The new new

September is for new beginnings, for new school years, fresh supplies and shiny new clothes. But this year as I start my masters degree at Stanford I’m feeling a swirl of mixed emotions from utter and complete gratitude and joy to a vicious sense of lacking (or as my Brazilian friends might put it, saudades).

Here I am, beyond privileged to experience the extreme nerdiness of the Stanford bubble, to engage with peers and professors of the highest quality but that in itself doesn’t ensure any sense of security.

I know I’m not alone in feeling the weight of imposter syndrome (wait, like they really meant to choose me?) or the floating duck syndrome (gotta make sure I look like I’ve got it all together while my feet are actual frantically racing to keep me afloat below the surface) but it is a constant pressure to remind myself that they did want me. I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t think I could handle it and moreover, if I learned anything in Peace Corps, it’s that I don’t have to have it all together.

The difference is astronomical. Here I am in an environment that openly discusses mental health and prioritizes the health of its students, a place that encourages students to collaborate and reach out for assistance in order to level the burden. Here I am, not isolated by 7 hours of hectic taxi rides but with resources at the tips of my fingers as soon as I decide I want them.

It’s with that in mind that I find myself thinking joyfully “first day of school! First day of school!” (in a Nemo voice). It’s with the recognition that I don’t have to command a class of 50-100 students that I suddenly can’t wait to get back in the classroom, this time to feed my thirst for knowledge.

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