I turned twenty-three on Friday. I woke up in Providence, Rhode Island, in a hotel bedroom overlooking the city. I had breakfast with my wonderful friend Kate, and we talked about politics, apartments, and the new preview of Gilmore Girls. Together, we walked to Providence Station, and I boarded my train home by way of New York. Let me tell you: that train ride changed my life in ways that I could never have expected, and probably will not fully understand for a while. But before I get to why, please indulge me for a minute.
Friday may have been incredible. But for just a moment, I want to look back on the many days leading up to it that have made up my year of being twenty-two. This past year has been one of the hardest of my life. In September, I suffered a knee injury that kept me from walking for weeks, and still pains me today when I do little things like take the stairs or drive a car. In October, I dealt with some serious emotional blows that caused me to leave school for the rest of the semester. And in January, just weeks before my “triumphant return” to my last year of university, my partner Ken was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
And thanks to this blog, that all happened publicly, in real-time.
So it hasn’t been an easy year. But if there is one thing I believe in, it’s persistence. Despite whatever hardships have been dealt me, I am also extraordinarily lucky for everything I’ve been given, and I try to never let myself forget it. So, no matter how I felt, I got up every day and gave it my best shot: to be kind, to work hard, and not to waste my chance at living a meaningful and beautiful life. And I kept writing.
Slowly, things got better. Ken returned to work, and my spring semester back at Wellesley was the happiest I’d ever had. And still, I lived in fear: fear that the other shoe would drop and I would be blindsided by yet another twist of fate.
Enter, then, the best week of my life. Last weekend, I attended Her Conference, and over and over again I heard from women of all walks of life the same message: be fearless, because incredible things happen outside of your comfort zone. So I buckled up and I made a few small, bold choices. One of those choices led me to Providence, Rhode Island the night before my birthday, to attend the speech of a role model and enormous inspiration of mine: Malala Yousafzai, advocate for girls’ education and youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet a bigger, bolder choice led me to her train car the next morning, where I had the immense privilege of speaking with her for forty-five minutes (!).
I only cried once. She was very nice about it.
It will take me a while to wrap my head around what happened on Friday. And while I plan to do a write-up of her speech and interview in Providence the night before for College Compass, I will only include about one minutes’ worth of our conversation on the train. Her enormous kindness, generosity, and grace towards me in those minutes is not something I want to take advantage of any more than I already have.
Suffice it to say that, on my first day of being twenty-three, I learned two things:
- Be bold and take the risk. The worst thing that can happen is rejection, and the best thing that can happen is a moment that ignites you.
- No matter how hard your yesterday was, get up and try again. It truly does get better.