An Impression of First Year, First Months

Tell me: What are you planning on doing with your life this year? What is your name, where are you from — if you are from somewhere at all — and what ...

Nov 15, 2014

Tell me: What are you planning on doing with your life this year? What is your name, where are you from — if you are from somewhere at all — and what is your major? Let us enjoy the distance between each other. Let us pretend that we are well aware of what’s happening and well aware of what we’re doing. But tell me something else: Is this enough for you?
When arriving at NYU Abu Dhabi, now long enough ago to think back on, it’s safe to say that most of us couldn’t look as far as we are now or even past Marhaba orientation week, with complete confidence. It is only with judgment that I thought it was possible to place yourself in this world, spinning in its own orbit and built by difference and expectation. But it isn’t judgment that does the job, it’s your decision to ignore it. NYUAD was and still is the dream for countless abroad who continue to count the days for an email and the prospect of an exciting and trusted future. Because fulfillment seemed to rest and be safe when placed in the hands of the revolution this university represents. To me, that was and is the prospect: revolution.
But it wasn’t direct rebellion or personal audacity that drove me to that notion, rather the idealization under the efforts of a renowned university and a courageous drive to blur the rift between respect and distance, no longer allowing the intellectual efforts to be drawn by a sleepy and illusive acceptance of cosmopolitanism and leadership. It’s the revolution of culture, outlook and spirit, where the mixing of personalities is the norm. You suddenly find yourself surrounded by more nationalities than you can count converging freely in the lonesome middle of a deserted island.
It was maybe the unrequited trust of that mysterious distant school that seemed as much intangible as it was exciting. Suddenly, the reasons for applying became less competitive and more a question of natural self-invention and direction, whether or not these notions were completely truthful.
Sometimes I ask people, “What to do you wanna do?” and as simple and common as the answer seems, I don’t think we realize how valuable it is to say, “I really don’t know.” A clear, frustrated and honest statement, spoken from the struggle to put thoughts together when the only thing that seems constant is the overwhelming and contentious, “You are leaders of the world.” Words that, too, fell apart the instant they were heard, as we keep trying to hold on to them. Is that what brought us here, or is keeping us here? Again, I don’t know. It’s an honor, it’s a curse; it is the dream.
As the cheery and hectic Marhaba drifted away and the sensation faded of still being in that state where welcome overshadowed expectation, days were marked by the unending encounters with many who were still strangers. There were hellos, questions of career paths and the places we would consider home, conversations on the abundant food and the overwhelming schedule that we joyfully dramatized as we traveled through the shared wisdom of faculty and bottomless Student Life. Life went on and, as it did, we still couldn’t find an end or a beginning to those should’s and could’s drawing a line between passion and obligation. Why is there one? What are you going to do to change the world? I’ll sleep on it every night but, for now, I don’t know.
The fact that we are here doesn’t bind us to a contract of success, it doesn’t define success and doesn’t assure it either. We hope for the fulfillment of our own expectations while creating our own demons and angels in the midst of a fast-paced life of books, leadership and seclusion. Doubt is the only thing that can temper the fear of not being able to keep up with this speed, these ideas of success and even happiness in the continuation of our lives. The dream is being able to make a commitment with yourself from the trust that others put on you, it is creating the boundless around the explosion of everything contained in one circular mansion in Saadiyat Island. We have the option of being authentic. The dream is a portal of acceptance, wise carelessness and closure. The sandscape is made magical by each hand and step and language embodying it.
The fact that we are here doesn’t only mean leadership, it also means trust; it doesn’t mean opportunity, it means being able to create as individuals and as a part of a constant attempt. As exams, papers and travel continue to challenge our passion, yet or not discovered, they move it forward. On any day considered common, the simple colors of a sunset or the taste of good hummus make a tedious political debate or the solving of a complicated math problem seem all the more purposeful and significant in the unyielding pressure by which we measure ourselves and thus live by.
There is no measure of how much we have moved forward, only choices of where to continue moving. Beauty is a reminder of journey, waking memory and honoring your life in the timeless presence of peace and lonesome thought. We can forgive ourselves. So, don’t tell me what you did to change the world today, tell me something that you deeply believe in. Tell me where you’re going, even if it’s the beach or the library. Tell me a word, ignoring major, to filter the vision of four years of life. We can try. And with pride and security, we can admit that we don’t know what we’re doing. Being here, being clueless, is everything for now and it’s enough. Being here means your own revolution in the amalgam of life and magic sand. It means a version of home; it means freedom.
Vivi Kavas is a contributing writer. Email her at
gazelle logo