No Accomplishment is too Small: How a Rubik’s Cube Turned into a College Degree

As I completed my last final as an undergrad and prepared to graduate, I couldn’t help but reflect on a special day that led me to this moment. Many people can’t recall a specific moment that inspired them to pursue higher education. For me, college didn’t seem attainable as a high school student because I thought I wasn’t intelligent enough for college. This was until the spring of 2014 when I competed in a Rubik’s cube speed solving competition.

As odd as this may sound, that competition day was the push I needed to apply to college. I had already been out of high school for almost a year and didn’t have much of a plan for my future. My boyfriend had always been into solving Rubik’s cubes. I would watch him fidget with it, and every time I saw him he was doing it faster and faster. He got so good that he was doing it in under 15 seconds. He told me all about the algorithms and tricks necessary to solve it. I would think to myself,  “I’m definitely not smart enough to solve something like that.” Just like everyone else, I was incredibly impressed with how quickly he solved it. I eventually grew tired of watching and wanted to try it myself. It became an obsession. Anytime I wasn’t working, I was messing with a Rubik’s cube. It didn’t take long before I had memorized every algorithm through muscle memory. I went from solving it in 30 minutes, to 10 minutes, to under a minute in a matter of a couple weeks. I amazed myself because I never imagined something that seemed so arbitrary would open up a passion for learning within me.

My boyfriend found a Rubik’s cube speed solving competition at Princeton University. Before I knew it, I was registered. When the day came I was a lot more nervous than I imagined. It’s a Rubik’s competition, what was there to be afraid of? Looking around there were people solving in under 10 seconds, which made my 55 seconds seem insignificant. Nonetheless, I tried to keep my spirits up. This wasn’t for recognition or trophies, but to prove to myself that I could do something I thought to be beyond my capabilities. I had to solve it three times in front of a judge with a timer. It is known in the speed solving community that your competition times are almost always slower than normal, especially if it is your first time. I tried to keep my nerve, but my hands were trembling. My first two times were exactly what I usually get: 55 seconds to a minute. On my last try, I felt a rush of confidence come over me. When I slammed my hands down on the timer, I looked down and my time was 46 seconds! That was the fastest time I’d ever gotten. Everyone watching knew it was my first time and cheered me on. What seemed like a small accomplishment for most meant the world to me.

That day I learned three things: I can accomplish my goals with enough hard work, no accomplishment is too small to be proud of, and to always be open to learning something new. That day I saw that I had the potential to accomplish anything I was willing to work for. The following week I registered for an open house at Manor College, where I graduated from in 2014 with my associates degree. Now I have my bachelors degree and plan to receive my masters degree, all because of a Rubik’s cube.