I became increasingly convinced that going to MIT was a necessary part of achieving my dreams. And yet it was not to be.

It is difficult to come up with a plan for a long-horizon problem.

I realized that my long- horizon goal wasn't dead after I was accepted to several other great schools. I tried to be methodical in my decision making. I created a set of criteria that I used to assign each one a weight based on importance. I went to online forums, talked to current students, and paid a visit to my options. I scored each school according to the numbers I filled in. I was told by the scores that I should go to a large technical institution like MIT. I didn't like that answer because I fell in love with a small liberal arts school. Even though I tried to change the numbers in my spreadsheet, it never rose to the top of the list. I deleted my spreadsheet on the eve of the deadline.

Things change as you begin to solve long-horizon problems. Regardless of how sure you are of your opinions, they might change in the face of new information.

One of the best decisions I have made is to commit to that liberal arts school. I have to explore interests in philosophy, contemplative practice, and even public speaking while studying technical topics. I got to work with and learn from people who are passionate about technology and invention, but I also befriended people who didn't know anything. I fell in love with someone and experienced a lot of pain. I had atransformational experience that made me a better engineer and scientist, and I like to think that I'm a better human being as a result.

The path to becoming an inventor was created by my undergrad years. I realized I was very passionate about contributing to the dream of creating personal householdrobots when I got involved with robotic and artificial intelligence research. I was shown by my mentors that becoming a researcher was a good career choice. I realized how much I hadn't learned about my fields of interest when I worked on interesting problems in both academic and industry settings. After applying to MIT's PhD program and getting accepted to CSAIL, I now get to work on hard but important problems with passionate people.

I am amazed by the number of ways things could have gone. I could have gone to MIT. I could have chosen another school. In college, I could have joined a different research group. I didn't know how any of these decisions would turn out, but they were crucial to getting me where I am now. I might have reached the same point in many other scenarios. Some of those versions of me might be more satisfied with their journeys than I am. I don't think I'll ever know. I know that I really like this version of me and am thankful for the events that got me here.

There are an infinite number of paths to solve long-horizon problems, but it is not always clear which path to take next. We just have to decide in the moment, to the best of our abilities, and trust that the dots will connect in retrospect.

I would like to get my robot to understand this.

The Learning and Intelligence Systems Group at CSAIL has a second-year graduate student named Nishanth Kumar working on making robots smarter. Outside of research, he likes to read and write, play table tennis, and cook.