Finding Constants in a Changing Life

It’s been a while, readers.

Over the past year, I’ve had a lot of change in my life. I visited Barcelona last summer, and immediately after that the lack of constancy began. I joined a new lab researching neuroprosthetics which I had no prior experience in. I began studying to take my MCAT, took the test, then found out I did well on it. I stopped living in a dorm and moved to an off-campus apartment. This came with the bonus of learning how to clean up after myself, how to meal prep efficiently, and how to get onto campus in a timely manner for my 8:30 AM classes. I made new friends – some who seem permanent and others who have already gone. I found old friends – some of whom I went years without seeing. I began going to the gym at least three times per week which lead to major health improvements.

Yet in these changing waters, the important rocks of constancy I’ve been able to cling onto have kept me grounded. When I began working in my new lab and discovered it would be purely MatLab coding, which I had no prior experience in (and had only taken one CS course in college), I returned my most important philosophy: Google what you don’t know. After working with the team for the past year now, I think I have successfully conned them into thinking I know what I’m doing when in reality most of my work is an amalgamation of Stack Overflow, YouTube tutorials, and transcriptions of my Differential Equations textbook into code. I balanced my classes with studying and “passed” the MCAT by emphasizing a rule I created when applying to college: “no stress.” It’s constants like these that helped me succeed this past academic year, so I want to take the time to look back and reflect on who and what these constants were.

Christmas 2018 marked one year since I made the commitment to work out at least 3x per week, and the progress I’ve made has been more important for me than any GPA climbs in the same time. My college experience has completed changed because of this one change to my lifestyle. By forcing myself to the gym, I had to improve my studying efficiency in order to create a new 90 minute block of time. In order to build muscle, I had to start eating healthily and consistently. To manage my fatigue and recovery, I had to sleep at least 7 hours every night. These changes manifested themselves in an improved lifestyle: I no longer craved sugary snacks between classes or late at night. My unhealthy habit of cycling through days of over and under eating leveled into 5 consistent meals per day. I gained 90 minutes every other day to unwind and ignore my academic life which simultaneously improved my mental and physical health. All of a sudden, school didn’t seem that hard. I felt less stressed about class which translated into improved grades. Over time, my friends noticed these changes and our relationships grew as some of them began consistently joining me in the gym. My future roommate began hitting the gym with me nightly last fall which brought us closer together in a way only spotting someone at the bench can do.

Perhaps the biggest change to come out of going to the gym regularly is that I hopped onto the “athleisure” after fighting it for years. Nowadays you’re as likely to see me in this outfit as you are in skinny jeans and a floral shirt.

Yet the most important constant was my bi-annual visit to some of my oldest friends

Sam Filson
Soon to be expert world traveler in everything Spain and Lesotho-related
Madison Anderson
Current Zeta Tau Alpha President

The above people and I see each other twice a year generally: once over the summer and once in the winter. This is in large part due to WashU’s schedule which has us start the fall semester a week after everyone else has already begun, and end nearly two weeks after everyone is already home. Nevertheless, we make it work. The Anderson’s always welcome us over during Christmas time to take advantage of our voracious metabolism and finish off any leftovers they have once their family leaves. It was at this post-Christmas reunion that Madison shattered Sam and I’s hearts by informing us that she would be moving two hours away from us into the middle of Missouri. Sam told me later that same night about his plans for the semester involving studying abroad in Spain and then immediately flying to Lesotho to conduct research in sugar cane production amongst the native farmers. I know I should have been slightly less hurt because Madison tells me her sorority provides classes in heartbreaking, and Sam sometimes forgets to text me mid-conversation, but it still sucked.

Yet out of nothing I found something. Despite Madison moving away, Sam and I recently sped through Mid Missouri to find her and her family in Ashlyn, MO. The ride went surprisingly fast despite I70’s flatness, and the day we spent bumming around in a small town felt as enjoyable as anything we’d done in St. Louis the past four years. We drove 25 minutes to a pool that gave off major Stranger Things 3 vibes in an area that was only recently covered in flood water. Along the ride home we nearly stopped to cut corn off a roadside farm for a souvenir until we realized how dumb of a keepsake corner in the Midwest would be. While we can’t meet at my house and drive to Ted Drewes to eat our concretes for hours as we recount the semester’s latest gossip and news, we have something new in our relationship that is both a blessing and a curse: commitment.

Commitment to continue our friendship means that we create time to spend together despite going months apart every year. It’s not easy creating time when all of us have jobs, school, and all the associated commitments that come with them. Yet the reward that comes when we all see each other for the first time since Christmas at a Cardinal’s game in July is a feeling that becomes emphasized through the commitment we made to see it happen. I can count on two hands the number of I’ve seen them since 2016, yet every time we meet it’s as if 7th period AP Psychology is about to begin and we have only a few minutes to spill the tea or whatever that slang is today.

On that note, I saw my best friend (and one of my original photographers) for the first time last Thanksgiving since March 2017. I find it amazing how we’re still best friends despite going 20ish months without hearing each others voices, and only communicating through text message conversations. Yet here we are, back at Forest Park’s Art Museum where I had one of my first shoots. I wish I could share the unedited photograph but unfortunately I recently broke the external hard drive containing these (and the past 4 years’) photos so until I get it fixed, all I have is the sephia-filter copy.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a set of friends from years ago who I still remain in contact and visit with today. A few weeks ago I participated with some Synapse exec members as part of a “College Transition” panel for St. Louis high schoolers who asked about what happened to our high school friends after going to college. Both my co-panelists left that question to me, which was the moment I realized that not everybody has relationships like these in their lives. While many of my old friends and I have grown apart over time, with a few the distance has yet to change our relationships. Yes most of my relationships from that time have withered, but the ones that survived have thrived. When I drive to Ted’s with my friends and we sit in our car as they give me the run up of all the Chesterfield gossip I’ve missed out on over the past 6 months, I forget that we aren’t about graduate and set off on our own adventures.

Visiting old friends and hitting pause on this period of ongoing and upcoming helped push me through what’s been a challenging year. Not all of these changes have been positive, yet knowing that I have stones I can step on to keep above the rapidly changing waters has helped me traverse an important period of my life. I have no doubt that the upcoming year will challenge me to grow once again as I face the upcoming finality of my undergraduate experience, but I also have no doubt that my rocks will still be there for me to cling to. I hope that each of you reading this post will take the time to text someone who’s been important in your life the past months or years because our time here is too fleeting and unpredictable to let thoughts like these go unknown. Looking forward, I have an article set to go live next week on my different looks over the past year – unfortunately primarily consisting of iPhone photos and mirror selfies – so stay tuned for more

– Sid

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