When one door closes another one is, well, still closed

Sarah Paulson recently did an interview with GQ magazine on succeeding too early in your career. My initial thought was, don’t worry Ms. Paulson, I’m definitely not.

The bolded interview headers were witty, to the point and entirely too relatable. From “don’t keep calm, but carry on” to “true success is: naps”, Paulson really hits the nail on the head when it comes to navigating this weird idea of success.

Her first point struck a chord with me.

Start Out Disappointed If at All Possible

If my career had turned out like the fantasy I had of what it was going to be, it would never have made me happy. But I couldn’t have known that until it didn’t happen. I found a success that is so much bigger and deeper and better, and it’s because it happened later. If any of what I’m having happen now—the successes—would have happened to me when I was younger, I would have been ruined. Because when you’re young, and things come super easily to you, and you have success right out of the gate, you’re liable to think that’s how it actually works. You start to think you don’t need to be fully prepared or committed to have these things meet you.

I think as a junior in college, I have this wacky notion that everything I touch or write my name on is going to magically spin itself into gold. And it’s just not.

Journalists and writers have consistently planted into my head the idea that I’m going to have to suffer through a lot of no’s and shut downs before someone actually gives me a chance. Not everything I write is going to speak to someone. Not everything I think is going to ignite a flame in someone else.

Writers sometimes have massive egos and are incredibly self centered. We write essays, manuscripts, blog posts (just like this one), etc. hoping that it’ll touch another heart. But at the end of the day, we write for ourselves.

Trying to share this kind work is painstakingly difficult. It’s personal, it’s raw and real. When it is forced against the cold hand of rejection, well, it’s devastating. But we have to share our words. If we don’t, we’re all just losers hiding in dark rooms, listening to George Ezra while eating peanut butter and rewriting the same few paragraphs seven times (at least I am, anyways).

I want to make sense of the next two ish years of college I have left to navigate through. I don’t mean make a plan or have a narrow path I stick to. Instead, I want to brew ideas and watch them erupt into unimaginable opportunities. It’s an obnoxiously vague declaration but what is so beautifully terrifying about being vague is that you never know where it’s going to take you.

I do not measure my success in terms of GPA or how “hard” my class load seems. I measure my current success by the distance I travel outside of “the norm”. College is one big step/trip/fall out of your comfort zone, after all.

I’ve handed out twelve business cards in the last two weeks. Each unique business card handed out has a conversation attached to it. Each missing card from my stack means I swallowed my fear, marched up to someone and engaged in a conversation that was deemed meaningful enough for that person to want my email address.

This school opens an incredible amount of doors for me, but it is still my responsibility to introduce myself and step through them. Sometimes I’m delighted by what’s on the other side. And sometimes, I’m asked to turn around and walk back out while letting it shut behind me.

That’s where I think all of this success shenanigans that everyone talks about is hiding; behind closed doors. And even when one closes and you’re walking away wondering how anyone finds success or pissed that you tripped over the Welcome mat, just remember there’s another one. And another one. And they might not even have dangerous Welcome mats. But they might also be locked sliding glass doors. That you might run into. And break your nose.

 

 

 

Why I Am Still Going Abroad

Fear cannot reduce my wanderlust.

In light of the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and other beautiful places around the world, I pushed the thought of studying abroad next fall to the back of my mind. Heightened threats have begun to plague airports, delay flights, and require the presence of the FBI and the bomb squad. Malls do not spread the same holiday spirit as they did last year. Increased security in targeted major cities, although necessary, is creating the unsettling feeling that disaster is imminent and life may change at any instant.

I have never feared flying. I have flown over the Atlantic and around the United States but I have never feared my life ending up in the air at the hands of those who wish pain on innocent lives. I was just a little kid when 9/11 took place and until quite recently, never felt the effect that terrorism really does have. I’ve been to Paris. I’ve stood on the Champs Elysees, eaten in its restaurants, traveled down the Seine, and met its people. I’ve learned the French language and studied France’s culture and history. I’ve dreamed of the day that I would get to go back and experience different avenues of its beauty and magic.

In light of the recent attacks in Paris, Beirut, Kenya, and other beautiful places around the world, I pushed the thought of studying abroad next fall to the back of my mind. Heightened threats have begun to plague airports, delay flights, and require the presence of the FBI and the bomb squad. Malls do not spread the same holiday spirit as they did last year. Increased security in targeted major cities, although necessary, is creating the unsettling feeling that disaster is imminent and life may change at any instant.

I have never feared flying. I have flown over the Atlantic and around the United States but I have never feared my life ending up in the air at the hands of those who wish pain on innocent lives. I was just a little kid when 9/11 took place and until quite recently, never felt the effect that terrorism really does have. I’ve been to Paris. I’ve stood on the Champs Elysees, eaten in its restaurants, traveled down the Seine, and met its people. I’ve learned the French language and studied France’s culture and history. I’ve dreamed of the day that I would get to go back and experience different avenues of its beauty and magic.

I came across a quote not too long ago that reads “I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world” (Mary Anne Radmacher). It’s true. I am not the same after experiencing other worlds and other cultures. And I’ll probably never be the same again. If I stay in the same place for the rest of my life, I will never know adventure. I will never understand the world I wish to write about. Instead of living in fear, I will be living in regret and I’m not quite sure which is worse. So, despite my worries and my uncertainty, I am still going to study abroad.

I did not know anyone affected by the attacks. But I want to. I want to share their stories and understand what is happening on the other side of the world. If I stay here, I will never have that chance. I refuse to allow fear to dictate my life. Anxiety over things I’ve never even experienced will not keep me stationary. Instead, it will inspire my movement and form the basis for this career I want to pursue. Terrorism wins if we let it rule the course of our lives. I will not surrender my wanderlust to those who desire terror. You shouldn’t, either.

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Home won’t always be your childhood house

And that’s okay.

As I made the three-hour trek back to Iowa City on Monday morning after a long weekend spent with my family, the familiar lyrics of Phillip Phillips’ song Home spewed from my car’s radio. As a freshman, I found the drive back to school to be daunting. Back I go to midterms, homework, papers, a part-time job, and all sorts of responsibilities. Great. I often questioned why I ever chose to go to school so far away from mom hugs, my queen sized bed, and Portillo’s. Why trade all of that in for a lofted bed, a heavy class load, and a dining hall, far-from-Chicagoan pizza?

As time passed at school, I started to understand how incredible the choice I had made really was. The beauty about growing up and going away to college is that you will begin to love people in other places. Those whom you treasure will no longer all live in the same area. Some are at your school, some are in your hometown, and some are scattered around the country and even overseas. This idea has forced me to realize that sometimes living out of a messy duffle bag beats living out of a neat dresser. Home can become a person or many people. It can become a feeling felt in many different places. Don’t be afraid to venture off to find that because home doesn’t only have to be your childhood house.

Now, as I stumble my way through sophomore year, I am beginning to understand that my definition of home is changing. Living off campus has allowed me the freedom to create my own space. There are no authoritative parents or RAs to enforce a curfew or extinguish my love of burning fall scented candles. I am responsible for myself and my own well-being. Everything in my apartment feels comfortable because I put it there. I decide which shelf my K-cups sit on. I decide which blanket I sleep with or if the windows stay open or closed. This tiny little nook is completely tailored to how I want to live.

Sure, my apartment doesn’t have mom hugs and it isn’t down the street from Portillo’s, but I think as college students there comes a time when those things get replaced. I may not have Portillo’s but I have a delicious burrito place less than 5 minutes away. I may not have mom hugs down the hall anymore, but I have extraordinary friends and over 100 sorority sisters who know how to brighten a bad day. I’ve started to replace what I miss most about home with ideas, objects, and people that more than fit the void.

As I continue on through college before finally setting foot into the scary adult world, my versions of home will continue to evolve. I look forward to discovering new places to call home, whether through studying abroad or visiting friends. I will always call the suburbs of Chicago home, but I now can also call Iowa City my home, too. The drive back to school is no longer a gloomy trip; it’s a bittersweet one. Although I may not be going home to my parents or my brother, I am going home to a family, just a different kind of one.

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The World Is At Your Feet, Now What?

A love/hate relationship with the term “millennial”.

Being a go-getting, coffee guzzling Millennial comes with high expectations. You are supposed to be simultaneously working successfully towards a degree, balancing a well-rounded social life, procuring internships and job offers, staying healthy, and standing out amongst the hoards of other young people vying for the same life you are. No problem, right?

Wrong. As a member of this exciting 20-something cohort, you can expect to feel ridiculously overwhelmed 97 percent of the time. The other 3 percent is probably being spent napping or banging your head against your computer’s keyboard. You will also probably feel like you aren’t doing enough while you feel like you’re doing way too much. This is so often overlooked in universities and at the intern level. We strain and stress ourselves out every single day to become something we aren’t actually quite sure of yet. How does the med student even know she’ll like being a doctor? How does the astronomy student know that he’ll actually end up discovering anything? How does the journalism student know she’s even any good at writing about the world? They don’t. We have abstract dreams that we tirelessly fight for. Why? Because we’re up so high we can’t see the ground (cue Bethany Joy Lenz lyrics here).

We really do have the world at our feet. As college students, we have unparalleled access to information, opportunities to innovate, and the chance to make the world feel a little smaller thanks to the Internet. Realistically, there are very few limits placed onto our education at this level. The best and worst aspect of this is, we are entirely responsible for if we sink or swim. Yeah we’re independent but we’re also accountable.

So this is my advice to anyone who feels a little lost and a lot overwhelmed: Take a breath and take a step back. You aren’t alone. Are you really trying to do something with these privileges or are you trying to half accomplish everything? If you hope to do it all at once, you will end up doing very little. Pick what you are passionate about and dedicate yourself to those few goals versus trying to conquer them all. Don’t accept every internship that is offered to you. Don’t volunteer for every organization that crops up. Don’t take a million classes at a time. Take summer classes if you need to. Don’t stretch yourself to meet the needs of everyone, stretch only enough to better yourself. Take time out of your week to become re-inspired. Every so often, remind yourself that this age is amazingly adventurous. Trade in the coffee for a shot of tequila. You can only edit a paper so many times—go out tonight. Trade in one alternative spring break mission for a rejuvenating one. Instead of the major complementing elective, take the random thought provoking politics in Harry Potter class. In the midst of working towards your perfect life, don’t forget to live a little.

We are the fast-paced, sleep deprived, ambitious generation. What we do with those descriptors is up to us. What we do with the opportunities we are given is also up to us. The world is an enormous place to have at your feet. It can be absolutely terrifying. Or it can be really, really fun.

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