Beginning Again

Four years ago, I stood and stared into my new home: A dorm room at UT Dallas' Res Hall South.

I saw something that looked a bit like this. I took this picture as I was about to move out, though.

I was no longer a high schooler, and had moved on to a new chapter in life — I had become a college student. I remember hugging my mother one last time and closing the front door, and looking into my bedroom, with my first immediate thought — "Now what?" — still emblazoned into my memory. Things had become a bit different.

Now, four years later, things have become a bit different again.

My last apartment, also taken as I was about to move out — isn't it a nice bookend?

I've graduated from UT Dallas with a bachelor's in computer science, and I'll begin work for Google later on this summer. For the time being, I'm back in the place I was before college, at my parent's home in Oklahoma. It's kind of nice, tracing my figurative hands around an area I had come to know and love, but now being a little older, and hopefully a little wiser.

Reading the blog post I linked above that I wrote only two days into my freshman semester gives me a flood of nostalgic, bittersweet memories. Many of my closest friends throughout my time at UTD were made thanks to me seeking out places around campus with a good internet connection1, resulting in me spending a large chunk of my freshman days at the honors college lounge where I enjoyed a wired gigabit connection. A reminder on my calendar to "go home" — placed there by a friend teasing me about the many nights I spent there that turned into mornings — is still on my phone.

My guess that I would find many new friends would turn out to be true. I feel truly grateful for the many people I've come to call friends during my time on campus; people I've laughed with, studied with, played with, slacked off with, and grown up with. And now we go our separate ways, as I also figured might happen2 — though I'm moving due to work, and not an additional degree. But the part I wrote about carrying memories rings even truer than it did when I first typed them as a freshman. I wouldn't trade my college friends and the time I spent with them for the world.

There's other things to look back on, too. It's now been 255 days since August 31st, 2019, and 680 days since that special Palo Alto evening. I think that I've changed in many ways in the interim, stayed the same in others. Succeeded in many ways, came up short in others, but I try to stay thankful for every shot I got at anything. There's still 220 days to go, and by that time I will (hopefully) have been at my full-time job at Google for a good while. I'll be working close enough to that Starbucks that I might end up going back often. I wonder how things have changed in the two years since I've been away, and if I'll end up receiving that phone call.

It's a scary kind of exciting to think about how the next four years will go, given how the past four have been. I don't dare make any kind of precise predictions here; I would never have guessed how things would have turned out in college for me. Though, knowing myself, and how I like to push for that next great something that's just out of reach, I suspect at some point I'll stumble in a way that will hit harder than anything else up to this point in my life. The training wheels are fully off now, for better and for worse. Maybe a startup that I bootstrapped will fail.

I don't want to stop striving just because of that fear, though. At this point in my life, I've learned it's better to think of success as not necessarily achieving specific goals, but as making an effort that we can be proud to call our own. The only thing we can do is to do all we can with what we're given, after all. There's been a lot of people who have sacrificed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for me to get where I am today, and I owe it to them and to myself to continue to be someone they are proud to know, and to continue to do the things that are worth doing. "See him?" "That's my brother." "That's my friend." "That's my son."

And so, I try again.

So long and goodnight, and thanks for the memories.

Footnotes

[1] - Hunting for good internet seems to be a common thread with important events in my life, for some reason.

[2] - This was hard to type. To write about drifting away from friends I hadn't yet met was one thing; to look back in retrospect on those thoughts in the midst of drifting (during a global pandemic that denied us proper goodbyes, no less) is another.