“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“Make room, we all fit,” Pak Endang, our school bus driver, instructed. My classmates and I stuffed into the windowless room where we hid for hours, too shocked to react. 

It was the peak of the 1997 Asian financial crisis. I was in the fourth grade. That morning, exasperated rioters were burning down my school building. The unrest roaring across Indonesia had dominated the news for weeks, but I never imagined that it would reach my sleepy town. Growing up Indian amidst Indonesia’s globalization, it marked the beginning of my myriad encounters with a world where boundaries – physical, mental, ideological – are only as defining as we allow them to be. It also compelled me on a path of constantly pressing beyond my own limits. 

My journey, though, would have been impossible without Pak Endang. Without those who believed that a small-town girl from halfway across the world had a place in the classrooms at Brown, and without my first boss Mike who saw reason to hire and train me despite my atypical background. 

And so, I will make room. For individuals and ideas that historically may not have belonged, and still struggle for space. I will remember the bus drivers of my hometown, squeezing in every additional passenger: if more people get to their destinations, then it’s worth the ride feeling less comfortable for some – it will ultimately be richer for all.

— Nikhita Raman