For the first time in my life, I’m embracing the fact that I don’t really have a plan.
I wish I could say that after four years of involvement, internships, awards and service, I had that dream job and dream life lined up and ready to go the second after I pick up my diploma May 22. Instead, I will take a few weeks to say goodbye to my home in Rochester, then move somewhere — job or no job.
If you had asked me last semester if this was the position I’d be taking, I would have said you were crazy. I came to college with a vision of what my next four years would look like. I would become an editor on the newspaper, earn a Park Scholarship, get an awesome internship in New York City and travel the world. Everything went according to plan.
But my experience has shown me that I’ve been pulling myself out of my comfort zone my whole life, without even realizing I was doing it.
I toured music schools throughout my junior year of high school and was set on becoming a music major. As I was memorizing my final New York State Music Association solo and preparing for my senior recital, I suddenly called everything off and announced I was going to pursue journalism. Four years later, I couldn’t be happier I did.
As a sophomore, I applied on a whim to intern at a newspaper in Hartford, Conn. When I got the position, I had no idea where I’d be living or what I’d be doing. I couldn’t even point to Hartford on a map. Still, living on my own that summer taught me more about independence than any other experience I’ve had in college.
Last year, I had a sudden inkling that I needed to take a semester off from journalism completely. I’d worked on the paper since my freshman year, and after spending my sophomore year as news editor developing an unhealthy attachment to my Blackberry, it was time for a break.
As the weeks closed in on my flight to Dublin, I worried about whether this would set me back in college and professionally. If anything though, it reinvigorated me. I took classes for fun, traveled from Dublin to Madrid by myself in the midst of a volcano without stepping foot on a plane and sat down with members of the Irish Republican Army in a pub in Belfast. I’d challenge any professor or class to top that learning experience. A few months later, I took a break from my internship at Reader’s Digest and jaunted off to Japan for a seven-day international journalism study trip.
I bet most of us seniors can relate to feeling completely uncertain about what happens the moment we step foot out of Ithaca. In fact, I think we’re nearly programmed to plan our lives away, be it in deciding what college to attend or what classes to take during our four years.
The reality though, is when we drop these stiff blueprints of what the next however many years of our lives are going to look like, we flourish. We discover what we truly love to do and realize we’ve been working too hard to try to accomplish every little thing.
Sure, I’ve got ideas of where I want to be in five or 10 years. But in the end, we all deserve to take a little break — to ditch the life outline and revel in unpredictability.
Elizabeth Sile is a senior journalism and politics major and Editor in Chief of The Ithacan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.