The Space in Between | Willi Freire and Ashwini Krishnamurthy

In the midst of things, we seldom stop to think, to observe, and to question. This final spring semester, more than any other, is threaded with an unconventional emphasis on celebrating our college efforts. We thought these last four months would be a good time, not a long time. However, midway through class, midway through nights out, midway through work shifts, we always seem to find ourselves somewhere between lingering discomfort and full-blown identity crisis. Welcome to the world of Ashwini and Willi … and hopefully many more of you?

One night, after our weekly excursion to our favorite neighborhood bar and grill, Brick Store Pub (surprisingly, not Maggie’s), we sat in Ash’s bumper-less car and decided to address the elephant in the vehicle.

So, buckle up, folks!

W: Ash… (15-20 seconds of silence) Are you feeling okay?

A: Like tonight? Or like, in general?

W: Second semester seniors, aren’t we supposed to feel an overwhelming sense of bliss right now? Are you by chance feeling that?

A: If by bliss you mean a little bit of aimlessness with a hardy dash of uncertainty … then yes. People keep asking me if I’m ready to graduate, but I still can’t really wrap my head around what these last four years have meant to me. I have the same questions I had as a first year.

W: Yeah, I can’t help but feel the same way, too. When I came to Emory, I was grappling with meeting the endless expectations I set out for myself. Throughout the years, I continued to feel the bar rising, but somehow always managed to find the next stepping stone. Now, at the final stage of college, there is no longer anything tangible I am seeking out. So, what’s left is somewhat of a void that pushes me to confront the present moment. Can we find comfort and confidence in the space in between?

A: In between the boxes, right? I’ve been chasing my identity and trying to check the boxes at the same time, looking for concrete answers to arguably impossible questions while figuring out what’s now and directly next. What do all of these boxes really mean when we are no longer in the process of checking any of them?

W: I wanted to ask you the same question. I wholeheartedly believe the time we spend doing is important, but I am beginning to understand the value in the moments of silence. Saying goodbye to the various anchors at Emory has been a tough challenge, and I am glad this “off” semester exists. Undoubtedly, there are countless people and organizations that have been transformative in my personal and professional development. But how do we translate these insights into our own understanding of who we are as humans as we brace ourselves for change?

A: I don’t know if we ever translate these insights fully. In the short year of our friendship, your compassion, strength and humility has changed who I am for the better. I am proud of the person I’ve become with the inspiration from you and my Emory mentors and plan to seek people in the next stage of my life who continue to shape me in the way that all of you do.

W: Ash, you inspire me with your unique ability to express your sincere thoughts out loud, even when they aren’t necessarily complete. You’ve brought me a familial but different energy to my life, and I feel as though you’ve served as a compass for me, especially throughout these strange, uncomfortable past few months. Though we are still left with major questions about who one another is, I assure you these in-person conversations, massive paragraph panic texts and moments in isolation will be invaluable during this space in between.

This dialogue, much like our thoughts, is incomplete. While our time at Emory has not answered our questions directly, these last four years here have taught us to be comfortable with increasing ambiguity, to reflect even when it is difficult and to seek people who inspire us along the (bumper-less) ride. The same day we wrote this reflection, Commencement Speaker and former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young came to speak to Ash’s global macroeconomics class. He claimed that one of the most frightening days of his life was his college graduation —— he received his diploma, but he felt as though he knew nothing. Regardless, Ambassador Young firmly expressed his faith that there is no such thing as a meaningless existence.

We believe this, too.

While we may never have the answers to large questions surrounding our identities, Emory has thoroughly prepared us with a support system to live our lives with meaning — even in the moments where we cannot articulate it.

Note: We are aware that this reflection is essentially a love letter to each other, and to Emory; however, we cannot go without thanking Dr. Wesley Longhofer for his profound contribution to our journeys. Especially during a tough semester, Wes keeps the secrets, keeps it real and keeps supporting us through the space in between.

Willi Freire is from Boca Raton, Fla. He served as the executive vice president of BBA Council and as the president of the Emory QuestBridge Scholars and Emory Miracle Dance Marathon, as well as the co-founder of the Undocumented Students of America. After graduation, he plans to work as a corporate functions development analyst at SunTrust.

Ashwini Krishnamurthy is from Rolla, Mo. She served as the co-president of the American Mock World Health Organization and as the chief executive officer of the Emory Impact Investing Group. After graduation, she plans to work as an investment banking analyst at Centerview Partners in New York City.

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