Redirections: 5 Years, 4 Therapists, 3 Homes, 2 Movies, and 1 Cross-Country Road Trip

By Hunter Logan ’23

My inspiration for launching the Redirections series is my own academic, professional, and personal trajectories. Immense pressure to succeed has plagued me since childhood: to attend a prestigious college, to become the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, to land a lucrative job and lift our financial burdens. These goals brought me to Haverford in 2018. That wide-eyed Ohio first-year was determined to matriculate into Penn Law School and become an influential attorney. I worked two jobs, spent every break at an internship, and strived for academic “perfection”. Unsurprisingly, I was miserable. One silver lining was my work at the Haverford School, where I led a hectic afterschool program for boys ages 4-10. I had never felt as fulfilled as when I impacted those kids’ lives. For my own happiness, I decided to pursue the “less impressive” and lower-paying career of teaching. What once was an unbearable weight was now light enough to survive three more years of college.

By the end of the year, my dorm wall was filled with my students’ art. They always gave me a smile when the work was piled high.

On a chilly March afternoon in 2020, I was playing basketball with my favorite second grader when I got the call that would uproot my life. All schools were suspending instruction due to the coronavirus. The next call was to my father, whose voice I had not heard in two months. Two days later I was sleeping on my parents’ couch, right back where I started. Haverford said the suspension would last two weeks. I would not return for two years.

Like the rest of the world, the first year of the pandemic was the worst of my life—but somewhere amid that overwhelming stress, fear, and loneliness blossomed critical self-reflection. My relationship with my family improved, slowly and nonlinearly, as I began to break free from their expectations. A pivotal shift came that summer. After three months of teaching eighth grade English on Zoom by day and supervising the closing shift at Starbucks by night, I broke down. While working the drive thru one busy Friday night, I excused myself to the “crying corner” by the mop sink and fulfilled what my fellow baristas considered a rite of passage. Inside that cramped liminal space, I realized two things: 1) I was overworking myself to distract from my unchecked mental health. 2) As much as I loved kids, teaching would not fulfill me as a career. Lacking both a vision for my future and the comfort of denial, I let the tears drip into the bubbly mop water. All I could think about was explaining why my ten-minute break had turned into twenty. In the moment, epiphanies feel like any other thought; the follow-through, executed step by step, revealed only in hindsight, is what redefines your story.

To this day, I have never been more stressed than when making drinks during the holidays. Please do not order 15 hot chocolates at once like Julie.

While the majority of Haverford returned to a masked and distanced campus, I studied remotely during my junior year. For the first time, I leaned on my support network. I took advantage of Starbucks’ free therapy program. Through weekly video calls with a friend, I learned how to crochet. I picked up my bass and started to write music with my brother again. I introduced myself to my dean, who checked in on me once a week. Another first for me: I relegated grades to a bottom-tier concern. I skimmed some readings, skipped a few meetings, and missed my fair share of deadlines. Meanwhile, my GPA stayed the same. How? Because living a well-rounded life and improving your mental health, even at the “expense” of other responsibilities, makes everything easier. By the end of the year, I was a lot happier, but I still was no closer to deciding on a career path. So, I emptied my savings and took a month-long cross-country road trip, hoping to instigate life-changing discoveries.

Grandma took me to her favorite casino in Cleveland. We lost the small sum we came in with, but I learned wild facts about her childhood. 

I had the best night’s sleep of my life in a treehouse in North Carolina. 

On my first hike ever, I came face-to-face with a deer at the bottom of the Bright Angel trail of the Grand Canyon. While it distracted me, a squirrel stole my trail mix. I like to think they were in cahoots. 

The deer that cost me $12 worth of trail mix >:/

I learned how to skip stones on the St. Lawrence river. My record was seven skips.

I gave $20 to a rhyming shoe shiner in New Orleans. He slapped some hand lotion on my Reeboks then walked away. 

A stand-up comedian at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles singled me out in the crowd to say I looked like Logic the rapper.

At 3:00am, on the sidewalk of some nameless avenue in the small town of Ogdensburg, New York, my cousin told me he was moving back to Los Angeles to continue his music career, and he needed a roommate. So, I took the biggest risk of my life, which ended up being the best choice I ever made. I filed for a gap year and moved to LA to make movies.

Film had always been my greatest passion, but I never let myself pursue it. It was far too risky. I feared I was not talented enough to “make it”. My internal critic loves to say I’ve failed before I’ve started. One of the hardest but most necessary steps to my growth was making space for the gentler tones: those that treat you like a friend, a flawed but decent person who is trying their best. That’s a sentiment I always tell my students, but I did not practice it myself until I got to Los Angeles. I treated the move like a complete fresh start. I got a job at the newly opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, where I was paid to watch movies, learn about the history of cinema, and meet the celebrities I had idolized as a child. Almost all of my coworkers were aspiring filmmakers, and many had graduated from film school. In our free time, we made movies together. They taught me the hard way, through MANY embarrassments and public setbacks, how to tell stories, collaborate with other creative voices, lead a crew, raise funds, and stick to a schedule and a budget. By 2022, I had written, produced, and directed two short films. The quality was amateur, but I was getting better each day. It was humbling to feel like a beginner after spending years in an educational system that rewarded expertise. Whenever those insecurities crept back to tell me I wasn’t good enough, I would imagine what my childhood self would think about where I was. That refrain became my north star: from here on out, if I could make 12-year-old me proud, I was on the right track. 

Memories: priceless. Budget: also priceless ($0).

Now, I’m back at Haverford as a senior, and I finally know what to do with my life. Finding success and a consistent paycheck in filmmaking is uncertain, but I’ve done enough reflecting to know that my definition of success is nothing like it used to be. I am so much happier when I guide myself rather than letting others do it for me. The journey is far from over—I would argue that it is just beginning—but it never would have begun had I not taken those risks to explore myself and the world around me. Just like in 2020, when I was a lost, lonely perfectionist sleeping on my parents’ couch, I now find myself coming full circle, arriving where I started, with a chance to do things right. I’m at the same college, studying the same major, even living in the same dorm. Life is filled with cycles like these. It’s up to us the second time around to learn from our mistakes. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it the same way as anyone else. All we can do is take it step by step, hold onto the railing when we stumble, and back up when the incline becomes too steep. It will have taken me five years, four therapists, three homes, two movies, and a cross-country road trip to internalize that simple, clichéd truth. My hope is that my story, along with the others shared in Redirections, provide the guidance I wished I had when I was at my lowest point.