Focus on the journey or the destination?
The first weekend of November I packed up a small duffel bag and walked 15 minutes from the Emerson College campus to South Station, New England's second-largest transportation center.
I pushed my way through the massive, bustling train station, observing all the people passing through with suitcases: businessmen, families, couples. I'm always so curious when I'm traveling. Where are all these people going? Who are they going to see?
Even more exciting was that for a $20 round-trip fare and an hour of my time, I could be in a completely different state. Everything is so accessible and close together on the East Coast in relation to the West.
I boarded the commuter rail train to Providence, R.I., excited to spend the weekend with a good friend from high school who now attends Brown University.
Brown is a classically beautiful, brick-building campus, and Providence itself is a really lovely city. I thought of it as a mini-Boston: similar New England architecture but less crowded and overwhelming.
My three-day visit was filled with really good food - gyro sandwiches, tortellini pizza and chocolate croissants - and really interesting conversation.
One talk, in particular, went a little something like this:
"Unless you plan on attending grad school, grades in college don't technically matter as long as you pass, get the credit, and end up with a degree, right?"
I agreed, because it's a true statement.
Why strive for the A when all you need is the C? How sad is it that in the last four years I pushed for the better grade and the better test score in high school strictly because I would hopefully end up in the right college because of it. The destination was the goal.
Now that I made it here, I look around thinking, OK now what? Friends of mine, feeling similarly, even pointed out they could probably pass some courses without ever attending class.
But it wasn't until this weekend, when it was stated so bluntly, that I finally realized that is just not the point. It's the major difference between college and high school.
I haven't thought far enough ahead to know whether in four years I will want to attend graduate school. As a writing major it's not a necessity, but in today's world and struggling economy, any chance at a higher degree is encouraged.
Regardless of the future, though, these first four years in college - these undergraduate years of new and shiny and interesting - do count.
Revelation in hand, I am being pushed and supported by a new breath of fresh air as semester finals taunt maniacally ahead. I will focus less on the grades and more on the effort I am putting in to receive them, the connections I am making with my professors and fellow classmates and the feeling of new knowledge beneath my belt.
Just because a target ahead is not yet defined does not mean the steps in between are meaningless. The grades matter, not because of an admissions counselor's final judgment but because they prove why we are here, that we are taking it seriously, that we care about learning, that we crave it.
I arrived back at South Station and again walked past the traveling masses, their feet rushing them to a platform, location in sight, and destination in mind. Much like when I sat in the station a few days earlier, I wondered about the faces. Where are they going? Who are they going to see?
This time, however, as I pushed open the door to the sharp chilly Boston air I was curious about myself. Where am I going? Who am I going to see? The bigger picture floated around my mind on the 15-minute walk home.
Of course, I don't know for sure yet, the finish line is still unclear. But there's no reason to disregard the entire marathon it takes to get there.
Victoria Hulbert, a graduate of South High School in Torrance, writes every other Monday about her first year at Emerson College in Boston. She can be reached at email@example.com.