“And off she went, firing arrows straight into the heart of that old dark cloud, leaving flowers in her wake.” – Unknown
I went to New York City for the first time when I was nine years old. It was 2009, I was in the third grade, and Single Ladies by Beyonce was playing on every radio station. When I heard that my family was going to New York City for my aunt’s wedding, I felt like the coolest kid in my school because I knew, even back then, that New York City was the place dreams become reality.
Growing up, I used to sit on my bedroom floor drawing for hours. Then, after my mom showed me the TV show Project Runway, those drawings morphed into sketches of clothing. My dream job quickly became being a fashion designer and if there was one thing Tim Gunn taught me, it was that New York City was the place to be for fashion. So, when the day we left for the wedding finally arrived, I slipped on my Twinkle Toes (the most fashionable sneaker for any nine-year-old in the early 2000s) and tried my best to look like a true New Yorker.
Our hotel was directly across from where Good Morning America was filmed, another NYC based show that I was oddly obsessed with as a kid. As each day of our trip went by, I became more in love with the magic of the incredible city. I still remember the first time I saw the Rockefeller building, the meal we had at my aunt’s rehearsal dinner, my first taxi ride, and the feeling of being on my dad’s shoulders as we walked through Time Square at night. It was everything I could have ever imagined and so much more – so much more because it was real. The night I sat on my dad’s shoulders as buildings and neon lights danced over our heads, I promised myself that one day I’d live in New York City, and I’d follow my dreams of working in the fashion industry.
So, why did I tell you that story? Well, today, I’m 21 years-old and a senior at Ohio University majoring in strategic communication with a minor in retail merchandising. I’ve had two internships, I’m the Executive Vice President of Scripps PRSSA, I’m the head of social media for a campus publication, I’m an ambassador for the E.W. Scripps College, and I graduate in about seven months. However, even with all that experience, I have absolutely no idea what I want to do or where I want to go. My question is, how did a nine-year-old feel so much more confident in her path than me, a senior in college? And is that OK? Should I be worried? What about my peers who seem to have everything planned already? Am I letting my younger self down? These are the questions that swirl through my head almost every day and I know I’m not alone.
The emotions of soon-to-be graduates are often kept hidden unless shared with close friends or family. The quote I placed at the very beginning of this blog post is on a print that was given to me in August. What I’ve found through conversations with friends is that they also have some sort of metaphorical cloud filled with worries and the uneasiness of an unknown life lingering behind them. For example, my cloud is swollen with the questions I listed off in the previous paragraph. Although these worries and questions are often shared among graduating seniors, there is always a difference in how individuals handle their “cloud.” Some people start applying for jobs now. Others are searching for post-grad internships, and some are waiting to apply for anything until the spring.
It is so easy to let this cloud inch too close to one’s shadow – discouraging them from achieving what they truly desire. I know this from personal experience. My worries about what I have and haven’t done, whether I’ve made the right choices, and how I want my life to look like after I graduate stopped me from pursuing my life-long dream of living in New York City. I started to settle for things I wasn’t sure I really wanted and even began to tell myself that I might not belong in New York. Surprisingly, this attitude is much more common among my peers than I thought.
Senior year of college is stressful, uneasy, and confusing for what feels like a thousand different reasons, but it’s very rarely on a solitary level. As college students, we have always had community with our classmates and peers. This last year of college and the emotions that come with it are no different. Comparing oneself to others, letting worries overcast dreams, and questioning oneself is easy to do. It takes bravery to truly follow one’s path and not get sucked into what might make the most money, where the most alumni are, or to try something completely new.
My old dark cloud filled with the worries of senior year and post-grad life might still be behind me, but if it ever gets too close, I’ll fire arrows laced with resiliency, confidence, and patience into it. Only leaving room for a clear headspace and lifelong dreams that will turn into fruition.
It’s only the third month of my senior year of college, but I’ve already developed an inkling that life can change paths at a moment’s notice. What I end up doing after I graduate from school is just as transient as the past three years have been. The class of 2023 has endured change in numerous and sometimes tumultuous ways throughout college. It’s OK to not immediately graduate and move to New York, Chicago, L.A., or another major city. If an individual believes they will get there one day and they take steps to doing so, then they will. Not everything has to be achieved or figured out by May of your twenty-second year on this Earth.