[[I wrote this as a closing column my senior year at Yale. Really interesting to see where I have changed… and where I am still working through the same questions.]]
Some people go out to East Rock to think about their place in the world. Some wander through cities, enjoying the feeling of being anonymous in a crowd where no one knows your name. Wherever you found that space of solace, there was probably a moment or two, at least, when you experienced a moment of reckoning.
Some of us came to Yale with neatly constructed narratives about our lives and our goals. We handed out neat, packaged descriptions of our “purpose,” much like the mission statements we used when fundraising for our conferences and events. Maybe it felt like we could package our lives into these descriptions, just like we packaged these one-time events into neat paragraphs on a single typed page. I found myself doing this.
But Yale taught me something important. My moment of reckoning came my sophomore year, at the end of what I would call my slump. I was desperate to get away: This campus felt too small. I felt trapped by my “purpose” — the type- cast I had written for myself on that single typed page. I needed some clarity and space; I even considered studying abroad.
As it turns out, I did not need to go far to find my solace. I left my room in Saybrook and went to meet Miles Grimshaw ’13 to talk about launching TEDxYale. As we worked to bring TEDx to campus, I found a new space to grow in and to ask questions, instead of just jumping directly to answers.
I spent so much time my first two years here conforming to the definition of “Diana” I had built for myself. I had stopped looking for new ways to learn and be pushed. I had found a comfortable place, but it was smothering me. My mission statement was written by a younger me who didn’t understand what I would come to see after more exposure to the world.
So I tossed it out. I gave up my 10-year plan, and opened my eyes to the other opportunities around me.
The rest of college was defined by new projects and people who pushed me to redefine my conditions for “success.” I found friends who were patient enough to tell me and correct me when I was making mistakes. I went to events and sought out students whose passions for different subjects made me excited to learn more about their talents and research. I spent more time writing and trying to understand what Yale, as a community, was teaching me about my values, my prejudices and my goals for the world. I found happiness in seeing how many different ways people were thinking and doing things all around me.
It was easy to fall into a routine, to settle with a group and stick it out, even when some of these relationships and projects weren’t working. I made the active decision to leave my corner and look for other places I wanted to be on campus. It was the best decision that I ever made.
I still think I have a sense of purpose, though its direction is far less concrete than it was four years ago. I am excited to see what I find along the way, and I know I can trust myself to take on new challenges that fit within that sense of purpose.
I have not given up. I have come to understand that sometimes the best route is not always preplanned. The people that I found at Yale helped me understand that would never be happy on a straightforward path, even if the path was my own design.
Sometimes I still struggle with questions. What will success feel like for me? Do I need to meet a more widely accepted definition of success to be happy?
I realized that I, at least personally, do not. I want my projects to be challenging and give me interesting problems to solve more than anytime else.
Yale was a safe space for me to test my ideas, plan new projects and reach out to professors who became my mentors and confidants throughout the challenges. My reckoning came from the access to different worlds and opinions that I found all around me. I am grateful for the rigor and thoughtfulness of my classmates, the friends who pushed me and the ideas that I could turn into realities while I was here. I leave now with a sense of purpose, however abstract, and know that I am better for my time here.
DIANA ENRIQUEZ is a senior in Saybrook College.