trust in the power of yes

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I was on a student panel today for the Career Center’s Parent’s Weekend presentation. In front of a theater full(ish) of parents, I shared a snippet of my career journey thus far. This is what I learned.

Almost a year ago, I was on 48 Hours, a freshman retreat run by the Office of First Year Experience. On this retreat, one of the activities involved birthdays, and I discovered that I shared a birthday with Biz, the leader of the retreat and Director of FYE. We had a brief conversation that weekend, but afterwards, I sent Biz a thank you email and a brief reflection of my 48 Hours experience.

Two weeks later, I got an email saying that I had been personally nominated for the LeaderShape Institute, a free 6-day leadership development and community building retreat. It turns out, Biz had nominated me. Naturally, I applied and attended. It sounded right up my alley.

LeaderShape turned out to be the highlight of my entire freshman year. It immersed me in a community of like-minded individuals who had greater visions not only for themselves, but also for their communities and the world in general. LeaderShape reminded me that I thrive on one-on-one authentic relationships, which was missing from my first semester. And the notions of living and leading with integrity and having a healthy disregard for the impossible set the tone for the rest of my year.

In fact, the Associate Director of the Career Center was my small group leader on LeaderShape, and it was my relationship with him that got me on the panel in the first place.

During the spring, I also interned for Date My Wardrobe, a fashion tech startup in Boston founded by an amazing female entrepreneur, Amrita Aviyente. Amrita turned out to become a great personal and professional mentor for me to this day, advocating for my growth and exposing me to the intersection between fashion and business. And seeing that I had been interested in fashion since secretly wanting to be a fashion designer when I was eight, this internship was a big step for me towards fashion as a potential career path.

That semester, I also took a course called Courage to Know with Biz as my professor. One of our assignments was to do a vocational interview, in which we reached out to someone with a vocation we aspired to or wanted to learn more about. At this point, I was still flirting with the idea of chemistry or philosophy, but was ultimately undecided with my major and unsure of my direction.

However, ethical fashion was on my mind because of an informational interview I did with Esther Chen Meyers, the founder of bonJOY, over winter break. After stalking the LinkedIn BC Alumni group, I came across Esther and was instantly intrigued by her career path. She was kind enough to respond to me, and we ended up meeting one day to chat about her time in college, her career, and her founding of bonJOY. So to find someone I was interested in the vocation of, I googled “ethical fashion companies in Boston”. One of the first links to pop up was The Good Trade.

The founder of The Good Trade, AmyAnn Cadwell, was also kind enough to respond to me and set up a time to FaceTime (she also knew Esther!). Other than being an all-around inspiring and relatable person, she made a particularly poignant point. She said that although saying yes to one thing might mean saying no to many other things, I have to trust that saying yes will lead to other yeses I can’t possibly foresee or predict. There is something inherently uncomfortable about taking life one step at a time without knowing exactly what you’re walking towards. Nevertheless, my experience at BC has really epitomized that idea of one small moment changing everything.

My conversation with AmyAnn encouraged me to explore ethical fashion, conscious consumerism, and social entrepreneurship as a potential career realm. So I reached out to Esther about interning with bonJOY over the summer. And as I’ve said before, interning for bonJOY was a truly wonderful experience because it convinced me of my genuine passion for ethical fashion, so much so that I see the intersection of international studies, business, fashion, and social good as my potential “end”.

And to think that it all started with sharing a birthday with Biz. Had that connection not been made, I honestly don’t know where I would be. But I am so grateful for all the mentors, experiences, and opportunities in the past year that have fundamentally changed or reassured my direction.

Although the path was very unclear along the way (and still is), everything connects in retrospect. Yet, it required putting myself out there to create opportunities and having the guidance of mentors, formal and informal, who encouraged me to discern my passions and follow my gut.

 

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10 lessons from my first year at boston college

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1. There is more value to a college education than pure academics. As much as I knew that learning in college would transcend the classroom, it was only until second semester that I truly came to value the nonacademic side of a BC education, which involves the Jesuit concept of cura personalis (care for the whole person). It’s being attentive, being reflective, and being loving. Only through nurturing all aspects of my humanity – relational, reflective, physical, emotional – will I practice discernment and remain conscientious about how I choose to live my life. And to anyone who hasn’t been exposed to Catholic or Jesuit education, this all sounds a bit wishy washy, but it’s so rewarding to keep an open mind.

2. Mentors and sponsors are vital. One of my professors said that your primary job in college is to find mentors. I have been fortunate enough to find a few professors this year who I would consider mentors. Whenever I felt overwhelmed or troubled, or even when I simply felt like taking a step back from the business of everyday college life, I would shoot one (or all) of them an email and set up times to meet. Although I would sometimes leave slightly more confused than before, each encounter would challenge me to think more deeply about what I wanted from my four years.

3. It’s okay to not be a STEM major. Coming to accept the notion that I don’t have to be a STEM major in order to be “successful” in life has definitely been a process. Growing up in Silicon Valley, the prominent message is that science, math, and engineering are the most respectable and praise-worthy pursuits. But unless I follow what my gut is telling me to do, I am doing a disservice to everyone including myself.

4. Your first friend won’t likely be your best friend. In the moment, when you just want friends to hang out with, you can confuse a friendship of convenience (by location or necessity) with true friendship. The more common experience is that you begin to find your people after at least a few months, because that is when most people tire of portraying a facade and simply are who they are (or at least that’s what I found to be true).

5. One-on-one friend dates are life. My favorite way to spend time with someone is one-on-one. It likely has to do with quality time being my love language, but I love it when I’m hanging out with a friend and she isn’t checking her phone every five minutes. When you have someone’s full attention and you give someone your full attention in return, conversation flourishes and connections forge.

6. Dating for practice is a potentially great thing. How else do you end up married with children? How else to you figure out what you seek in a relationship? And college is the ideal time to practice: You are in a bubble with people your age who you know through, at most, a couple degrees of separation. It’s not as risky.

7. It’s hard but vital to say no. Extracurricular involvements can become a runaway train unless I learn to say no to things. And it’s tricky because there are so many amazing opportunities out there! But it’s ultimately a matter of priorities and giving myself the freedom to allow the experiences I do say yes to sink in.

8. Planned spontaneity is not that spontaneous. During the school year, I am dependent on my daily planner. The majority of my time is planned out with class, work, or activities. Even my “free time” is planned out. But that’s not spontaneous. And while I’m young and relatively free of responsibility, I can afford to be spontaneous (even if it feels against my nature). So I want to take advantage of unplanned spontaneity while I can.

9. -26°F is pretty very cold. Though this winter was apparently very mild, the one time the weather was ridiculously cold happened to be the night of a ball, so I was in a dress without any tights on at night. Running maybe 30 yards from the hotel to the Uber was the coldest I have ever been. I was running through an ice box. Unpleasant is an understatement.

10. BC is the right fit for me. I spent first semester trying to answer this question: Am I happy at BC? And I feel so fortunate to have discovered that the answer is yes. It took a catalytic experience like LeaderShape (a week-long leadership and community building retreat) for me to realize how many amazing people are at BC. It might not be the most academically prestigious school, but like I said in my first point, BC for me is more about all the other “stuff”. It’s about the relationships. It’s about the mentorship. It’s about the vocational discernment. It’s about Boston. It’s about the opportunities. And it’s about the people.

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