We’re back. Just over a year after rushing home from India for my grandpa’s funeral, and I am a rising Sophomore at Minerva Schools @ KGI. It’s been a journey that has taught me countless things, but here are the main takeaways.
Uncertainty is value
COVID has fish slapped us all. And I think the only person who wasn’t surprised by that slap was Bill Gates — and maybe his staunch followers. I was certainly caught off guard. And in a week, life went from regular dorm living (well, regular might be a stretch) to empty dorm living. My three roommates left within a week of our school stating that they recommended we all go home. I sat still just taking it all in. It felt like there was nothing I could do. I was waiting on internship applications and couldn’t afford the expense of a round trip flight so, SF it was for me.
I sat as San Francisco slowly shut down — from fear to shelter in place and mandatory masks. I started navigating the difficulties of team-projects across timezones and started having meetings from anywhere from 7 am to10 pm.
It was like suddenly the revolving door of my life had shut down. I was no longer running from my bed to the gym for a workout, to a cafe for classes, to the Mission for work, then back to the dorm for an assignment meeting. All those things happened online. I now moved from my bed to my floor, to my desk, to the empty beds my roommates left behind. All movement an attempt to shake up my view enough that my brain would get back to work.
I was disoriented, but after the initial shock of saying goodbye to 120 of the classmates I had just lived, cooked, biked, and laughed with for the last nine months, life was okay. Life was more than okay. I settled into a routine and started spending more time with the people I had nearby.
I had no clue where I was going to be in a month from then, but instead of freaking me out, that uncertainty just showed me how much I value the relationships that I had built over the year more.
People are most important
Everyday relationships are sweet. Living in the same room as three other humans and in a dorm with another 160, gave me rich mini-interactions all day. When I jumped in the elevator or headed to the kitchen I’d find myself dropped into some deep conversation about the implications of climate change on war and conflict, or else into a fit of hysteria that no one can quite figure out the reason for. As an introvert, this could be exhausting, but so long as I took the time I needed, those interactions became pearls I shared with those individuals throughout the year.
I want to make a better world because there are other humans to make it for. Not for the earth I love so much, or the animals that live on it.
Those interactions left me spinning, but with a new perspective, and ready for more. When they left, my gut dropped. My pearl necklaces stopped forming. After I recovered, the experience taught me that humans are the best there are. Humans are what make life worth it. Other humans are what drives me to create and to progress.
I want to make a better world because there are other humans to make it for. Not for the earth I love so much, or the other animals that live on it.
Many of my conversations, however, reminded me that they are also the biggest destructive force in our world to date. Our effects on the environment have brought the amount of carbon in the atmosphere from 225 ppm to 400 ppm (equivalent to 10,000 Hiroshima sized atomic bombs). That’s nothing to sneeze at. But that incredible feat has really just widened my perspective on how powerful I imagine the humans on this Earth to be.
A year at Minerva made me more aware of all the millions of big and small ways humans are destroying the ground we stand on. It also taught me to ask why? Why have we destroyed our world?
Because of our drive for progress and our need to create more and better for ourselves.
If we could destroy our world for profit and progress, why can’t we do the reverse?
Reversing our effects on the planet is more difficult than destroying it in the first place. It’s the second law of thermodynamics (in a philosophical not a strictly physical sense). But being around a group of people who all care about something (not necessarily the environment), and are not only willing, but have actually acted on that desire, gives me hope.
Coming out of India, all I could see was the smog I was leaving behind. I was with people who cared, but it didn’t seem enough to have one small group of people who cared. I was too stuck in the magnitude of the problems we were facing. Illiteracy rates, inequality, and global warming all seemed too big for our little school, and our little bit of care.
Being in a place with students who have actually made a difference is invigorating. Even better is being with students who haven’t yet but are willing to step out and try. At Minerva, I lived with both types.
My best friend told me the other day that what inspires him to care for other people is that it takes so little to change the world.
The people I’ve found this year aren’t crushed by the world's problems. Instead, they attack it with that kind of optimism and self-assuredness. Even if they don’t change the world, at least they can. That gives me hope for a future free of the problems we have today.
At the beginning of our year, the CEO of Minerva schools told us all that he hoped we didn’t recognize ourselves at the end of the year. He was right. I don’t.
Not all of that change was Minerva. Some of it was COVID, most of it was the people Minerva brought into my life. But overall, I wouldn’t have traded the experience for the world.
One year down and already I feel more ready to bear arms with my peers and fight for a world I want to live in.
I walked out of the San Francisco dorms for the last time until my Senior graduation on Saturday at 8:54 pm. Eight months after walking into them. Just long enough for this school and it’s people to flip me on my head.