Kaya: Biking Out of the BU Bubble

When I was a freshman, one of my first weekend adventures in Boston was on a bike: pedaling along the Charles River, ogling at the sights and navigating through the city’s West End where the Esplanade hits the Museum of Science. It was an amazing way to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time and to see the places that weren’t as accessible on foot or by the T.

But after that inaugural ride, biking in Boston (and borrowing my roommate’s bike) fell to the wayside as I grew accustomed to the wonders of the BU Shuttle and the far reaches of the Green Line. It wasn’t until this year, when I started my internship at America’s Test Kitchen in the Seaport (hey there, CA Jamey!), that I rediscovered the wonders of taking on the city on two wheels.

I use Bluebikes, Boston’s citywide bikeshare program, to get from point A to point B — and oh, what a difference a bike makes! Instead of squeezing onto a rush-hour train underground, I’m lucky enough to cruise past Boston landmarks like Fenway Park, Copley Square, and the Boston Public Garden as I pedal my way down Boylston Street. While walking through the city gives you the chance to soak up all the sights and sounds, there’s something blissfully breezy about gliding past buildings and watching the landscape blend together at a low-to-moderate speed. (Just keep an eye out for the cars, too). 

But the real magic of the bike is that it takes me outside the BU bubble — that cozy hub that stretches along Comm. Ave. and bleeds into the edges of Back Bay, Brookline and Allston. Biking takes me outside of the far reaches of the Green Line and into a whole experience of Boston. 

While riding to work, I get to watch Chinatown wake up and the throngs of people head to their offices at South Station. I get to marvel at the shiny, towering behemoths of the Seaport and take in the sights and the smells of the harbor while I get my blood pumping and wake up myself. The ride home is even better: I take the scenic route through the North End, fueled by the sounds of a lively neighborhood (I once overheard an outdoor opera concert!) and a whiff of something delicious from one of the dozens of incredible restaurants. These are places I probably wouldn’t stumble upon if I weren’t following bike paths and lanes, and gliding around from the perch of my seat feels all the more exciting in these previously-undiscovered areas. 

My ride home also takes me along one of the most beautiful stretches of bike path in Boston: the Charles River Esplanade (and during golden hour, no less!). Riding along the river — and dodging the occasional scooter-er — is a great way to decompress after a day at work, and it allows me to savor the sights and sounds of the city we’re so lucky to call home instead of tuning them out. (Yes, this blog is getting soft and mushy, but I’m a senior and I’m very soft and mushy!)

As the weather gets chillier and riding the T becomes more of a necessity, I find myself wishing I had started biking around the city much earlier than I did. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors: if you can bike, do. It’s a wonderful world out there — so strap on a helmet and see for yourself!

Kaya: It’s O.K. to ‘TK’

There’s a common abbreviation in journalism — “TK” — that often peppers first drafts and second ones, sometimes buried in the article until the very last and final deadline approaches.

The unusual letter combination (“TK” doesn’t appear in many words, so it’s easier to spot amid a lot of text) represents information “to come”: everything from names and ages to quotes and entire paragraphs or chunks that remain unknown or just need a bit of tinkering.

I’m a big fan of using “TK” when I’m writing, even (and especially) when I’m spitballing ideas — some of my notes look like I fell asleep on the keyboard: “‘TK quote,’ TK said. TKTKTK.”

Some of my best stories have risen from a sea of T’s and K’s, including this one. I was typing out the headline, still not quite sure what I was about to write, when I recognized that the TK was more than a placeholder: it was an idea.

I’ve realized that there are always more questions I could ask a source, always more information I could research, always more color I can add to make my stories more interesting and engaging. By leaving things open-ended, by creating a space to add something new, even by reminding myself that I really do need to ask someone how old they are, I open up the page to bigger ideas and possibilities.

I’ve also realized that leaving space in my life for the things to come can open up my own future to bigger ideas and possibilities in a way I didn’t always think was the smartest, most pragmatic move I could make.

For a long time, I thought if I left space in my life — if I filled my planner with TKs instead of meticulously handwritten meetings and appointments — I would end up feeling empty. I often worried (and still sometimes do) that if I didn’t plan everything out for the next days, weeks, months, and years, those TKs and those spaces I left would turn into nothingness and regrets — for the opportunities I didn’t seize, the hours I wasted, the time and energy that could have been spent doing something other than daydream, relax, rest in preparation for things to come.

But leaving out the TKs just left me with information I didn’t need, my energy overspent in pursuit of what I saw as a very linear path. Packing my schedule in high school, and in my first year and a half in college, seemed like the only way to achieve my goals as a journalist and as a person.

And in some ways, those extracurriculars and activities did help me reach new heights. But the moment I dropped the meetings and classes that overwhelmed me, and the moment I made space for the TKs and all the good things yet to come, I didn’t feel empty, or regretful, or unfulfilled.

Instead I felt fuller, happier, more fulfilled — as if my potential increased when I scrapped the jumbo planner and opted for smaller pages and more stickers. The thing I feared — that I wasn’t doing enough, even though I was doing a lot — actually dissipated when I started approaching things in anticipation of life’s great TKs. I spent more time with friends, I cooked more, I had the chance to have relax and have fun without worrying that I was wasting time.

Sure, some of the things I wanted to accomplish were no longer carefully plotted, the boxes waiting to be ticked off. Suddenly, there were bigger gaps in my future — ones that I haven’t yet filled in. Those big unknowns are scary for everyone, and especially for me, as someone who worries a lot about filling in the gaps.

But a TK doesn’t end up in the final version of an article. Information goes there — information the reporter finds in the process of research and discovery. The same applies to life: the things we don’t know yet are still to come, but eventually, we get to figure them out.

Every once in a while, when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or off course, on a tangent or a break from some carefully-designed plan, remind yourself that it’s O.K. to TK. Because the best is yet to come — even when we don’t know what that is right now.

Kaya: Follow Your Curiosity

Don’t follow your passions.

I know, I know, that sounds like bad advice — terrible, even. After all, isn’t college about pursuing what you’re passionate about and taking advantage of all the opportunities you have to do so?

To an extent, yes. You shouldn’t throw your passions out the window altogether to do things you hate. Knowing what you’re passionate about and exploring that is a key step toward discovering what you want to do for the rest of my life.

Maybe I should clarify: Don’t follow your passions. At least, don’t only follow your passions.

Follow your curiosity instead.

Because while following your passions can lead you to new discoveries, further your academic and career pursuits, or inspire you to reach new heights, doing things you’re passionate about can also be stressful — really stressful — because you love those things so much. Every mistake or roadblock that separates you from what you love can feel like heartbreak, and it’s not exactly a feeling anyone wants to feel all the time. If you spend your whole life doing and chasing what you love, you’re bound to hit some of those roadblocks, and feel some of that heartbreak, along the way.

When you follow your curiosity instead, you might discover something new that you love. You might have an experience that takes you completely out of your comfort zone. You might realize that there is a lot more to life than the one or two things you’re most passionate about.

If you’re like me, you might apply for a radio internship on a whim, and realize that there’s so much more to journalism than you thought. Or you might end up in a class about food history, like I did, and decide to become a history minor — something that high school me never thought I’d do in a million years, because I was so dead-set on my passion for journalism and writing.

When you follow your curiosity, you realize things about yourself that you might not if you were only pursuing what you were passionate about. You end up with new perspectives, fresh ideas, and even more curiosity. You might change your path completely, or continue chasing what you love with renewed energy and passion.

When I followed my curiosity, I ended up in love even more with journalism, the field that allowed me to explore what made me curious — like movies — and write about that curiosity in dozens of reviews. My curiosity turned into a passion for film, and it helped me snag a question with one of my favorite screenwriters and actresses, Greta Gerwig, at a time that I was feeling a bit stretched thin by my own passions.

Her answer to my question?

You guessed it: “Follow your curiosity.”

After all, she said, “the worst thing that could happen is that you spend your whole life following your curiosity.” That’s one outcome I find hard to disagree with.

Kaya: Finding a Niche

Someone recently told me that “niche” is a very niche word — and that “niche” is a word that I use often. And they were right! I use “niche” a lot. Like, a LOT a lot. As in “using the word niche is my niche,” a lot.

 

What exactly does that mean? Google tells me it’s “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment.” But to me, a niche isn’t just a place where I’m comfortable or suitable — a niche is a place where I feel at home, where I’m more comfortable than I would be anywhere else on earth, where I know I’ll always feel welcome and where I know I’ll be happy.

 

At BU, COM is one of those niches. So is the tiny podcast recording studio on the third floor of the building, as is the COM lawn on a late summer day.

 

But more than anywhere else on campus, my niche is The Daily Free Press. It’s the well-worn couch with pens stuck in the cushions from bygone pitch meetings. It’s the smell of the office on a Sunday night, a blend of tea and hot chocolate and Late Night Kitchen onion rings. It’s the sense that I’m about to spend my night with the 10 incredible people I’m proud to call my fellow editors and close friends (plus a full-size cardboard cutout of Ron Burgundy).

 

It didn’t take long for me to find a niche in the FreeP. I joined as a features writer my freshman year, and I knew the moment I walked into the dimly-lit office plastered with newspapers that it was where I was meant to be. But it also took me a while to discover what I really loved doing there — producing audio journalism for our podcasts.

The FreeP wasn’t what I had always imagined my college niche would be (I dabbled in humor writing and comedy, thinking that 30 Rock was my destiny). But finding your niche isn’t about doing what you think you’re supposed to do in order to achieve something distant. It’s about doing what you love, and what makes you not just comfortable but happy.

Part of the FreeP niche includes intricately-planned murder mystery parties. Photo Credit: Caitlin Fisher
Part of the FreeP niche includes intricately-planned murder mystery parties. Photo Credit: Caitlin Fisher

Finding your niche might happen all at once, when you walk in the door. It might happen really slowly, at that’s OK too. (It took me a year and a half to realize that audio journalism was the niche within the FreeP that I wanted to pursue.) You might find your niche in the first week of classes, or it might find you two semesters in.

 

You might find different niches at BU, and that’s great! (My niches also include suburban history and eating Harper bagels at Pavement Coffeehouse on Sunday afternoons). You may find one niche that you really love, and that’s great, too!

Finding a niche is a bit like falling in love — when you know, you’ll know. Just remember that sometimes, it might take a while to know.