Last week, I went to my doctor’s office to get a routine vaccination. After I arrived and checked in with the receptionist, a nurse came out to the waiting room to greet me. She brought me into a room with that sterilized smell that doctors’ offices have. She asked if I had any problems with my last shot and then gave me the shot and that was that. She wasn’t cold or unfriendly, but she was an unfamiliar adult dealing with an unfamiliar adult. My pediatrician always seemed to care and had a conversation with me each time I went for a check-up. This nurse was concerned with hurdling me through the appointment as if I was on an assembly line. Welcome to adulthood, I suppose.
As I ate my breakfast yesterday morning, a pretty important question popped into my mind. It was a question that I had thought about and mulled over hundreds, actually closer to thousands, of times before. “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”
What a loaded question, right? Is that even a question that can be answered? Does anyone really know what they want to do for the rest of their lives at age 22 on the dawn of their undergraduate commencement? If they tell you they do, they’re probably lying to you. Everyone thinks that they know what they want to do with their lives when they’re young. But what they actually end up doing is usually a different story than what they envisioned.
Some of my best friends I made in college have remarkable ideas. These are ideas that have the potential to change the world, like finding a cure to multiple scholoris or creating a fair trade and organic clothing line meant to draw attention to human rights issues across the globe. These people and ideas inspire me to want to make change that will make our world a better place.
Millions of people want to make the world a better place or wish that it was better. They’ll tell you that if they won the lottery that they would donate to this charity or that organization. They would end world hunger. Or maybe they would create a product that could redefine our lives. Sadly, most of these people never act on their ideas. Want to know why? Here’s the answer: idea’s our worthless. I didn’t say that, Alexis Ohanian did. He’s the co-founder of Reddit and knows a thing or two about what a great idea looks like.
I attended a Ted Talk that Ohanian gave back in February, and his message that night was that you don’t need permission to start building something. You don’t need permission to start working on an idea that you’re passionate about. You don’t need to ask someone if it’s okay to start changing the world, whether you’re two or 102. Even if you don’t want to change the world with an extraordinary invention, you can still go for that dream job you’ve always wanted to start changing the world that is your life. You don’t need to get permission from anyone to do this, if there’s a will, there’s a way.
Right now I’m struggling with asking permission of myself to do things. I’m deciding what path to take as I journey into the unknown, and there is a difficult way and an easier way. I’m pushing for the difficult way, because no one ever told me that a career in journalism would be easy. Sometimes giving yourself permission to do something is more of an obstacle than getting permission from someone else to do something. This is because there is always the possibility that you’ll fail at what you set out to do, and that you will have wasted precious time and money.
Failures, however, are what make us stronger, and I wish more people understood that. So many people I’ve talked to about their plans are happy staying in their comfort zone rather than taking a risk. The world needs more risk-takers, and I’m willing to be one of them. To me, a comfort zone starts to get uncomfortable after you’ve been there too long. It’s like when that comfy chair in your living room just doesn’t have the magic touch any more to sooth your lower back after a long day at work. I’m ready to discover new comfort zones and try new things, which is only the start of my ambitions.
And for the first time in my life, I have no plan. Well, sort of. I have part of a plan. But I’d be lying if I told you I had a definite plan. I do have some ideas, but they’re not cemented. They’re hopes, dreams and goals. Some of them long-shots. And remember, ideas are worthless unless you act on them. I remember four years ago on the day of my high school graduation, my plan was to go to college and graduate in four years. Check. Now what? I’m not going to grad school right away, so this means my classroom education is completed for now? That’s scary.
I know in my heart of hearts I haven’t learned everything I need to know to be a functioning adult. I’ve learned a lot, but can you ever learn everything you need to know to be a successful adult? Or do you learn as you go? Are we all perpetual students?
For the first time in my life, I’m totally free. I have a blank slate and am in 100 percent control of what I decide to do next. That’s a lot of power to have, and power that myself and most of my peers have never had until now. Whether or not I was going to college was never a choice for me, I always knew I wanted to go. I don’t see college as a choice, I see it as a necessity. My chosen career path, journalism, does not require a college degree. I don’t need to have a special license to become a journalist. But it’s the words of Nelson Mandela that remind me how important education is:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
I never underestimate the value of my education, and I’m thankful to my parents, teachers and mentors who gave me the education I need to succeed and start changing the world. Changing the world starts with changing yourself and making yourself better before you can even contend with making the lives of others better. I’m keeping this one of my core beliefs as I move forward into my next chapter.
Speaking of which, what do I call this next chapter? My 20s? Adulthood? Post-college? The title of this chapter has yet to be written, but I’ve already started writing the plot. As you may have noticed, on the home page of my blog on the right hand side is a countdown to my trip to Europe next month. I’ll be touring Ireland, seeing royalty in London, and sampling sangria and tapas in Barcelona. I’m lucky to be able to kick off this next chapter with such a thrill ride and can’t wait to share the adventure with you. The trip is just three weeks away and a lot of planning still needs to be done but it is shaping up to be one of my best Euro trips yet!
I’ve been doing a bit of traveling over the past month-In April I went to Virginia for my GoNOMAD internship and had a great time touring the western part of the state on an “Old School” media tour and will have a story/blog post on that trip soon. I also went to Washington, DC a couple of weeks back to celebrate my graduation with friends and learned a lot about our country and have a new respect for the nation’s capital. I’m working on a blog about that trip now so be prepared for some American history coming your way soon!
And one last thing: Congrats Class of 2014!