As part of the Division of Student Affairs’ initiative for Diversity and Inclusion, we at I Am Rutgers have started the #RUIDProject to highlight the many diverse identities, experiences, and reflections of the Rutgers student body. Students featured in this project share how they choose to identify themselves and how Rutgers either helps them express their identity or has helped shape their identity. If you would like to be featured in this project, share a picture of yourself and how you choose to identify using the hashtag #RUIDProject on Instagram or contact us via email.
Compared to my mom, I am quite bashful.
My mom oozes spunk and independence. And I think her inner peace and confidence stems not only from her age, but also from her resilient mentality. Her choice to adopt a baby girl from China as a single parent was life changing for the both of us. I am immensely grateful to have been raised by such a strong and loving individual.
As a result, one of my greatest fears in life growing up was losing my mom.
However thanks to my time at Rutgers, I learned to take comfort in the impermanence in life. I learned how to appreciate the good and bad in everything too.
I remember a time during my junior year when my great-uncle passed away unexpectedly. It was during Engineer’s Week and at the last event of the week, Cardboard Canoe Races, I can recall sitting at the edge of the Werblin swimming pool, silently soaking in the electric atmosphere. I was tearing up from sheer exhaustion over such a mentally exhausting week, but also at peace because everyone was having so much fun sinking in their cardboard boats.
Although I was mourning a great loss, this annual tradition made me really appreciate the fact that despite loss, there was still so much to cherish in life.
In college, I also realized that while it is important to soak in life like a sponge, sometimes it is equally important to remember to wring yourself out every once in awhile.
Last year, I remember experiencing the humiliation of defeat when I ran for the president of an organization…and lost. Were the past 3 years of dedication for nothing? I have never been good with rejection, so this really hurt. But honestly, only temporarily. After the sun rose again in the morning, I woke up and realized not reaching this long-term goal of mine was a blessing in disguise. I had gained the freedom to explore and pursue interests that better aligned with who I had become during those 3 years.
This was one of those situations where it was time to let go rather than hold on.
Out of all of my college experiences, one of the most important lessons I learned at Rutgers was that leaders come in all shape, sizes, and most importantly
The summer after my freshman year, I struggled to find my voice as a counselor for a summer STEM program hosted on campus. Partly because my mouth was wired shut from jaw surgery, but also because “Freshman Taylor” was soft spoken. That summer, I discovered great value in speaking deliberately with purpose. I learned to embrace the notion that being “quiet” is not a weakness, if done with intention.
Overall, these past few years taught me countless lessons about perseverance and grit. I have learned that patience is key. Humility and empathy are essential.
And while I am still relatively bashful in comparison to my courageous mother, I also believe that I have fostered a great sense of self-regard for myself.
I am a proud Scarlet Knight…a Chinese adoptee…a female engineer…an individual who aims to live with intention…and everything else that encompasses the essence of Taylor Zoe Au.
Photography by Pat Nadolski