I have been meaning to get back to writing for a long time now. After almost two years of barely writing anything other than class essays, it feels good to take a break, sit down, think, and write. And then scrapping the whole thing and starting all over again. This last part – I have not missed quite as much.
The first book I read in 2020, Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, contained what has apparently become the sentence to define the year for the world at large: when Suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat left for him, he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own stool.
It feels weird to be celebrating graduation when the world is mired in dealing with a global pandemic, the second “once-in-a-lifetime” economic crisis of my life seems to be just getting started, and the country in which I now live finds itself in the middle of a massive civil crisis as it grapples with long unresolved racial issues.
It feels weird to celebrate what is (narrowly defined) an individual achievement, even one that marks a dream come true, when so many people around me find themselves in one of the worst situations they have ever been involved in. Celebrating something you can’t share is not really celebrating.
The parties, the tears, and the hugs (particularly the hugs) will have to wait for a better tomorrow.
But there is a different side of graduation I can celebrate; one that does not have to wait. This one is about one of the most important things I learned at MIT Sloan: the freedom we have in creating our dreams.
Years ago, I was dreaming about one day winning the Nobel Prize in Physics for some amazing discovery that would either change the world or our understanding of it (one can only dream). Deciding to leave Physics and electing not to pursue the PhD felt like I was quitting on the one thing I had cared the most about in my adult life. But I knew it was not for me.
Once I left, I realized I wasn’t really sure what the world was about or what kind of role I could play in it. I knew I was curious, and passionate about other things, but I didn’t know how to make a career out of them nor whether I could actually contribute in a meaningful way. I was advancing without really knowing where I was going, and sometimes I would feel like I had run out of dreams.
Coming to MIT was extremely special, for many reasons. This post is not about most of these, but it is about one of them: coming to MIT was the chance I needed to understand the things I care the most about, the things I feel the most passionate about, those I am actually good at, and how I can begin to make them a reality as my life continues to unfold. Sloan is a place full of extraordinary people with incredibly different backgrounds, unbelievable life trajectories, and ambitious dreams. It is a place where I discovered a freedom to define my dreams I didn’t know I had, and a place where I found the courage to boldly steer the ship towards these dreams.
It was at Sloan that I finally understood Neil Gaiman when he wrote that fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
And beat them we will.
All of them.