As I reflect on the many emotions that I feel as I approach graduation soon, I have been reading my old reflections, some of which resonate with my current thoughts. Here is a slightly edited version of a journal entry that I wrote in June 2015:
"Sometimes in this world of contradictions, I feel that I am a tortoise, lumbering slowly, lugging a large shell as the world whirls by. I am a million years old, my soul full of wisdom and pain that extends beyond my own short twenty years of experience, but at the same time, I see the world through the eyes of a child, bright and idealistic. I look at how messy the world of politics and foreign policy is where no matter what is done, there can be no good outcomes. I look at people with good intentions causing more harm than good - who are paralyzed by their ideas and the constantly shifting immediacy of the world's problems. I see so much beauty and at the same time feel so much pain. My imagination spirals out of control, portraying hypotheticals and slippery slopes that lead to dark abysses. In all of that thought, a lot of energy is lost, and the shell grows thicker.
Sometimes I lay on my back, exposing my belly to the world without a second thought, gazing at the sparkling dew on the spiderwebs in the green leaves that are caving slightly in the sunlight. I trust and let my guard down so completely, like a little child, that I forget that people like to collect shells and make tortoise soup. And suddenly, I flip back over and slide on my leathery legs, dragging my thick shell across the sand, my eyes fixed on the creases of the ground.
How can I be trusting, but not naive? How can I decorate my shell and find the e/D * value that optimizes the flow of my breath and the essence of my life without leaving myself exposed or aching under the weight of my own fears, doubts, and worries?...
I want my shell to be simple and elegant. Light enough to carry and mold to my skin, but hard enough to repel predators gracefully. I want to give myself the freedom to make mistakes and embrace those ambiguities and uncertainties. I want to be the best friend and student of life that I can be. I want to be innocent but strong - exude strength and warmth and love. I want to inspire and be inspired. I want to make my shell a work of art - vibrant and beautiful - a mosaic of gratitude dappled with the gently jagged shapes of healed scars glittering in a veneer of fresh enthusiasm. I want to paint it green - alive, harmonious, and healthy.
It would be gentle enough to dry a tear and strong enough to weather a tsunami.
I am grateful for all of the loving people in my life and for all of the opportunities that I have to live and learn about myself and the world. I am grateful for this space to relieve the weight of my shoulders and coax the fatigue out of my eyes."
*e/D = pipe relative roughness factor (I was studying fluid mechanics at the time)