I finished early by the end of my senior year winter term and I still remember the last day of class of my college life. In the morning I made a frame for my painting class final project; then I had a final critique in my ceramics class in the afternoon and I fell asleep at midnight when I was waiting for my friend to finish his data structure project. It was no different from any weekday that I had in the past four years. I did realize that it was my last day as a college student in this place, but I did not find it as emotionally difficult as I expected. Neither did I celebrate the upcoming freedom which I had been dreaming about for so long especially when facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles and hard times. Rather, I felt calm.
Life is a continuous process and it flourishes as it moves forward. Each moment is a procession from the future into the past and the sweet spot is always the present. So, be present, live in the present. Being present means being aware, being driven and above all, being committed. Henry Miller said, “the aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely, aware.” No one is able to predict how the future will unfold, but if one lives with faith, with determination and with awareness ofthe present, one knows that he or she has done well. I always remind myself that,whatever it is that I choose, I will be passionate aboutit. No regrets about what once made me smile and no anxiety about what comes next. Embrace the uncertainty. The unknown has the power to lead me to explore, to experiment and to appreciate the feeling of getting lost. Being lost allows me to listen to the inner voice of my heart and stay committed to being present. Being unable to see ahead forces me to use my own strength to find the light and the right path toward my ideals and dreams. And being full of fear encourages me to become fearless if I am committed to conquer it. I am thankful for all the negativities, insecurities and risks that I have experienced. They allow me to settle myself emotionally, to be prepared for other things, ambitious things- to travel, to innovate, to lead, to fall in love, to make and lose fortunes and to become significant.
I remember a recent conversation with a friend who graduated last year about the comparison between his time and mine at Carleton. In sharp contrast to his experience of growing up in Minnesota and adjusting himself seamlessly to Carleton, I came all theway from the southeastern part of China. To travel the distance between two continents, to leave everything I had known, the country, the hometown and the people that had seen me grow and to start a completely new life all by myself- this process has no simple metaphor. It took a great deal of courage to get on the plane four years ago, but at the moment that the plane took off, I left the past behind, from then on. I realized how much I have changed during these four years when Iwent back home during breaks-there is nothing better than coming back to where nothing has changed, to understand how I have changed.
Carleton has granted me what I expected: the intellectual enlightenment. And I am also thankful for the unanticipated gifts that Carleton gave to me: classmates left an imprint on my life forever and professors guided me to find the meaning of life. Four years ago, I could never have imagined that friendship could be built in spite of national boundaries, cultural difference, and language barriers in this small community. I am thankful for all of my friends who have left a trace in my life. And I could never have believed that the student-professor connection could be so close that the professors notonly gave me guidance in academics, but also helped me navigate on life’s journey. And most importantly, Carleton professor never expect anything back while giving everything to us. Two years ago, I could never have anticipated meeting my life- time mentor in arts, Professor Lefkowitz, who led me to find my passion in life as a student, as a painter and as an artist. One year ago, I could never have pictured myself working on Capitol Hill and going to study international affairs in the future. But without Ambassador Levin’s guidance in Foreign Service, I would probably still be wondering what to do for a living. And now, I am deeply aware of, how, education at Carleton as a collective effort, has completely changed my life and who I am and has allowed me to be accepting of myself at the end of it. My experience at Carleton has been adventurous and priceless, and when my friend asked me to describe my feelings about Carleton, I said: to put it simply, in 25 years, I will send my children to this place.
I know there will finally be a moment to say goodbye to all the people I have met, known, and loved here. But this is not the end- it is a temporary goodbye and we know we will remain connected to each other as if we were never apart. Because we have spent four years together, and we gradually become a big family. The most significant four years of our lives during which we have developed our goals, found our life passions, and built our personalities have been shared with these people who are with you right now, and we have witnessed each other’s growth and have become an inseparable part of each other’s memories. This is painfully wonderful. Painful in the sense of all the fear, failure, and darkness we faced; wonderful in the sense that they have sharpened us, challenged us, made us stronger and allowed us to become our best possible selves.
The years ahead of us are inspiring, positive, constructive chapters. From now on, our stories may start to diverge and my greatest hope is that we follow our own paths to different and wonderful places, and maybe at a certain point, we will converge again.