Friday, February 8, 2013

The real world

One of the scariest thoughts I've had recently is of how close I am to the future that I've always envisioned for myself. Whereas even a few months ago the idea of being done with college and moving on with my life felt very very far away, now that I really think about it, by this time next year I'll be in the real world, interning somewhere and hoping to land a job by the time March 2014 rolls around.

It's an odd premise, that I have spent such a short amount of time studying to do something and yet soon I'm going to be thrust into the world with only the knowledge I have and expected to fend for myself not just in business, but in life. Am I ready? I'm not ready. Maybe I am. I'm undecided.

This evening I was watching The Bachelor with my friend Dana. Whenever they interview the various "contestants" (is that what you'd call someone competing on The Bachelor?), their name flashes under them along with their age and occupation or distinction. I tend to watch the show without noticing these little name cards, but today I paid attention to a few and I was astonished to find that some of the girls - who I could only have imagined were significantly older than me - were really not very far off from my own age.

One girl in particular stunned me by being only 24. I'm 20. I could have been enrolled in elementary school with this girl, yet when I look at her I think of her as an adult. I still have trouble thinking of myself as an adult, though.

Maybe that's my problem. I've spent so many years being protected by my family, by the house I grew up in, by the ubiquity of school and homework assignments, that I've never had the chance to comprehend what life must be like after the cap and gown have been worn.

Because it always seemed like a distant prospect, I don't think I ever worried about it much. I always told myself I'd end up in a big city. In my early life I decided this would be New York - home of Broadway shows and amazing pizza. A few years later I contemplated San Francisco - I loved Green Day and was sure I'd go to UC Berkeley and spend my life in the cool, liberal Bay Area. Then my thoughts turned to London - where I could bask in the rain and the love of my life, John Keats, lived. Lately, I've craved a return to Los Angeles and Orange County - where I grew up.

As the time of final choices nears, though, I can't really decide which of these places interests me the most. I've had to consider ruling out some ideas due to impracticality, question some because they may not hold all the opportunities I require. But somewhere in my heart, all these cities have their value and all the possibilities they hold keep me dreaming about the most fantastical future.

Soon that future won't be fantastical. It will be fact.

Several years ago, this was how college felt. I looked towards my years at university as something unfathomable. It was always something to look forward to, but I could barely imagine it happening. Often, my fantasies of college included afternoons walking around an empty campus, while leaves fell around me and I contemplated my life as, what I (in high school) perceived as, an "adult." Once I got to college, I realized that my expectations of it weren't exactly met. Not that my time here hasn't been satisfactory, but you literally can never quite anticipate what will happen once you leave one stage of your life and enter another.

I guess I'm recognizing that now, so long after that visit to New York when I was 11 when I decided I'd live there. Or that visit to San Francisco at 13 when I decided that was the place for me. Or when I went to London at 14 at finally made what I believed to be firm decision that I would live forever in London. Everything seems up in the air now, and I can't quite see myself making any sort of decision until I've actually had a chance to see where life takes me.

That's something I left up to the Gods when I applied to college. Once my applications were in, the city I ended up in depended on where I was accepted. It wasn't really in my hands.

This time around, the choice still isn't fully in my hands. Job applications will be available in different states and I will devote myself to the best prospect. Like before, I may not be sure what it is I'm doing with my life until the very last minute.

It's exhilarating, of course. But it's also terrifying.

Unlike with college, I'm now nearing the beginning of a part of my life that has no foreseeable end. Though I always have the power to change my destiny, it's in no way like the four years of university that inevitably come to an end once your education is (supposedly) complete.

So now I'm reaching a new stage, wherein I'm scared of the finality. I'm worried about where my prospects lie. I don't want to end up finding myself where I don't want to be and getting stuck there out of complacency.

Despite all these worries, though, I have a really weird feeling that everything is going to be all right. Everything will work itself out. Eventually I'll have lived in enough places, experienced enough things and met enough people that I'll feel fulfilled in life, I'm sure of it. And whether the numbers quantifying my experiences are relatively small or incredibly large, I'll be glad to have opened myself up to the possibility of finding myself in a world (with a job and in a city) that I enjoy.

At some point, every new experience is scary. I guess I just hope if I embrace it anyway, things will be fine. So..things will be fine.

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