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Life Writing

You are Northwestern.



Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Just over two years ago, I learned I was accepted into Northwestern. It remains one of the most pivotal moments in my life.

If I could have gone back and spoken to myself two years ago, and told myself that life was going to get this much better, I don’t think my seventeen-year-old self could have believed it. But it’s true: life does get better.


If my seventeen-year-old self could see me now, he probably wouldn’t recognize me.



Left: Feb 2015. Right: Feb 2017. Some things have changed. And some things, well, haven’t.

I swapped my glasses for contacts. I started wearing a lot more purple. I developed a quiff.


FB_101: How to embarrass yourself in the future

Made friends. Lost friends. Made new ones. Tried a relationship. Learned that Northwestern has a hookup culture and that was very much not what I was looking for.

Entered Medill. Studied the philosophy of modern journalism, which I didn’t understand. Started to challenge the notion that journalism could ever be independent and objective. (Still am.)

Survived reporting and writing with lecturer Michael Deas. Learned so much that I’m planning on taking news editing with Deas again to prepare for anything the world might want to throw at me.

Wrote for the Daily Northwestern. Didn’t like it. Joined N0rth by Northwestern. They haven’t kicked me out yet.

Went to San Francisco. Never looked back.


Since I first stepped onto Northwestern’s main campus in Evanston, I’ve discovered more about myself than I had ever believed possible. I’ve learned what it means to be me: the eclectic, eccentric and electric personality that I am. I discovered the science of living out of packed boxes, of planning my life in 10-week blocks, and the art of looking more beautiful than most.

I’ve also found my place in the world, and discovered that everything I’ve been doing has a word: design.

As well as being a student journalist, I’m also going to claim the identity of “designer,” because I firmly believe that design is about making the world a better place, and everything I’ve ever done in my life is try to make the world better than it was before.

Design is about making the world a better place. That may or may not involve pretending to climb the Golden Gate Bridge (which is one of my favourite pieces of infrastructure).

But it might not have turned out like this.

March 2015.

I wonder: would I would recognize myself as a 20-year-old Duke undergraduate?

Who would I have been? What would I have become?

I wonder.

By Leo Ji

software engineer and news nerd