Don’t Be Afraid to Burn Your Bridges

I wrote this little essay half my life ago, back in 1993 when I was 21 years old.  I was then on the very beginning of my adult path, which I was manifesting by hitchhiking around the perimeter of Australia, starting and ending in Melbourne, where I’d been living as an exchange student in biology.  I wrote this essay one early morning in my tent in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, having hitched there from Western Australia.  I’d already made it more than halfway around the continent.  Meanwhile, my parents had just split up not a few weeks before, and I found this out via telephone.  I knew that when I returned home to New York nothing in my life would ever be the same, myself included.  I knew that if I were to survive and thrive that I would have to look deep inside myself and know who I was, what I stood for, and where I was going.  And so I wrote, channeling the truth that was pouring out of me.  This gem, as I see it in hindsight, was one of my first clear expressions of that. Continue reading

Pros and Cons of Having Gone to Swarthmore

Twenty years ago this month I graduated from Swarthmore College with a liberal arts degree in biology.  I’d been well-trained to do everything and nothing:  everything because four years of Swarthmore convinced me that I could learn most anything successfully, and nothing because past that I really hadn’t learned much of practical value.  After leaving Swarthmore I entered the world with high confidence and major insecurity.  I had some wonderful and very rough years ahead.  Had Swarthmore prepared me for a balanced life as it so roundly promised or had it failed me?  Reflecting on those formative years of two decades back, I wish to study my college experience, in good Swarthmore fashion, logically. Continue reading