Huang: Life should be an experiment, not a predestined package

Alexandra Huang, Columnist

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Since the middle of last quarter, I started seeing my life as an experiment. I always thought of myself as a responsible and serious person, but realized I am more than that. I started to realize how incomplete my understanding of myself was, and I set out to spend the next few quarters just following my heart and seeing where it takes me.

It started with trying out dance. I went to weekly dance workshops in Evanston and discovered how much I love the free form of expression. People look at me in shock when they hear that I want to pick up dance without ever having danced in my life. “I would never be able to do it from scratch,” one of my friends said. Though I am highly uncoordinated and have no background in dance, my heart told me to do it anyway. I let go of all my instinctive worries and just set myself free. I tried my best to ignore judgments and constantly remind myself that while others have been doing this professionally for years, I am new in the realm of dance. I tried, and that’s all I cared about. The liberating feeling of my body flowing through the music sets my soul free, and the experience is like no other.

Experimentation also takes place in the classroom. Instead of taking a typical math or economics class, I decided to take some less traditional classes, such as Philosophy of Religion, Language and Gender, and even a classics class on the Poetry of War and Peace. These classes can appear non-practical at first sight, but they have opened my mind in ways I would have never imagined. Questions from “Why do humans go to war despite knowing its faulty consequences?” to “What are human virtues and should we pursue them?” are perfect for college students like myself to consider. I believe that we have to become full people before we choose a profession. Considering and tackling these questions will help us not only understand society and our world more, but ourselves as well. If we don’t even know who we are, then how will we know what we are truly searching for?

I’ve also made breakthroughs in my social life through experimentation. I am the last person that would come to mind when I mention the word “sorority,” but I still decided to go through recruitment anyway. I’ve watched movies like “Sydney White” and have heard of the unfavorable reputation about sororities, but how would I know what it is really like to be a sorority girl without having a taste of it myself? While I did have many doubts about recruitment and it was hard to make up my mind, I did it anyway. Even though I have now determined that sorority life is not for me, I am so glad I that stepped outside of my comfort zone to meet new people and see what recruitment is really like. Throughout the process, I met so many interesting and different girls, getting to ask them questions about why they chose their majors and what motivated them personally to join sororities. Getting inspired — or sometimes uninspired — by others is incredibly rewarding. This part of my experimentation involved learning from my fellow peers at Northwestern and understanding the unique choices people make.

My process of experimentation sometimes feels long, treacherous and never-ending. But that is what makes it an experiment. It’s easy to want to quit along the way and just go back to being comfortable, but I’ve learned that the bigger changes I adopt, the sooner I can learn more about myself and the world and the faster I can grow. If I had continued to remain in the same routines and carry out the same actions day after day, week after week, then chances are I would have continued to take the same classes and have the same opinions about what I wanted.

I am a firm believer in the doctrine that we are not who we were, but who we want to become. To reference Michelle Obama’s phrase, we are all becoming. The process of becoming is supposed to be full of trials and errors, as well as unexpected challenges and rewards.

That sounds difficult, but that is also the fun part. By stepping outside of my comfort zone, my life became so much more vibrant and exciting. I crossed paths with amazing people I would never have met if I had remained in my comfortable space, and I realized all these things about myself that I perhaps might have never discovered.

Alexandra Huang is a Weinberg first-year. She can be contacted at alexandrahuang@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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