Now that I’ve graduated, it’s easy to see just how far college has taken me. Three years ago, as a freshman at Pomona, life was a total mystery to me. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what my “passion” was, who my parents were, what my name was, or why I’d woken up in a freshman dorm at a liberal arts college in California with retrograde amnesia and covered in cryptic alphanumeric tattoos.
Here’s what I wish I’d known back then: There was no reason to be scared, because everything would turn out just fine.
Still, those first few weeks were tough for me. Outwardly I kept up appearances, smiling and acting like I knew who I was and I knew what I wanted out of my education. But on the inside I was freaking out, feeling like I was the only one on campus—sometimes even the only one in the entire world—who didn’t belong, the only one who didn’t have any interests, the only one who inexplicably had seven different passports with seven different names, the only one who had no functional memory of anything before Aug. 28, 2010.
The only one who didn’t have it all figured out.
Thinking back, what stressed me out most were all the unanswered questions: Am I already hurting myself by taking the wrong first semester courses? Where was I born? Who is Katya? Why do I keep having daytime visions in which I am pursued through a metal-walled forest compound at night by a tall, muscular man apparently called Vlad? In short, how do I make my way through this crazy thing we call “college”?
Well, nearly half a decade later, I can see I needn’t have been so anxious. Some of my worries disappeared after a few months. For instance, I quickly learned that I was a Turkish national fluent in five languages, that I enjoyed working collaboratively with other students, that “John McIntosh” is a code name used interchangeably by all 11 physicists involved in The Incident, and that applied econ wasn’t really for me.
Of course, there are some questions I still don’t know the answers to, but the remarkable thing is how I’ve reached a place where I don’t need to know. Questions like what my true calling in life is, who my “real” friends are, or which of my limbs are indistinguishable bionic replicas of my former body. As I grew older, I realized I may never answer such questions, but I’ve learned to accept and embrace them as part of my life.
If I could go back and give my freshman self some words of advice, here’s what I’d say:
First, don’t be afraid of taking risks! You’ll never discover your interests, much less the true purpose of the Prospero Initiative, if you don’t let yourself branch out every once in a while, talk to new people, and have fun. Second, Katya cannot be trusted: Kill her the first chance you get. Next, and this is something I really wish I’d known: Connect with professors. They can be some of your best friends and—if and when the Initiative comes for you midway through your sophomore year—invaluable allies who will quite literally save your life.
Finally, I would tell my younger self this: You are somehow proficient in a staggering range of lethal martial arts techniques. To this day I can’t say how or why you learned them, but the beautiful fact is that, as with everything else freshman year, it doesn’t matter!
Just go out there and start using them.