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Life after High School

June, 2010
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“What am I doing here?” I wondered to myself as I scrutinized the people around me. The music pounding in my ears seemed even louder than before, as if mocking me for every minute that I sat there. I could feel the bass shaking the room to its beat and then reverberating into the air. What was I doing here?
Well, I’ll give you three words: Prom. After. Party. I was sitting in the graduating class of 2010’s prom after-party watching guys in black suits lead girls in satin dresses to the dance floor. And yet somehow I felt oddly out of place.
It wasn’t any of the usual suspects. It wasn’t that this was not my usual scene or that I, myself, had already graduated a few years before. It wasn’t even that I didn’t know half the people there. There was just something off about being there that made me feel like I didn’t fit in somehow. Looking around the room at all the smiling and laughing faces, I realized what it was that made me feel like a misfit: they were all so excited…almost too excited.
They were all so carefree with big plans about their coming years and the paths they wanted to take in life. They were bubbling with hopes and dreams, almost unable to contain their excitement. “I’m going to Princeton!” one told me. “I’m going to become a surgeon,” said another. “I’m getting married at 24 and having two kids!” planned another.
Anticipation for the future twinkled in their eyes as they threw their heads back and laughed the laugh of those who had shed away all their worries. How I envied that laugh, because I recognized it from my own graduation a few years back.
During high school I was a driven student with a constant purpose. I was going to take life by the reins and gallop away towards my self-made success. I had delicately put together a plan for my future. I cherished it, I shared it proudly with others, I counted on it and I looked forward to it. It was as if I had put my plan into a box, wrapped it up with paper and ribbons, and put it aside for the time I started university. I merely had to unravel the threads of ribbon and the packaging would neatly come apart. My planned future would offer itself to me as a “present” (pun intended).
I had packed my “future-present” carefully, picking out the best university for my cause and trying to get the grades to achieve it. I had plans to go to law school after my degree and open up my own firm in the end. Yet, as I entered university life in my first year, I realized that the packaging would not come undone as I had planned.
The program I had chosen was not what I thought it was and I ended up switching majors after my first year. Now, some years later, I am back to square one: unsure of what I want to do or where I want to end up. Although university was fun and I love what I am studying, I realized that my future plan was slowly losing its shape as my interests changed. It had become an undefined goop. But I also realized that I liked it that way.
I had never thought I would be one of those people who didn’t have a life plan, who, instead, let life lead them towards an unknown success. But here I am, almost done with what some would call a useless English Literature major and taking Life one step at a time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean I have no worries. I worry all the time about what state I will end up in after university. I worry about finding a job; I worry about what country I’ll end up in etc. But I think over these few years, I’ve learned to have faith in life and in my decisions. Somehow I’ll find my way.
If you had told me on the night of my graduation that my university years would play out this way, I wouldn’t have believed you. Impossible! I would say. I worked so hard! How could I settle for nothing?!
Now, a few years later, my priorities have changed. I know now that pursuing my own happiness – not what others tell me will make me happy - is not nothing. It is the most important thing. I’ve decided not to plan a rigid life structure for myself but to see the opportunities that life gives me. Let me see where life takes me. Let me chase each day as it comes.
One of my favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, says in his novel, The Alchemist: “If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man…life will be a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now….The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon [what comes later].”
I know I don’t have the license to say this yet, but I don’t believe youth is ever wasted on the young. I believe the young live their youth the way it’s supposed to be lived: racing after dreams and living every day immortally. And in the end, I don’t believe it is where you get to that counts. It is what you learned on the journey there that makes the difference.
By Amelia Yan
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