There are moments in our life when we come across something, whether it be an object, person, book, movie, piece of music, food, or sport, and wonder, Where has this been all my life? We feel like we have been missing out on so much and rejoice over the discovery.
Yet, the less frequently we experience these epiphanies, the more profound it is when we find it.
When I was a child, I learned to not expect very much from the world, because my sphere of knowledge was quite limited, and I couldn’t see very far beyond it. I always sat concertmaster for all three orchestras I was in, participated in all the math and science clubs that I knew existed, and read every single book on the Reading Olympics list. How blind I was back then, to never attempt to breach my limit.
That was before I ever heard of the saying, “If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room.”
I remember feeling an acute boredom at the blandness of my comfort zone, though I didn’t know the word for it back then, and yet nobody could offer me a way to leave. So I carried on this way all throughout middle school, full of energy, with nowhere to spend it on.
Then, moving from a US public school to an international school in China, my life got shaken up quite a bit. Not only was I completely disorientated, I found that I had little to say. I was always told I was unique, but I found that I couldn’t produce any original thoughts.
So, I did all that I could do, where I was, with what brains and resources I had.
Again, I quickly joined all the clubs I humanly could, but soon realized that no one activity would tell me what I wanted to know, or what I wanted to want to know. I was looking for an answer on a blank page. So, taking things into my own hands, I taught myself the entire history of music, starting from even before the Medieval ages, and walked around the house waving my new baton to the Faure Requiem. I cracked open a giant anthology of poetry and educated myself on Browning, Yeats, Wordsworth, Stein, Tennyson, Whitman, and Henley. Then I attempted to write my own. At the same time, I picked up a completely new sport, swimming.
Curiosity fuels passion. I just always had needed the spark to ignite my search. Could I pinpoint the exact source from all those years ago? Yes. “Sophie’s World”, by Jostein Gaarder, was a novel about the history of philosophy that a dear friend picked for me as we were browsing in the library in freshman year. That’s how my interest in Plato, Socrates, Kierkegaard, and the Enlightenment began, and how my own enlightenment began as well. I experienced an aha! moment – the wide expanse of thought flashed before my imagination.
Where’s all the good stuff at? It took me a trip to the other side of the world and a few months of utter confusion to figure out that I had to get out into the big wide world myself to find it. Nobody’s going to teach you what you want to learn unless you ask, that’s what I’m telling you right now. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you.
Today, the list of books I want to read is thousands of titles long, and I am fully aware of my partial ignorance of my complete lack of knowledge. Let me tell you this. Never be afraid that you will run out of things to learn, because epiphany follows epiphany (there isn’t a law of diminishing returns, unlike potato chips). On the brink of graduation, I am more excited than ever to reach for the “utmost bounds of human thought”, in Tennyson’s words, and once, if ever, I get there, find that infinite lies beyond.