acceptance to that one particular university would be my purpose, that the unkempt knots would untie and leave me with pretty strings to lace up into some form of resolution, a plan. But that particular winter would pass, and the snow would melt away. I’d enroll in another university, and wear a new winter coat. Now it feels impossible to imagine my days if I hadn’t ended up going to school here. Around two and a half years later, I look up at the snow-covered dome and wrap my scarf around my hair, inhaling in the winter ambience, exhaling all my misplaced, past ideas of purpose. If there is one thing I can wager to say about purpose, it’s that purpose is transient. Its evanescence is what makes it so perplexing, yet it camouflages itself into something that seems deceptively definite. So meekly, I challenge the idea that we’re meant to be good at one thing, to chase one singular aspiration. It’s not really about the lack of potential, but the overwhelming assortment of opportunities. I could be wildly incorrect, but for what it’s worth, this concept makes me feel a little better. 

It translates into the new series of unrequited loves that college brings. Scrolling through LinkedIn job postings feels unsettlingly similar to when we would huddle together with the Common App open. We’ll pour out all our hopes, wear our hearts on our sleeve. I’ll set out on a path, or more likely several different ones, until another redirection points me on the way to something I hadn’t considered, something that ends up being better than I could have ever imagined. In a couple of years, I’ll step out into the snow and think of the white scenery of this very morning, and then still, the one from December of 2020. And I’ll thank my lucky stars that I didn’t let a silly thing like purpose trip me up. 

Maybe a lack of purpose isn’t that scary a thing at all. The pressure and distress we feel is all but self-imposed at the end of the day. At the end of my day, my roommate makes me a mocha with just the right amount of espresso, just the right amount of chocolate. A package arrives at my door with the perfume I’ve been waiting for. Inspired by the Kendall interview, just as much as I am by her street style paparazzi shots and enviable array of shoes, I tape up a baby photo to my desk. About six months old, my appearance in the photo strikes me as safe and protected. The headband-clad girl smiles as if she really could do anything. She and I will be figuring things out for a while, but the snow will always melt into spring, and even then, it will always come back. Fluttering, the purest of white, an indescribable sense of warmth in its freezing touch.

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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You don’t know me! I don’t even know me!

“Know thyself.”

This Socratic maxim is carved into the stone of the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, and it represents a philosophical quest that has challenged all of humanity since consciousness. The quest to know thyself — to understand who we are and why we are — is the greatest point in the state of being human which one can achieve. What good is having all the answers, all the money, all the success, if we don’t know who we are? If we don’t have an understanding of our true selves?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this quest because I’ve come to realize lately that I don’t really know myself. Of course, I can recite my Notre Dame introduction without a thought, or my response to the inescapable first question in every interview (“Tell me about yourself”). But when asked something far beyond that — something that goes deeper than this surface level, label-centric layer of myself — I’ve found that my mind goes blank.

How sad is that?

I think I — and probably a good amount of people — have begun to lose sight of who I am beyond the facets of myself which affect the way others perceive me. By “others,” I might mean my peers, recruiters, professors, interviewers, strangers, random people on social media or anyone outside of myself. My perception of who I am, I’ve come to realize, has been shaped for far too long by how I think others see me. Instead of asking myself these beyond-the-surface questions like what makes me happy or what makes me feel most alive or what I’m proud of myself for, I spend so much time berating myself with thoughts like:

“Why don’t I look like that?” “Why am I not smart enough?” “Why am I not good enough?” “Why am I not cool enough?” “Why am I not outgoing enough?”

I don’t totally blame myself for this, either. In a campus filled with incredibly talented, intelligent, superbly ambitious students chasing one accomplishment after the next, in a society inundated with platforms solely concerned with outward perceptions, in a world where achievement is the way to a good life — it’s easy to lose ourselves sometimes.

To realize that I don’t really know myself is scary. But maybe it’s not horrible. Perhaps to not know myself means that this concept of “self” isn’t static, and it’s not permanent. There’s a certain freedom in this realization. Tomorrow, I can wake up and decide to dye my hair if I wished to, start listening to a new genre of music, take a new path from my dorm to class, introduce myself to someone I don’t know. I’m beginning to realize (finally, two whole decades into life) that how I see myself is more important than this idea of Meg that exists in other people’s minds.

Maybe I don’t know myself, and maybe I never will. Perhaps nobody really knows themselves. Maybe “thyself” is not someone to know, but someone whom I should allow to live a full life not completely shackled by fear of how others perceive me. I don’t totally know myself, but I’m beginning to learn to like myself a little more.

Knowing thyself is hard. Maybe liking thyself is enough.

You can contact Megumi at mtamura@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.