Last October Taylor Swift released an album. My friend and I
had both been looking forward to it for ages and wanted to listen to it, together,
as soon as possible. I picked her up at 5am Monday morning, to give us enough
time to listen before school started. It was still dark when we left her house
and drove to Magnuson Park.

We cranked up the volume, opened the doors of my car, and
danced like wild things out on the grass while the sun rose and turned the sky
brilliant pink. It felt huge. Partially because it felt like the culmination of
everything – from listening to her first album on my iPod Nano as a sixth
grader all the way up to that fall, with high school behind me, full of
uncertainty about my future and my path. Yet simultaneously it wasn’t about the
past at all; all that existed in that moment was me and the sky and the music.
The best I can explain it is that in that moment I acutely aware that I was
both the oldest I had ever been and the youngest I would ever be again. And
there’s one song in particular that can bring me straight back to that morning;
Style became symbolic of the whole

Flash forward to almost a year later. It’s night and the sky
is dark but not so dark that it’s impossible to see the redwoods that surround
me extending upwards. I am sitting in a circle with people who I met less than
a week ago. Someone has a guitar, and three or four someones are singing along
to it beautifully. I sang very quietly, hoping that no one could hear me well enough
to recognize that I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

One song finishes and the next starts and the chords are
very familiar. By the second verse I feel the same energy coursing through me
that I did that morning at Magnuson. But it’s not quite the same. It lacks the
wildness, the fear of the future, the lack of surety that I felt a year ago. Now
I am nervous but excited, confident that I am in the right place. Aware of my
age and my youth but also a little more comfortable with the uncertainty that
comes with the point I’m at in my life, and a little more trusting in myself
that I can find my way through it.

That was just a few days ago, during the first half of
Pre-Departure Training. We spent five days at a camp in the redwoods and four
at Stanford, preparing for our year abroad. Along with eighty other Fellows I
listened to speakers, discussed interesting questions, and went through
workshops on everything from meditation to distribution of wealth to globalism.
And although all of this made me feel more prepared, I think that really this
entire past year has been getting me ready for this next year in Ecuador. And
the energy and surety that I’m in the right place have only grown. Any doubts I
had beforehand, or during the first couple days, were completely gone after
listening to my friends and fellow Fellows sing under the redwoods that night.

And now I’m off to Ecuador, finally! I don’t know if I’m
completely ready, but I’m ready enough. I trust myself to be able to figure it out
as I go, just like I have been since that morning last October.