Monday, July 30, 2007

All the small things

Just about a year ago, I visited MIT for the first time ever.

But for some reason it feels much longer than that.

Why? Senior year seemed to go by so fast. By that logic, I should remember visiting MIT like it were yesterday. And yet for some reason I can remember that visit only in vague snatches, a handful of disjointed scenes and conversations that have very little do with one another.

The only answer I can come up with is that so much has happened between that visit and today, from last sumer to this summer.

And even though I sense this entry is rapidly heading off in a direction I didn't at all mean for it to go, I'm going to see if I can actually figure out all that happened in the past year or so.

First semester: I went to summer tennis practice for the last time ever. I started TADA. I wrote and read a prayer for the 9/11 victims. I tutored, I did my homework, I stayed involved in my various clubs and activities. I did a bit of research and a lot of paper-writing. I entered Siemens at almost the last-possible minute - and, to my ongoing amazement, won. And, oh yeah, somewhere in there I tried to apply to college. Thanks for not killing me, Mom.

Second semester: I was through with college apps, thank God, but for some reason none of us could shut up about college itself. I visited California and came back only because I had to. Initially seeded fifth in a field of ten, we upset everybody and won the city Quiz Bowl tournament for the first time in school history. Then we swept the top five spots at the Regional Science Fair, for the first time in fair history. I got into MIT. I visited MIT. I matriculated to MIT. I went to ISEF. I got my summer job. I did my APs. I graduated.

That's...a lot. I know it is, and I treasure every success I achieved - none of which, when I think about it, I accomplished solely on my own. I always had someone else backing me up - my teammates, my research mentor, my teachers, my principal. My parents. I think...I think it's important to acknowledge that.

But that's not really all that happened last year. There's more, much more, to my life than that list up there would tell you. So many things in my life - in any life - are simply too large, too inexpressibly important, to fit into a laundry list of accomplishments. I cannot contain in words how my physics teacher ignited my passion for a subject I had never seriously thought about before. I cannot boil down to a single sentence the many great people I feel privileged to call my friends - nor can I accurately describe all the late-night study sessions, the euchre games, the concerts, the movies, the epic Halo battles, the Colts-Bears Super Bowl rivalry that seemed so important at the time.

Originally, this entry was supposed to be about college applications. Obviously I got a little sidetracked - sorry! But think there's an important point here that actually does have something to do with apps. College applications, simply by the way they're structured, make it very easy to get caught up in yourself - in your own accomplishments, your own ambitions. That also makes it very easy to lose your friends. And while I'm not about to endorse some sappy blanket sentiment like friends are the most important thing in the world, nothing more to be said, end of story - I will say it's hard to be alone.

I got lucky last year. I was able to hang on to my friends in spite of everything else going on in my life. If anything, I think my friendships have grown stronger in these past twelve months. Like a sword that's been tested in a flame, perhaps.

The moral of the story is that, in your life, you will do many things that will never show up on a college application. But that doesn't mean those moments are any less important or valuable than those that do appear on your final app.

In the end, sometimes it's the small things that matter most.

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