5:55 p.m., Thurs., March 31
Having just missed my train from Chicago to Ann Arbor, I walked out of Union Station tired and dejected. I’d never missed a train before. I’d never missed anything before. From kindergarten to high school, I think I’d only missed one day of school, so this was new. To make matters worse, I’d also spent the entire day lecturing my mom about how she should stop lecturing me because I was an adult now. I was disappointed in my inability to be responsible. Recklessness was a trait, I thought, I had left behind. “Everyone does when they grow up,” I told myself. It was the eve of April Fools’ Day and I felt like, well, a fool.
7:33 p.m., Fri., April 1
I poured my heart out to a friend. Not a very close friend, but someone who I felt like I could trust at the moment. I lamented that I get attached to people and to things, way too quickly and way too much — something else that I believed people got better at as they got older. Apparently not the case with me. My friend gave me advice that I had grown accustomed to getting from teachers and friends in high school. She assured me that I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Although short-lived, that conversation did lift my spirits.
11:24 p.m., Fri., April 1
We’d brought all the mattresses out onto the living room floor, gathered the snacks and pulled up a Bollywood classic on our laptop. It was a slumber party in its purest form. Me and my friends, reliving the joys of a childhood activity we hadn’t done in years. I needed to unwind and I needed distractions; being surrounded by my favorite people on campus seemed like the perfect way to do it.
3:14 p.m., Sat., April 2
“We’re watching Dhoom 2 if you’re in.” The first American friend I ever made in Ann Arbor texted me this and I was at her place within the hour. In her living room were six people, three of whom did not speak Hindi, watching one of my favorite Hindi movies of all time, simply because one of their friends suggested it. There was no mockery of the sheer number of songs in the movie, no looking down at the frankly below-average special effects and no sniggering at the lack of consistency in the plot — just a room of open-minded individuals willing to broaden their horizons and I could not be more grateful.
10:10 p.m., Sat., April 2
The second night of our slumber party, we watched a Bollywood movie where the protagonist wore a Michigan cap for the entirety of the film. It was very cool. This happened just two days after a cashier during my visit to Northwestern University saw my Michigan debit card and said that, even though he didn’t go here, it was his favorite school. I was again reminded just how gargantuan this institution is. Both the cap and the friendly cashier made me smile.
4:50 p.m., Sun., April 3
A cricket match in India followed by three football matches in the U.K., Spain and then Italy. A morning that started at 9 a.m. ended at 5 p.m. I had my very own version of a “me” day. Even back home, I’d often spend Sundays parked in front of the TV, consuming match after match, be it cricket, football, tennis or any sport that they are willing to broadcast, as I catch up on all the work I’d procrastinated over the weekend. The perfect day. I might have physically been in Ann Arbor, but mentally, I was back in my living room in Mumbai. It felt good.
8:26 p.m., Sun., April 3
As I write this piece, sitting in the Starbucks on State Street, I am having a caramel frappuccino, not because it’s my favorite drink, but because when Starbucks first came to Mumbai, India, in 2012, it was what my brother and I ordered. Nostalgia seemed to be the theme of this weekend so I didn’t want to break the pattern.
Now, what was the point of me walking you through my weekend? I promise you, there was a reason, but first let me acknowledge this. I had a very fortunate childhood. I had a family that fulfilled all my wishes. Honestly, I have nothing to complain about. Still, from missing that train in Chicago to realizing just how much time I wasted while sitting in that Starbucks, I felt like the odds were just stacked against me. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right and that even if I tried my best, I was just being dealt the worst hand.
If you ever find yourself in a situation like that, all I want to say is that there is nothing wrong with it. And more importantly, in those difficult times, if you find yourself craving familiarity, that is the most natural thing you can feel. As the world becomes more fast-paced and commercialized, there is an increasing emphasis on pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone. While that train of thought definitely has its merits, it is important to give yourself a break once in a while.
Even in Ann Arbor, a city that could not be more different than the one I grew up in, I was able to find familiarity and comfort in people I have known for less than eight months, to the extent that I feel pride in this city and this school. Going back to doing the things that reminded me of home didn’t just help clear my mind and break away from the never-ending cycle of assignments and midterms, it also reignited the fire in me — the fire I had before I came to Ann Arbor. The fire I had that pushed me everyday to try and become the best version of myself and travel halfway across the world to study what I loved. In all the hustle and bustle of college life, I had forgotten the reason I had come to this school in the first place.
To anyone reading this, I do not know you, but I know that if not right now, there was a time when you had this very same fire in your belly — there was something you wanted to do or someone you wanted to make proud and if you feel like you’ve strayed off that path, I just want to remind you that you can still do it. You’ve got more than enough time. And when you’re not feeling particularly great about yourself, give yourself a break, because it might just do the trick.
Rushabh Shah is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.