Early on in high school, an erroneous notion is instilled in many of us—that if we just get this score on the SATs, or if we just do this after-school club, we will get into the right college. And if we get into the right college, dazzle some esteemed professor and receive a prestigious research fellowship or internship, we will get into the right graduate school or get the right job. And if we can just do that, everything else will magically fall into place and we will be happy.
We were all sold a certain vision of the future that Bowdoin would provide, no matter what we intended to do with our degrees. Some of us recall admission counselors telling us that, “not everyone knows about Bowdoin, but the right people do.”
In early March, in a span of a week, this frame of thinking about the future was destroyed. We packed up our belongings, went back to our homes around the world and were forced to reckon with feelings of immense uncertainty. That path we had latched on to was suddenly tenuous, our plans in jeopardy.
But the world moved on and so did we. We did puzzles and went on long walks, giving a wide berth to anybody we passed. And we stayed connected to Bowdoin, specifically the parts that matter. We exchanged emails with our favorite professors, video chatted with our friends until the wee hours of the morning and thought long and hard about how our studies could impact the world.
While at Bowdoin, we are encouraged to plan our days and to think of the years ahead. COVID-19 has reminded all of us that sometimes we can’t plan for the next day. Adaptability has become our greatest asset as our daily routines and our future plans have changed. Maybe those plans do not exist at all anymore. And that’s fine.
It has been almost nine months since Bowdoin transitioned to remote learning, and the changed way of life shows no sign of stopping. Even though the majority of us will be back on campus next semester, it will be a semester like no other, and will again force us to shift our expectations of what being a Bowdoin student means. But we will continue to show up and do the best that we can. And this effort will always be enough.
This year has thrown many obstacles at us, but we have learned how to adjust, and we have become better people for it.
What we have experienced is not just a shift away from our own mindsets. Much of this is systemic. Those of us who have spent the semester remotely have unexpectedly experienced freedom from rigid social and academic structures, many of which were defined in the 19th century by Protestant men in New England. Many of us feel that we cannot fit the supposed mold of what a successful Bowdoin student looks like. Time away from this has given us the ability to recognize this and learn to better resemble ourselves.
This doesn’t have to end when we return to Bowdoin. Campus is certainly structured in a manner that derives value from prestige, productivity and accolades. Yet we can still create and nurture a community that reimagines the path forward and allows us to determine how we can exist simultaneously as Bowdoin students and as ourselves.
Separating your self-worth from contrived metrics of success, from that imagined future you can never live up to, is paramount. When the College tells us that ‘we are the future leaders of tomorrow,’ it risks setting up unhealthy expectations. If this year has taught us anything, it’s this: being kind to those around you, being a curious and engaged member of your community or even just making it through the day is something to be proud of. It is its own version of enough.
This editorial represents the majority view of the Editorial Board which is comprised of Julia Jennings, Katie King, Diego Lasarte, Kate Lusignan, Nina McKay and Ayub Tahlil.