When I look back at my four years at Bowdoin, I’ll always remember two pieces of advice, neither of which came soon enough. 

As a sophomore living in Helmreich, I remember when Barry Mills said something during College House office hours, along the lines of, “everyone finds their place at Bowdoin, it just takes some people more time than others.” 

As a junior, I called home feeling overworked, stressed out and regretful that I hadn’t gone abroad to experience continental culture and house music concerts. In response,  my dad quoted some semi-famous armchair psychologist, saying, “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, but sometimes it’s cut differently.”

Looking back after four years at Bowdoin, it’s easy to imagine the “what-ifs.” The things that could have gone differently but didn’t. The people you shared an abundance of common interests with but never befriended. The acting class you always wanted to take but never got into during Phase I, II or 16. The girls and guys you thought were pretty fly but never moved past saying hi to. The list goes on and on.

And then there are all the things, equally contingent on chance, which did fall our way. The first year roommate—assigned by an overworked rising-senior ResLife intern—who turned into the sophomore roommate, junior roommate, senior roommate and lifelong best friend. The accidental encounter in H-L with Emerson that turned you into an English major. 

To me, situations like these are hard to regret. Sure, things could have panned out differently had you done X instead of Y or chosen Moulton over Thorne that day, but for the most part chance is what it is: random variation, divine intervention or the narration of Morgan Freeman. 

You count the blessings gratefully, shake-off the setbacks resiliently, and move on with your day, hoping that the good outweighs the bad. 

Retrospectively, the real regrets and triumphs of Bowdoin life lie in the conscious choices we make. While their impact may not always surpass that of serendipitous events, their outcomes serve as a testament to what it means to be here and to be human. 

See situation. Think about situation. Make decision about situation. Act on decision. 

Ok, maybe the order gets jumbled up sometimes…or all the time, but that’s the general equation for life. We maximize our happiness given the constraints of our environment and our abilities. 
If there’s been any kind of theme to this column, it’s been social empiricism. Take nothing for granted. Try life choices out. Evaluate the outcome. Refine accordingly. 

The best and the worst part of my four years here has been having the opportunity to consciously create a life for myself. Despite some rules that sometimes felt unnecessary or paternalistic, Bowdoin provided the space—literally and figuratively—required to figure that life out and to screw it up as well. 

Approaching the finish line with the other 2013ers and some 2012ers, it’s rewarding to see everyone else has done the same. People have different friends, different majors, different jobs and different significant others than anticipated. And while some of those outcomes may have been the product of chance, many of them were the result of bold choices. 

Because sometimes where you start at Bowdoin isn’t where you want to end. 

Sometimes that overworked or maybe under-qualified ResLife staffer doesn’t know what’s best. Sometimes you have to create your own destiny, go out on a limb with the risk of falling flat on your face to be the kind of person you want to be and create the life you imagined. Sometimes you have to be selfish to make that happen.

Watching people find their places, taking the brave step of leaving something behind that was safe but not fulfilling enough to chase something different, makes me smile. Because at the end of the day, I think that’s what life’s about; the honest pursuit of happiness, the pursuit of that just-right cut of grass. 

Sure, it’s on a small scale, but seeing so many people successfully find their place at Bowdoin has been the defining experience of these four years.