Friday, May 13, 2016

It's okay to not know, okay?

Life is a little bit weird at the moment. Tomorrow, I graduate from college and I'm having a whole bunch of feelings. It's funny isn't it... for four years or more you know exactly what every next day looks like. And then all of a sudden, we'll wake up the Monday after graduation and it's a blank canvas. Granted there's an annoying 1% that has a job out of college, but most of us I'm sure will find a full-time position at job applying.

I do wonder though, what is it with the "real world" that scares us? I've been neurotically scrolling my LinkedIn connections that I've collected over the past year, but how do you even ask someone you're connected to to connect you to someone at MSNBC because they have a 3rd degree link with them? Is that allowed? What's the point of all this!
My friends and family keep telling me I'm going to be "fine." My best friend tells me no one has it figured out but at least I "know what I want." My mom most likely believes in me so much to think my current internship at WGN in Chicago will turn me into a high flying reporter the day I graduate. And my professor Sharon sent our Echo Magazine class a video of Oprah and all the greats revealing what age they were when they broke through. (Fun fact: At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job. It's oddly comforting knowing successful people once failed at something.)
Truth is, I'm terrified of stepping out of the safe, comfort of the 2nd floor lobby in the Journalism department. But at the same time, I'm jittery and excited because after I get my degree, I can do whatever I want... because I did whatever I wanted without it, too. You did too. We chose a career path, we chose our friends in college, we chose what internships we applied for... which people we followed up with via email, what made us happy. We can still choose and actually -- choose more. I don't mean to be that cliche, corny, obnoxiously optimistic person, but if I learned anything the past month is that by worrying about what's to come, you're not even absorbing what's in front of you now. I actually haven't even taken my graduation cap and gown out of the bag since I picked them up because I don't think I'm ready yet. I know I know, I'm being dramatic. But I'm also being ungrateful.
*Here is the part where the recent grad finds the true meaning of life and purchases a one-way ticket to Thailand.*
I took a Peace Studies class this semester and Dr. Silverstein is the most wonderful dreamer I've ever met. The last day of class his wife, Paula, came by to teach us a lesson or 1000 on life. We all stood around in a tight circle around an empty chair, and one by one took turns sitting in it and telling each other what we wanted. Some wanted happiness, some wanted adventure and a few wanted love. When it was my turn, I quietly said, "mine sounds selfish compared to theirs---" and Paula cut me off. "We do not judge. Not others, and most importantly we don't judge ourselves."
So I told Paula and my classmates that I wanted to be a successful journalist. And then everyone gently touched my shoulder and gave me affirmation. "You will be a successful journalist," they said a few times. "You will make a difference," we said to my friend, and "you will have adventure," we said to another. It was wild. And that was my last class of my undergrad career. (Basically we have a cult made of pixie dust and sunshine)
Do you think we're afraid to admit to ourselves what it is that we want? Maybe because we don't want to face the reality of how hard it might be to get it.
I genuinely think we should all take Paula's words to heart. There's nothing wrong with owning up to what our passions are regardless how far-fetched. Let's just face it straight up, we're graduating, jobless (and broke) and we don't have an answer for "what's next after graduation?" But we're okay. And we're going to figure it out on our terms and our watch.  Am I painfully cliche yet? I hear it happens upon  graduation. Also I hope someone gifts me Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go." I've always wanted a copy in the context of starting a new chapter in life.
Having gone to an art school (which is usually uncommon for Indian, Muslim girls...), I know what it truly means to live what you love, even though I stole that from Columbia College Chicago's many mottos. In my experience, college not only enforced what it is that I love and want to do, but it flipped my perspective on everything. It wasn't just what I thought anymore. Because when people of different backgrounds and different passions come together to work creatively... to make the effort to hold conversation, their way of seeing and thinking is transformed. We've all transformed from a nervous freshman to an overconfident sophomore to a reality-checking junior/senior, to someone who has grown and been blessed with the ability to connect and express, and the humble chance to learn and be a part of something bigger. And if you're reading this and have come this far, well done you. You've obviously learned tolerance and acceptance, ha. In all seriousness, someone once told me that it's good to be nervous, because it means you want it that bad. Imagine graduating college and feeling nothing?