Opinions, Column, Featured Column

It’s not a Sprint. It’s a Marathon.

The alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m. Your roommates are shouting, and you jump out of bed. Music begins to play, but you can still hear the pop of ping-pong balls bouncing against the ground. You’re half asleep, but that’s not going to slow you down. It’s Marathon Monday.

This day is the heart of the Boston College experience. You wake up early, run between off-campus houses with a cheap beer hidden in your pocket, and support the runners as they overcome Heartbreak Hill (unless you are one of the brave individuals wearing a bib number). But Marathon Monday is also a final milestone of the year (excuse the pun). The last runner crosses the finish line, the race fades into a sunny memory of “the good old days,” and suddenly it’s time for finals, graduation, work—the real world.

The end of this year makes me especially anxious, as the next time I start classes on campus, I will be a senior. Acknowledging this fact gives me a strange feeling of sentimentality, but it also makes me deeply afraid. It is a fear that is becoming more and more difficult to ignore—the horrific realization that perhaps I “did college wrong.” Can you ever look back and not have regrets? At over $60,000 a year, it’s tough to admit that maybe things could’ve gone better—that maybe you’ve already lost the marathon.

I came into BC as a starry-eyed, naive pre-med student. I thought my success in high school science would translate to a career as a doctor. I was painfully wrong. Average grades in introductory bio and chem classes boded poorly for my future. Regardless of academics, that first semester was a mad dash. Everyone was desperate to find a social group and an identity so that he or she could get ahead. I remember one of my floor mates saying, “if you don’t find your friends now, you never will.” I believed him, not knowing any better.

The social hysteria only grew worse when I got mono and was bedridden for two weeks. By Thanksgiving I had given up my dream of becoming a doctor, lost a long-term girlfriend, and watched as my high school friends partied together at another college, while I had spent my freshman Halloween sick and alone in my dorm room. I saw my classmates outcompete me in every aspect, and from my perspective, I was in dead last.

A summer back home as a laser-tag referee demanded that I pick up the pace. Despite lacking a sense of direction, I decided to double major in English and economics—my schedule seemed to prefer the English. My college career did a complete 180-degree turn. I had a good group of friends, I joined different co-curriculars, and I was succeeding in class. I thought that perhaps I had finally got my life back on track, but I was wrong once again.

It wasn’t until junior year that I found my passion for economics. Banking and finance became two outlets I could pour my energy into. But the joy of finally finding my passion was met by my own Mile 21, Heartbreak Hill—or rather, the depressing realization that I was approaching the end of the marathon, except I hadn’t run as fast as I could have. I was behind in my chosen field of study, and there wasn’t enough time to catch up. If only I had known which path to take when I first opened that acceptance letter. I never could have imagined how twisted my journey through college would be in three short years. Now, I can’t help but think about how much better off I would be if I had applied to CSOM, worked harder at introductory economics classes, or joined different co-curriculars that were exactly aligned with my career plans. Could I have known any better? Did I fail to take advantage of BC in the right ways? It’s a painful feeling of doubt, especially after investing so much into this school that I call home.

Why do I have these regrets? It’s because my old decisions didn’t coincide with my new aspirations—they stopped me from sprinting right at the start. Instead I watched many of my classmates run past me, and their success became my insecurity. But there are valuable lessons in those early miles, moments of defeat that led to growth. It’s just hard to recognize them, especially when you feel behind. How do you equate growth to a missed internship or a lower salary?

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. I will never truly know how my past decisions shape my future, for better or worse. Perhaps I truly have made one too many wrong turns, spent too much time in uncertainty, and let opportunity slip away. But I won’t accept that. My past failures have shaped the person I am today. They’ve made me confident in my career choice and even some of my life goals. Though I doubt I will ever shake the invariable “what if,” I have come to understand myself in a completely new way. I am no longer the starry-eyed pre-med student, but, looking back, I believe that transformation is ultimately a good thing. My co-curriculars, my different classes, and my search for direction have allowed me to meet extraordinary people and share in experiences that have come to define me. I don’t know if it’s better this way. But it’s been unexpected. It’s been challenging, and, most importantly, it’s forced me to grow.

I still know that many of my classmates remain ahead, and deservedly so. I know that I have probably lost the opportunity to sprint. But I have learned to appreciate the race, one mile at a time. I see the race through a whole new lens, and I am ready to break into my full stride. I may not see the finish line yet and that’s okay because, throughout the story, one piece of advice remains true: don’t stop running.

Featured Image by Kelsey McGee / Heights Editor

April 27, 2016