Garrett Passamonti, EN ’21, wrote this for the Olin Blog on November 21, 2018.
My first year at Washington University was full of new experiences, from forming new friendships and discovering new clubs to the initial shock of a college course load.
All my energy was channeled toward doing well in classes and finding a new group of friends. As a cook in the kitchen, I did my best to follow the “standard” recipe of freshman year.
A new year
I came back to WashU for my second year knowing what to expect. The plan was to follow the same recipe I came to love by the end of last year. I already had my friends, knew how to handle higher-level classes, and had some solid extracurriculars.
But only a few weeks in, the dish I had finally mastered began tasting bland.
This year, it’s not all about the novel experience of attending a new school and meeting new people. Instead, it is about solidifying and deepening the relationships I’ve already cultivated. The recipe that defined my freshman year experience—do well in school and find new friends—is no longer there to follow.
Time to become a chef
My education so far has taught me how to follow recipes to cook. It is time to use my cooking skills to define who I am and how I will shape the rest of my college, and life, experience.
When I look at my friends, courses, and activities, I wonder how I am going to form them into my identity. I am afraid of making something I don’t like—but isn’t that why chefs taste test as they go?
What will I make?
Today, I am matching different interests, friends, and activities together, making frequent and careful choices about what tastes good to me.
This year I removed free time from my dish. The only reason I sought free time stemmed from a lack of passion for some activities—so I removed them from my recipe book. It’s not easy to make menu changes, but when I switched from biomedical engineering to systems science and engineering, it felt good seeing more room on my plate.
There was finally space to join a Jazz Combo, take voice lessons, and add on a minor in healthcare management. For me, free time shouldn’t be sought out—it should be avoided. When my plate is full and I’m not trying to find excuses to avoid certain activities, then I know I am being true to myself, developing my own recipe to life, and becoming a chef.
My goal is to make a fantastic meal. This trial and error will take time and effort, but it is worth it. It is important, at the end of the day, for your meal to taste good to you.
Do what makes you happy, what inspires you to push the limits of your ability and grow. Cherish every moment while you cook (it’s supposed to be fun) and stay attentive—you never know when that one ingredient may come along to change everything for the better.
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