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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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Harleen Kaur: Learning to say goodbye

By Harleen Kaur, Columnist
Published July 30, 2014

My standard answer for telling people how this summer went has become, “It’s just as important to learn what you don’t like as learning what you do like.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly had positive experiences in D.C. My internship on the Hill has given me more insights into federal work than I could have imagined. I met new and wonderful people, and I learned how to brave the 80 to 90 percent humidity and 90 degree weather while walking 40 minutes to work in business professional attire. All incredibly important in my opinion.

However, it still left something to be desired. Last summer, I had an internship and living experience that would be my dream to recreate as my post-graduation plans. I loved every second of it and was incredibly disappointed when the last day finally came, sending me away from New York and back to Ann Arbor. This year, with a countdown going since the day I got here, I worry that I may have blocked my own ability to have a good time with my excitement for senior year and things to come. But as I prepare to leave D.C. and return to Ann Arbor for the fourth, and final, time, I do know that this summer has been an important one.

Leaving junior year, I felt burnt out, overwhelmed and uncertain. I knew that I had bitten off way more than I could chew. So much so that my boss told me that if I didn’t return in the fall with a significant decrease in my level of involvement in extracurricular activities, we would have to have a more serious conversation about it. I spent this summer reflecting, making lists, choosing and unchoosing. How does one decide which love is greater than another? With one or two exceptions, I have never quit something before out of choice. Even in high school, I only really “quit” because I graduated. In college, it had happened because of inevitable conflicts or things out of my control. But to willingly leave an extra-curricular? I was baffled.

I’ve never really liked to say that I’m “moving on to bigger and better things.” In the back of my mind, it always felt like I was saying that the things I was leaving were just stepping stones, nothing more. For me, all my involvements are more like a journey than a staircase. I may come back to something, I may realize how much I enjoy an activity and find another way to pursue it or I could learn that I don’t like something at all. However, regardless of which result it is, each is just as valuable of a learning experience. No matter what it may be, each job, internship, extracurricular or class that I have pursued has made me who I am and has shaped my aspirations in life. Some have made things more clear while others have confused me more than I was before I started. And yet, each is valuable. Each is significant.

However, it’s still important to know when to let go. Just because something is good for you, doesn’t mean that it always will be, or that it will be the best possible option at that time. In part, that’s why I’ve decided that this will be my last article for The Daily. Though I’ve loved the conversations I’ve been able to have and the people I’ve been able to meet because of my time as a columnist, I also recognize that my intentions I had when I joined have been fulfilled. Though journalistic writing may certainly be something I return to later in life, I have realized my need to spend more time on other ventures and pursue those avenues, as well, to see how fruitful they may be.

As senior year approaches (quicker than I’d like), I’m hoping that most of my goodbyes will actually be see-you-soons, and though it will be hard to not live down the hall from my closest friends or be able to see familiar faces in the dining hall, in lecture, or on the Diag, I know that the friends I made here will be some for the ages. My four years at Michigan will always be some of my greatest, but I know that they will also lead me to new and great adventures for the rest of my life. Saying goodbye is hard, but saying hello to something else can make it a little easier. In the end, I know I’m not replacing my experiences and relationships that I made in Ann Arbor, but actually adding to them.

And so, for today goodbye, for tomorrow good luck and forever go blue!

Harleen Kaur can be reached at harleen@umich.edu.