This is going to be a longer essay, but one that I consider important. Hopefully you will too. I’m going to have the talk that a lot of students who didn’t really know what to expect from college need to hear. Those students who worked so relentlessly hard for the only way they knew to help their current situation: doing well in school! This blog is centered on my life experience and thoughts, but I have the feeling that many have gone through the same experience.
Have you ever felt like you deviated from a simple goal you had? I have many times. From wanting to be a firefighter, a professional soccer player, a mayor, governor, president. We all have gone through that. What about feeling like you deviated from something that made you genuinely happy? Living in Santiago for just a few weeks made me remember something beautiful I had put aside for 4 years. For many people it may be different, but the environment around the city made it clear for me. There was something missing, and without a little bit of it in my life, I was never complete. In an effort to become a person that I would be proud of, I left behind a person that I was happy being. I could be talking about many things, but for the purpose of this essay, it was playing soccer.
I left soccer to follow education, at least that is how I remember my 15 year old thought process. I am also thoroughly convinced that the economic troubles of moving into a big city without a car simply did not give me enough time to focus on soccer during my high school years. Regardless, the harsh reality is that even education by itself doesn’t live up to the promise many students sacrifice for. I have seen it many times on countless occasions. A story of a young, hardworking, hopeful student that had to overpass numerous adversaries and obstacles to get to a famous university. Let’s just say this student’s name is Enriko. Enriko is lucky to feel motivated and confident, as he inevitably did right before college. But it all slows down a few months/years into college. Enriko is expected to find his own drive to keep succeeding, but what will motivate him next? Of course the end goal is to be happy but what is the next immediate step? He would be lucky to feel as if the path he chose in college is the right one, and will likely have a crisis if he feels otherwise. A crisis that many times becomes big enough to convince students that instead of finding happiness through education, they will find depression instead. Enriko will convince himself that he left what was truly valuable behind, lose the hope he had, and drop out of college, to try to find the nostalgic happy life he believes education took away from him. Rightfully so.
In high school it was easy to know what to do, he thought. Get the best grades you can, and focus on something that your adult self would appreciate. When I played soccer I saw that the senior players would end up lost after high school. Seeing this was enough to scare me away from that focus. I was not about to risk staying straight up poor for any longer. So even though I loved the idea of playing soccer, at the time it didn’t give me the hope I wanted, whereas academics, like my math team, did.
So that’s the big focus I wanted for this essay: finding the right type of drive. The opposite of hope is regret, and it’s like a switch. Keeping the switch on hope is difficult, especially because what you hope for changes as you grow. When I look back at it, I always tell myself I would have much rather done soccer than the math team. The grass is always greener on the other side. But you can make yours a little more green by nourishing it with what you need! When we don’t have hope, we have regrets.
Of course this essay isn’t supposed to be a cure, but rather a story to assure you that at least you are not alone in these thoughts. Finding the right type of hope is not easy, but I think you can find it if you are willing to adventure a bit away from your comfort zone and try things you have not tried in a long time, or ever. I’ve tried many different things to find this hope. But after all those attempts it seems that an important part has been on the roots I was leaving behind. Maybe these roots were associated with all the hardships I had at the time, but I am glad I was able to separate the good and the bad. Being in Chile and reflecting on these things have given me a sense of mission and identity I can live by. Being asked by Chileans if I am Mexican, always craving tacos al pastor to eat, and getting back to my soccer roots at least for the time being, has given me a lot of the drive I needed. I’m proud to have found who I am again, the social causes I want to support, and the hope that I needed to keep going for another year at MIT. This time I will go about it a bit more confidently, because I know there will be many lost freshmen that need confidence given to them.
Enriko Kurtz Granadoz Chavez is a member of the class of 2021 studying physics. This summer, he is doing research to understanding the damping on impulsive motion due to a perturbed water/air interface (analogous to the physics of the water bottle flip challenge) in Santiago, Chile.