by Stephanie Waugh
This was the first January that I had free time in several years. From 7th to 12th grade I was a part of a Girl Scout robotics team in Austin and the first three months of each year were completely monopolized by my commitments to the team. Every day after school and all day on the weekends I would be at the Girl Scout Kodosky Center in room 110 using power tools, programming, and designing a robot. I would do no other activities during this time, all of my focus was on the task at hand. And I loved every minute of it! At the end of each season I would feel an enormous amount of pride finally witnessing my creation come to life.
This year, I watched the build season from the sidelines. After last season, I thought I was ready to leave this part of my life behind as I explored new opportunities in college. But I did not know how much I would miss it. This activity was such a pillar in my life and now that it’s gone, I can’t help but feel a little lost. I am now an alumna of the team, but that title does not come with the same perks as being the leader. I can no longer just go to robotics to forget my problems and build cool stuff. Now when I go, it will be as a mentor and my job is to assist others. I can help the new CEO in leading the team, but I cannot make the decisions myself.
I’m struggling a little with how to cope with this loss. Robotics was a massive part of my identity. It was my passion, a place where I could lose myself in the work, and it created a community for me that was incredibly instrumental during my teenage years. But all good things must come to an end. I always knew this was a short term passion that would end with my leaving high school, but I never imagined that I would feel the loss this strongly.
But I’ve since realized that my internal struggle may not be about losing robotics as much as it is about leaving home. Retiring from robotics and graduating from high school was the end of an era for me, the first sign that my childhood is coming to a close. This activity that I loved so much must come to an end because I need to move on to do bigger things with my life. And I have to leave the comforts of home because it is time to see what I am really made of and how I can function in the real world. I think in the back of my brain I understood this, but just projected it onto the loss of robotics.
But now I realize that just because I am far away from Texas and I cannot participate in robotics the way I used to, it does not mean that I must leave a part of myself behind. My home and activities, like robotics, will always be part of my identity and they have all led me to be the person I am today. Maybe without robotics or without my childhood being the way it was, I wouldn’t have even applied to Tufts 1+4 and received the opportunity to live in Ecuador. The lessons I learned and the experiences I had throughout my childhood will always be with me.
Moving to Ecuador and taking this bridge year was the perfect way for me to test these new boundaries of adulthood, like completely managing my own schedule. This year I have felt free and on my own. I can make choices based purely on what I want and need, but I am still firmly connected with my family and my home in Texas. My bridge year has allowed me to have many experiences (like hiking to giant waterfalls and and participating in cultural rituals) that I cannot have at home and it has shown me that I can adapt to change and thrive in new situations. This was the perfect transition year between childhood and adulthood. I live my life in Ecuador as an adult, but this summer I can return to my family home as a kid for the last time.