In the summer before high school, I won a speech competition. The host of the competition handed me my prize, my first ever iPod, and asked me why I thought I won. I felt I performed horrendously, so I wasn’t really sure why. But then she pulled me close and said, “It was passion. You pulled everyone in with your passion. Promise me you won’t lose that.”
I’ve never forgotten what that woman said, but “passion” itself is absurdly abstract. We’ve all heard it used in speeches plenty of times, and in high school, my idea of passion was something I thought I deserved a yearbook superlative for. But after spending over four years at Binghamton University, I realized that passion is a drive that forces you to push yourself, something that comes in different forms and can be found in unexpected places — even in the people around you.
Here at BU, there are people from all walks of life who dedicate themselves to something they truly care about — from photography to political engagement, traveling to collecting bottle caps. I’ve come to understand “passion” through these people, whose faces illuminate and smiles blossom at the thought of doing what they love. I see it in the students who dance in the reflections of the Grand Corridor windows; who study Shakespeare’s plays by day and perform them at night; who spend long hours in clinicals and enjoy every minute; who construct koi ponds and towering skeletons, cardboard Ping-Pong tables and strings of sakura for club events.
I watched these students pursue and persevere. Between piles of coursework and part-time jobs, internships and exams, when would anyone find the time to put on a cultural showcase for 400 people? Or make a haunted house? The people at this University whom I have had the pleasure of working with have proven to me that passion requires effort. It requires that you push yourself beyond what you perceive to be your limits in order to grow and understand that the extent of what you can accomplish may be defined by practical limitations, but the extent of what you gain from trying is infinite.
I saw passion everywhere I went, in everyone I met, and it is one of the most awe-inspiring sights I’ve seen at BU.
When you have your passion and you follow it however you can, the rest will follow. The friends who nurture you, who you were meant to meet, will find you and you will find them. BU has given me the opportunity to meet those people and to be inspired by them every day so that I, too, can explore the things I love and strive to be a better version of myself — and that, I have to say, is generous.
Thank you to my closest friends, my family, for keeping me alive and afloat. I love you all with every fiber of my being.
Thank you to the faculty who have taught and supported me, and thank you to the organizations I had the sincerest honor of being a part of: the Japanese Association (BUJA), Asian Student Union and Pipe Dream. Thank you for welcoming me to a space of warmth, laughter and light.
To all whom I leave behind, you who are reading this article, I hope you recognize the spark in yourselves, too. I hope you use your time in this University to cultivate your passions or discover them if you feel you haven’t yet. Find it, and protect it with your lives. It doesn’t have to be related to a career path, and it doesn’t have to be grand. Just do something that you truly love. I can’t guarantee that it’ll win you an iPod, but for what it’s worth, your passion is worth more than that anyway.
Priyanka Das is a senior double-majoring in English and Japanese studies. She is a copy editor.