04/06/2015 12:12 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2015

Reflections From Ivy Day

Natalia Bratslavsky via Getty Images

I sat outside today. I'm telling you this because it's not a common occurrence -- for me or for most people in college. We don't just sit. We might walk, to class or from a meeting, while scrolling through Facebook or listening to music or making a phone call, but I know that I don't spend much time just sitting, because, well, we're college students. We have busy lives. But today, my laptop died and so I left my lab early, and I had half an hour before my next class and the weather was beautiful, and so I sat at a bench outside the Duke Hospital and just took it all in. Duke is beautiful in the spring, and it was beautiful today. The sky was the pale crystal of early morning despite it being three in the afternoon, and the sun was a cool, distant yellow. And I sat there, on a worn wooden bench that was warm beneath my skin, and I breathed and I thought about what these past few days have brought.

It was Ivy Day a couple days ago, did you know? If you're one of the tens of thousands of college students that applied to the most competitive schools in the nation, then March 31st held special significance to you this year. It was a significant day for me too. My sister is a senior in high school, and on the 31st she got into Yale. I found out over Facebook message, because she's at home and I'm in college, and we spent the next couple minutes TYPING IN ALL CAPS and when I called her later that day I said "I AM SO PROUD OF YOU" over and over again. And it's true -- I am proud of her.

But am I proud of her because she got into Yale? It brings up the problematic question of whether I would be proud of her if she didn't get in -- and of course I would be. I am always proud of her, because she is brave and brilliant and she is my sister, not because she was accepted by a good school. The college you get accepted to doesn't determine your self-worth, and I spent so much time in high school thinking that it did and afraid that it would. I wanted so badly to prove that I was worth something, but now that I'm removed from the process I see it so much more clearly. I am proud of my sister for being herself. I am happy for her for getting into Yale. The two are very different.

The other day, I was talking to a prospective Duke student, and he said that he tried to have one real, insightful thought a day. Well, I'm a sophomore in college, and I can't say I know much about life or love or what it means to be a grown-up, but today I sat outside and watched as the world passed me by, and I thought of how happy I am here. So this is for all the graduating seniors, the high school students who are trying to figure out what school to go to, who are trying to determine the trajectory of their whole life at 18. I may not know a lot about life, but I do know something about what it felt, to be there, on the cusp of becoming a person and unsure about what it meant.

This is my thought of the day -- the college you go to doesn't define you, and neither does anything else. Wherever you go, wherever you choose, there will be breezy, beautiful days like these and springs where the whole world looks like it's bursting into color. There will be benches that are warm from the sun and leaves that rustle in the wind, and there will be moments where you will sit back and think about how wonderful it is to be alive.