On the surface, these moments would be apt descriptions of my general Duke Engage experience. These moments are enough on their own to constitute what could turn out to be the best summer of my life so far. They’re certainly enough to gauge how much fun I’m having, how much I love my new friends, and how much I respect the work I’m doing and the city that I’m in. I could have easily written a blog entry on how these moments are the reasons that I feel this trip is a turning point in my life. However, I think the true reason for why this experience is so life-changing for me is that for the first time in my life, I’m allowed to be held accountable for things. Life at home was almost uncomfortably easy and cushioned. There was just so much routine. Other people figured things out before me, and I rode the wave. I had a great time, but that simple existence is also complicated in that it is reliant on the work of other people. I never experienced a life outside of routine until I came to college. College was where I first learned to take the time to enjoy learning, a vitalizing social life, and the freedom, happiness, and energy that comes from living alone yet so connected to a family away from home. In my first year, I still didn’t feel particularly independent or responsible, though. It was so necessary to rely on other people, and I always hate that. However, this summer, I finally feel like I’m in charge of myself. It’s up to me to do my best to help Detroit Future City. It’s up to me to cook for myself, budget and schedule my life to the penny and minute, and to decide when to break that resolve in the favor of glorious spontaneity (which happens often). If I mess up, it’s all on me, and that’s such a liberating concept. Dealing with my own time, money, and responsibilities has changed me so much. Life is still so fun and I continue to crave exciting energy wherever I am, but I find that the future I was so deathly terrified of—sleeping at a reasonable hour, waking up before eight, and wearing professional clothes, is not as awful and disgusting as I dreaded it would be (it is still awful and disgusting, just not to the extent that I imagined it to be). In fact, I finally feel reasonably disciplined and in charge of my life for the first time ever. I have realized that growing up doesn’t mean becoming boring, standard, or a follower of the routine. It means earning the right to be your own person, put a dent in the world, continue to live to be excited, and have even more crazy adventures than you could have ever dreamed of before.
There’s still a lot I’m disappointed in myself about. I wish I were seeing more of the city. When I first got here, I was a traveler, so I tried to experience everything I could. Now, I’ve started to slip into a weird complacency when it comes to exploring. If it weren’t for enrichment excursions, I think I’d be content to just walk around Midtown, or even worse, just chill in the apartment. This is when routine is the worst thing possible. I always want to have a fresh outlook and a desire to adventure. To re-instill that excitement, in the next four weeks, I want to leave no corner of Detroit untouched. However, if we’re talking about a single emotional theme for the summer, I think the pride I feel when I think of how much the other interns and I have accomplished for Detroit Future City far outweighs the shame I have for any dearth of wanderlust I feel at the moment. I feel so blessed to be working on a project that will have such a tangible impact on the city. Whenever I remind myself of the reason that I’m here, I can’t help but feel that everything is well in place. Working to change the world, after all, is the greatest adventure of all.