This will never be my secret

by Sarah Luna

Last Tuesday, I had the wonderful opportunity of listening to Frank Warren speak. He is the founder of PostSecret–a community project where anyone in the world can send a secret on the back of a postcard. He started this project as a way to raise awareness of suicide and to encourage people share their secrets and get the help they need. The secrets are warm, funny, depressing, inappropriate, heart-wrenching, and inspiring. He receives thousands of postcards each week and posts a few of them each Sunday on the website.

This Sunday I saw this secret:

From PostSecret 10/24/10

I was immediately shaken. This could easily become my secret in 10 years if I let it. I’d worked so hard as an undergraduate. I’m working so hard now as a PhD student. Will I look back on my 20s and wonder what happened?

At 22, I’m one of the youngest in my incoming class. I am so grateful to have so many strong women around me. Before starting this program, some went to the Peace Corps, some went to work with WHO, some volunteered, some were Fulbright scholars, some traveled, some got married and had children–and all of them are amazing. They can look back at their early 20s and say they accomplished something.

It’s easy to get discouraged when I think about the next 5 or 6 years studying, reading, writing, and being constantly in a lab or library.

hint...Little Mermaid

But then I remember that this is what I love. I love digging into a challenging problem. I love presenting and passing on what I know. I even enjoy being a TA (most of the time). In the next few years, I will be extending the boundary of human knowledge. Just think about that. It’s like being a modern day Columbus. Who wouldn’t get excited over that?

Oh yeah, the people who want lives. There is a trade-off certainly. Eighteen-hour days aren’t everyone’s idea of the ideal work schedule. But I want a cool life, too. I want my life to be worth living now and not just looking ahead. I want to enjoy today as well as tomorrow.

And so I do. I make the conscious choice to enjoy every single day. To do fun things. To step out of my comfort zone.

When I look back on my 20s, I will say: “Wow! My life was incredible! I went to Spain. I went to China. I lived in Texas and New York. I saw two musicals on Broadway. I bought and learned to use a DSLR. I joined a competitive ballroom dance team. I wrote a thesis on bone health and partial gravity. I helped hundreds of freshmen adjust to college life. I made some amazing friends. And I graduated from Texas A&M and got a PhD from Cornell.”

That secret at the beginning of this post is why I have a bucket list and a one-year list. I have my one-year list written down and posted on my bulletin board right where I can see it. I actively plan to accomplish each of those things.

My life is so much more than my quest for a PhD. And that postcard will never be my secret.