This year, when I applied at the beginning of September, my proposal for a creative writing thesis was rejected.
I think back to the summer, around this time, when I met with a creative writing professor to prepare my thesis application. We discussed some ideas here and there and then I left for New York to start my summer internship. Although the creative writing thesis had been the reason I wanted to be an English major in the first place, which subsequently defined my collegiate academic experience accordingly, it was the last thing on my mind that summer.
When I got off work that summer, I did not work on revisions of my thesis proposal. Instead, I studied finance and industrial organization until I promptly went to sleep at 11 PM. On weekends, I would do more readings on finance and do practice cases with some people. By the end of that summer, I read numerous textbooks and finished more than 60 practice cases. Although I have spent the near the entirety of my time as an undergraduate longing for love, this was a summer where none of it mattered.
The philosophy goes: love comes and goes, but full-time recruiting only happens once in a lifetime. Besides, there’s not really any point in longing for love when longing for love doesn’t make it any more real.
The thing is — this is not something I regret. This was one of the clearest points of my time as an undergraduate. I had a distinct purpose — prioritize my professional interests and don’t fuck up full-time recruiting — and I recognize what I was willing to sacrifice to achieve those goals — my social and artistic pursuits. It was a moment of clarity when I looked at previous moments of clarity and rejected them. Even though I thought a lot about my employment prospects throughout my time as an undergraduate, so much of it was just stress and anxiety over a topic in which I knew nothing about. I claimed to have clarity under states of duress, but there can be no clarity in states of duress. That summer, I had enough security to recognize what mattered most and understand what was necessary to consecrate those objectives. Bridging those disconnects equates to one of the fundamental challenges to achieve clarity of clarity.
At the end of the day, I feel that what matters in life most of all is clarity — recognizing among what you consider to be clarity, which is the clearest. Unfortunately, clarity is something I did not have for a lot of my life.
Some people come into college with a somewhat good understanding of what they want out of the experience. Some of my friends are extremely purpose-driven. They had a good idea how what they wanted to do coming into college, and they continue to have a good idea of what they want to do as they graduate. I had a friend who knew she wanted to be a doctor since middle school (like me! except not at all). She received all A’s throughout her entire time as an undergraduate and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She still has the same goal now that she did at the beginning of college. I had another friend who knew she wanted to become an investment banker the moment she stepped foot on Locust Walk. Four years later, after two different investment banking internships in two different product groups in two different banks, she continues to pursue her passions in investment banking.
I wish I didn’t to college wanting to study medicine because this short blip in clarity resulted in confusion for the next three years. I have another friend who transferred from another school to Penn who wished she knew more about what kind of school she wanted to go to before she committed to a college. During my time in college, I wished I questioned myself more — and I mean, genuinely questioning my values, as opposed to questioning myself to the bare minimum when I thought I was questioning myself without questioning what was truly worth questioning. In terms of those moments lacking clarity, it is so easy to ascribe another reality in which things were more clear. Because, among the realities that we occupy, we can only find clarity within the reality we currently occupy. How easy would life be without navigating that reality disconnect.
And so, even though I had little idea of what I valued throughout my experience in college, I have found a new clarity through comparing my existing clarities with one another. It is only through comparison can there be an understanding of additional purity in clarity. As an extension of Levinasian metaethics, we can only understand ourselves through our understanding of others. Within our inner world, we can only understand our thoughts relative to other thoughts. From the sheer magnitude of the emotional spectrum, we can discover a new reality within the context of a different permutation of thoughts and emotions. Living equates to experiencing multiple realities given these permutations of thought and emotion given external context. Within the different clarities we have obtained from the different realities we occupy, we can understand which clarity is the clearest through accessing all of the other clarities we have discovered. This comparative study amounts to metaclarity.
Surely, my vision isn’t as clear as those individuals who have known their interests for most of their lives and who have utilized the past four years to strengthen their resolve in those goals. But, I learned from them — the people who understand their interests and values with the discipline to follow through on those interests and values. Recognizing what truly constitutes clarity amounts to the fundamental goal of existence. Attempting to parallel this difference equates to a Sisyphysian task. But that, of course, is the 👏meaning 👏 of 👏 life.