"There is this circle I walk
that I have learned to love.
I hope one day to be a spiral
but to the birds I’m a circle.”
I stumbled across this poem, written by the late Jim Harrison, during my senior year here back in 2011. At first glance, Harisson, a cock-eyed, septuagenarian-hedonist had very little in common with myself, a zealous young Muslim. But oddly enough, his poem continues to be an extended metaphor of my life, and perhaps many who choose to re-walk the path of higher education in graduate school.
In June of 2016, I returned to the bucolic confines of Bryan-College Station, and while much of the landscape was recognizable, it was now festooned with burgeoning growth. New towers and complexes seemed to arise where lovably shabby establishments like Fatburger once anchored, catering to a new crowd of wealthier students, whose discerning tastes seemingly include boutique shops and artisanal “piadas.” It was as if the College Station I knew was a bygone relic, like the old sepia photos of campus you see ubiquitously adorning the walls of administrative offices.
Nevertheless, coming back reinvigorated memories that had long been dormant in my subconscious. At first it was warmly nostalgic, but as I established myself as a Research Associate at the Muneoka lab at the vet school, it quickly gave way to a pining ennui. As I passed the places where so many formative experiences were forged, none of those whom I shared those experiences with were here. Everyday became a lonely reminiscence, like a ghost who only haunts itself.
But I soon made new friends at work who became family. In particular, Lindsay Dawson, Regina Brunauer, Katie Zimmel, along with all my “step-children” (students) gave me a new life. And my fresh experiences with them, in a sort of mnemonic succession, began growing over the anamneses of the past. It was then, I decided, that I was not going to simply retrace the circle of my old life, but reach farther, be more adventurous and leave behind the shyness that crippled me when I was first here.
This new disposition of mine also applied to me when I went back to school in the fall of 2018, being the first one in my graduate program to ever both work and be enrolled full-time. It also led me to The Battalion, where I have been writing for this last semester. I would like to thank the editorial staff and those on the opinion desk, especially my editor Henry, whose patience with my unending intifada against the tyranny of AP Style was saintly and under whose tutelage I have become a better writer. I look forward to seeing what this desk produces in the future, especially those who I’ve gotten to know over our virtual meetings over this semester.
As the sun sets on my time at Aggieland once again, I find myself reminiscing about when I first graduated. Still an adolescent, my mind vacillated between absolutes. Everything was either portrayed in opaque blacks or pristine whites, and relationships were seen through a kaleidoscope of nevers and forevers.
I know now that life rarely can be bifurcated in sharp dichotomies, and two seemingly opposite things can exist at the same place. For me, A&M has simultaneously been a place of depression and elation, acceptance and ostracization. But although the location has been constant, I have been afforded the perspective to see that my experiences extend outwards in the latitudes of time — a spiral where once I thought was a circle.
As you leave this place, I hope you will find a path you love. On this path, do not focus only on the resplendence of sunrises and the tragedy of sunsets. Remember that life is lived mostly in the days that shine between. Unfortunately, the coming days may seem like you are caught in a sisyphean cycle, especially in this economy, but know your struggles will elevate you...
Years from now, when you stand on the edifice of your life experiences and look down like birds on those who are in your position today, cycling between successes and failures, I hope you will recognize a familiar pattern. Remember, to the birds they’ll always look like circles.
Osama Qureshi is a biotechnology graduate student and opinion writer for The Battalion.