Apparently, the phrase “making ends meet” has an ambiguous origin. It’s theorized that it might come from bookkeeping, where in order to balance one’s finances, the ends of the columns for income and expenditures must line up. The first time this idiom was explained to me, however, it was in the context of tailoring, where “to make ends meet” means to use an appropriate amount of fabric to ensure that a garment wraps all the way around the body, and comes back to where it started. It suggests no kind of extravagance or completeness, simply a basic level of reconciliation.
As I draw my undergraduate career to a close, I find myself making ends meet over and over again. More than a kind of nostalgia, it’s simply a recognition that where I find myself today still bears relation to where I started off four years ago. I began my career in environmental studies wondering how I could find a vantage point on issues as diverse as (what I then termed) gentrification, climate change, and deforestation. Today, my thesis research focuses on the amenity values of urban trees and their influence on the shape of the city, and discusses what values they create for the residents of a city and the city as a whole. More than giving myself a vantage point, I’ve created frameworks for understanding and approaching problems that previously seemed intractable.
I’m not claiming to be able to answer every question that I had as a first-year or that I’ve encountered along the way. What I have done is integrate perspectives to approach problems in a way I wasn’t sure of before. There’s no kind of extravagance to my knowledge, and it’s certainly not complete. It does, however, let me begin to reconcile the questions, passions, and ideas from the beginning of my college experience with the insights and motivations of my current trajectory in studying some really wicked problems. I don’t have the answers yet, but I’ve been empowered and inspired to approach these problems nevertheless.