Finding Patience in the Race to Success

Six months ago, I was on a university weekend getaway weekend aptly titled “Senior Retreat.” The 48-hour escape provided the ideal opportunity for dozens of us seniors to engage in some true introspection. For weeks prior, most of us had been involved in a series of endless quests to fulfill outstanding bucket lists, questionable last minute runs to Mainline bars, and pursuits to satisfy a general need to take advantage of our precious last few months as undergrads. It was undoubtedly exhilarating, but it left me with a nagging need to indulge my inner introvert. The retreat allowed us to momentarily suspend our all too familiar senses of FOMO to instead contemplate the weight of graduation and the inevitable changes that would come with it.

One of the weekend activities had us congregated in a room partitioned into various post-grad dreads. Our conversations rotated around the room with us, ranging from unemployment, moving back in with parents, adjusting to a new city, and the like. Listening to my peers’ worries, I found myself feeling curiously prepared for what lied ahead; I was employed, quite looking forward to being home for the first time since leaving for college, and excited for life in New York City. But of course even my seemingly ideal situation didn’t prepare me for the unexpected. Ironically, the most unprecedented adjustment was a serious need to develop greater patience. 

For those of us lucky enough to receive a college education, all us recent graduates have known nothing but academia for all our lives. These last fifteen odd years provided us with consistent quantitative metrics to assess our progresses and shortcomings. Semester by semester, class after class, and from one professor to the next, we had a trail of breadcrumbs that practically guaranteed our success so long as we fulfilled the necessary expectations. In short, we’ve mastered how to be a student – which is often thought to be a crash course in becoming the ideal employee. But in the professional world, there are neither tests to ace nor classes to pass. Feeling like you’re doing a good job isn’t as clear cut as receiving a 100 on a quiz, and developing a career is a commitment in which doing well or poorly is hazier than earning the “right” grades.

So herein lies the learning curve: managing my expectations and fostering my patience. For a generation who is all about speed and efficiency, we’re accustomed to thinking that everything, even success, can be achieved overnight. Such an idea inspires scores of newly employed post-grads to hop from one career to another, believing that if nothing spectacular happens within the first six to twelve months in a role, it must not be their dream job. I’ll admit on occasion a little voice in my head tells me something similar, but I figure it’s my responsibility to quell that voice and remind myself great advancements come with time.

It’s only been a few weeks of grown-up life in the Big Apple, but I’m learning to find satisfaction in the daily routines and habits as a working professional. Sure there aren’t always midterms and exams to prove to myself that I’m doing well, but if that means trading in multiple choice questions for the freedom to carve out my own success story, I’ll take that in a heartbeat.

An Acute Precipice

It’s been over a week since my undergraduate career came to close, but the tears I expected have yet to find me. They were absent during Senior Week, Commencement, and even when I moved out of my house. Granted I’m not one prone to tears, but I thought the goodbye’s and see you later’s with friends would leave me with a lump in my throat and terrible disquiet.

Then I spent the week after commencement surrounded by friends, hanging out at the beach, and the idea of no longer being a college kid could not have felt more removed. Being in each others’ company, laughing at old memories and inside jokes, I never felt more alive and content. When I finally left for home, I was worried of crashing from this high and of being swallowed by the anxiety that nothing would ever be the same. Instead I’ve been home, and in lieu of any tears, I’m keenly aware of the state of limbo in which I find myself.

My diploma definitively tells me that I’ve completed one integral chapter of my life, but my mind and heart still crave the closeness and sense of home uniquely provided during my college career. I know I am prepared to take on the adult world with ferocity, but I have moments of crippling doubt that I am not ready. I know that the friends who matter will remain by our sides regardless of distance or time, but the fear that we will all drift apart come busy work schedules and real-world responsibilities exists. And I know that the best years of our lives are yet to come, but I dread that growing up means losing my youthful spontaneity and sense of adventure. The dichotomy between what I know to be true and my irrational future concerns leaves me on an acute precipice off which I am not ready to leap…not just yet at least.

With every end there is a new beginning, but no one ever talks about the brief moment in between; where you are supposed to and allowed to grieve for the finality of one stage before the next follows. Without a doubt I am incredibly excited for the future in all its novelty and uncertainty, but for the time being I remain in limbo. I don’t want to rush into the future headfirst without allowing myself the proper reflection for what has been and what is to come. I don’t want to be on this precipice for long but I will remain here long enough to find closure before stepping into uncharted waters. In doing so, I am finding comfort in celebrating the old and embracing the new at my own pace.

To the Class of 2014

It’s been a privilege to spend my four years with all of you stellar individuals. And given that we’ve all popped one too many bottles of champagne these past few days, we probably won’t remember the finer details of commencement and graduation weekend in the future.

However, what we undoubtedly will remember is this feeling; this feeling of unadulterated excitement and thrill that courses through each of us. Because graduation is a call for celebration and reflection upon the four years we spent here at Villanova.

During my first few months at school, nervous doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. Villanova was so picture perfect, and I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the hordes of straight-A students and peers juggling roles in not one or two, but several student organizations.

My first Activities Fair is a blur – I remember walking into the Pavilion, paralyzed with the anxiety and uncertainty of how to and in what to get involved to sharing my email address with any organization in my path. Thankfully, I have been able to hone my interests throughout my undergraduate career, but that sense of disquiet has remained because our campus is brimming with peers that are pulled together so effortlessly and seem to have it all. In truth, I am consistently and extraordinarily humbled by the level of talent and success achieved by everyone around me.

And hopefully as nineties babies, you guys can relate; we grew up with a slew of fictional heroes. There is Tommy from Rugrats, Harry the wizard, Neo from the Matrix, or even the likes of Spiderman. These guys represented “chosen” ones who go off to save the world, which made it easy to see leadership as an inevitable fulfillment of a destiny.

So couple that with my perception of picture perfect Villanova, and it was easy to believe that going forward I would be expected to have a clear path to success. Frankly, it felt as if some kind of unique and special fate awaited our classmates that was eluding me. But if my experiences at Villanova have shown me anything, they have taught me to shatter such a passive notion of heroism and replace it with the understanding that we always have the choice to be leaders; to be heroes within our communities and in our own lives.

Whether it is through service, new experiences in foreign countries, or collaboration in the classroom, we find success because we eschew apathy. We explore our boundaries and test our parameters. We accomplish heroic efforts because we dismantle obstacles collectively. Think about it. Our campus is strewn with heroes.

Our scholars. Our tour guides. Our orientation counselors. Our musicians, athletes, actors, and activists. What we all have in common is our willingness to be a part of something greater than ourselves, uninvited and unasked. Because that is the most important characteristic of true leadership: the readiness to volunteer with others to make passions come alive.

My numerous hours spent on Buzzfeed suggest that we Millenials have no idea what we’re doing, but given the calibre of my peers, I politely have to disagree. When I came to Villanova, I wanted to be cool and to make a difference, but I had all these insecurities and fears of failure. But the truth is that all of us more or less want those same things. What ultimately distinguishes us from each other is when our desire to take initiative outweighs our fear of screwing up. We have all demonstrated leadership, and our education has taught us how to embrace challenges and pay attention to opportunities. We came to Villanova wide-eyed and ambitious, and I hope we leave it equally determined, albeit now with greater courage.

Just as the class that preceded ours and the class that will follow ours, we have already gotten a jumpstart to discovering success. Receiving our diplomas in it of themselves is a symbol of leadership; that, if four years of all nighters and dozens of Red bulls later are any indication, it does not happen on a whim and that it is not always glamorous. Yet four years later, we’re here, equipped with the capacity to question the status quo and make meaningful contributions to humanity.

And yes, having the audacity to follow our passions and to be brave in our future may lead to failure. However, I sincerely hope the prospect of defeat doesn’t discourage us. Because persevering through those risks will teach the greatest lessons, and following our curiosities will broaden our world views. So, remember that feeling I mentioned earlier? The electricity emanating from feeling invincible and ready to take on the world? Hold onto that emotion, and don’t forget it.  With every endeavor you make going forward, stay hungry for that sensation.

And while you’re satisfying your pursuits, do celebrate with your fellow dreamers, friends, and loved ones. Because while half the equation is about which visions you’ll fulfill, the other more important half is who you realize them with. So to my friends and peers, thanks for continually inspiring me and for making my time at Villanova more than just about obtaining a degree. We’re young and enlightened and on our way to a boundless adventure, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of the Class of 2014. Congratulations, Wildcats. We did it!

Finding Love in the Me, Me, Me Generation

College dating is hard in any generation (aptly put by this Cosmopolitan article) – it’s an incredibly selfish time where we have little inhibition and an overflow of freedom. Today, however, college dating has reached a new level of perplexity. With the advent of social media and the prevalence of text messaging, many twenty something year olds have no clue on how to connect romantically, and we blame everyone else but ourselves for failing to find love.

Let’s take a Thursday night. You get a text message that reads, “Hey, are you coming out to the bars tonight?” from a guy you danced with a week or two ago. You make some half hearted jokes defending your choice to stay in for the evening, and when it becomes clear that his insistence isn’t going to get him anywhere, the conversation comes to a close. This happens several times over the course of a few weeks, and while he appears to have no qualms about asking you to spend the night, his response to a suggestion that he properly ask you to lunch or coffee is lukewarm at best. You’re not heartbroken or jaded; neither of you really knew each other, and you were well aware of what he was asking of you. As Millenials, our generation has inexplicably accepted the disappearance of old-fashioned courtship when it comes to dating. We’ve embraced hookup culture and eschewed traditional gender roles leading to the demise of chivalry and a general sense of confusion on how to find love.

There exists a misogynistic myth that assumes girls are obsessed with finding romantic partners while guys see women as casual sexual partners. A few decades ago, this may have been true; many women did go to college and find husbands and while the stereotype may still be true of some women, current statistics on the overwhelming number of women versus men in college would demonstrate otherwise. Casual sex is also no longer a domain solely for men, and our generation’s general acceptance for greater sexual freedom allows for both women and men to engage in stringless sexual experimentation. Ironically, this newfound freedom has only made it more confusing for both men and women when it comes to romance because no one is as forthcoming about wanting to truly pursue anything beyond the physical.

The lack of forthrightness and general passivity breed grounds for a dangerous perception of misguided feminism. Women view sexual liberation as an opportunity to reject traditionally feminine characteristics such as being overly sensitive or emotional to instead embrace the devil-may-care attitudes more traditional of men. This makes it hard for everyone in the dating pool because it perpetuates the all-too-familiar need to act cool.

We’ve seen it happen before, if not been guilty of it ourselves: the silent competition between two people in a relationship for who can care less. Girls agonize over text messages in an effort to sound interested but never too interested while guys make sweeping vague statements that mask their desire for commitment. Wanting more became uncool, so everyone tries so hard to not care. And even worse, somehow we believe the person who cares less has the upper hand in a relationship, so everyone tries even harder to appear aloof.

Then there is our baffling aversion to labels. If you start hanging out with a guy regularly, when does it go from a thing to something more? If you never define your commitment levels to each other, are you bound to the other person or is it more of a open relationship? When we avoid labels, we further complicate college dating by making it acceptable for people to treat others with indecent respect. And by labels, I don’t mean that every person has to be your boyfriend or girlfriend. Simply being honest and respectable about where each individual’s intentions lie would clarify potential misunderstandings. When we treat the dating scene as a commitment-less game, we fail to hold ourselves accountable for making someone else happy or being responsible for how they feel.

Ultimately, our generation is failing to find love because we are so busy acting cool. We see vulnerability as a vice, so we make efforts to protect ourselves against rejection. Coincidentally, that means putting up walls and being vague about our intentions and desires and caring less as a means of emotional security. In doing so, we won’t get hurt, but it also means we may miss out on truly connecting with someone. If we don’t allow ourselves to be honest and let our guard down, we may never find that emotional intimacy we are looking for with another person. Navigating the winding path that is the college dating scene would be far less complicated if we all decided to stop pretending not to care. Instead of waiting on someone else to read our minds and hand us our happiness, it’s our responsibility to communicate candidly about what we want. Playing emotional games is a waste of time for anyone in any kind of relationship, and we all deserve more respect than that.

In Defense of Dating

Being single can be simultaneously liberating and downright confusing. Some days, it’s great to revel in your freedom during which you can stroll through a museum, watch hours of Girls in bed, and spend time doing the things you love at your own pace. Other days, you can’t help but want a cuddle-buddy, a dinner partner, or someone who simply wants to be a part of your life. These are very opposite desires of the heart: one is completely at peace with independence while the other craves a more intimate partnership. One way we try to remedy this tension is by finding someone new and jumping into relationships, only to make a quick exit when we realize there’s little substance beyond initial curiosity and attraction.

As a Millennial I’m part of a generation that is accustomed to instant gratification. Most of what we want and need are at our fingertips, thanks to the likes of Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. I’m also part of a generation that doesn’t handle being alone very well. When you couple the two traits together, you end up with what is often called “hookup culture.” Granted “hooking up” has an ambiguous definition, but whether it is for physical satisfaction or emotional fulfillment, it feels as though such a trend has made it harder for dating to take place. Nowadays, most of my friends say they’re “seeing someone” or “hooking up” or that they’re “a thing.” Rarely does anyone use the word dating to describe two people getting to know each other. Too many times I see one-night stands turn into casual flings which turn into relationships. Call me old fashioned, but I miss when college-aged people used to actually date.

Dating. It’s an archaic word, and some would say its meaning is also rather antiquated. Dating is a form of courtship, referring to two people engaging in activities together to see if they’re compatible as a precursor to a potential romantic relationship. Historically speaking, it is a relatively recent phenomenon (think of all those arranged marriages and staid formal courtships complete with chaperones in every Jane Austen novel!). Dating offers a newfound freedom to explore and determine the qualities you value in a significant other.

As a college student, it’s rare to find peers that understand, much less partake in the act of dating. Logically speaking, dating does require a lot more effort and with hookup culture abound, it’s less likely that a twentysomething-year old would prefer to take someone out on a date over a Friday night with a friend with benefits. Because it requires patience and a willingness to be vulnerable for another person, dating can be a lot harder and definitely a bit scarier. However as a twenty-one year old, it just might be the most valuable thing I can do for myself.

Throughout our late teens and early twenties, we do a lot of growing up. I’m definitely not the same wide-eyed freshman I was at age eighteen, but I’m no wise sage when it comes to life. Despite plenty of aspirations and ideas of what I want in the future, I’m open to exploring what else may come my way. So when it comes to romance, I’m a big proponent of dating because it offers the chance to really flesh out what attracts us to another person. Instead of caving into an initial physical attraction, there’s a lot more to be gained by getting to know that person. We all have this mental checklist of the qualities we think we want in the ideal significant other: tall, a sense of humour, soulful eyes, athletic, etc. However, those qualities may evolve with time as we change, and going on dates with different people is a great way to determine whether or not those characteristics remain invaluable. We eschew from dating because we see it as something formal and stuffy when they don’t have to be. A conversation over coffee with an interesting classmate or an afternoon rock climbing with someone you were recently introduced to constitute dates. As we get older and leave behind our adolescence, knowing what we want versus what we don’t want is vital and empowering. So don’t be afraid to date. Along the way you might make a special connection, but even if you don’t, it will still provide an opportunity to learn more about what you want for yourself and in a partner. 

A Degree Does Not an Education Make

When I was growing up, going to college was never even a question. Working hard in high school to ensure admittance into a university that would foster my growth, intelligence, and ultimately raise my chances of acquiring a respectable post-graduate job wasn’t just an expectation, it was the norm. And statistics would show that this sentiment resonates with a lot of people since in Fall of 2013, a record 21.8 million students enrolled in colleges and universities across the U.S..

I’m thrilled that more students can partake in the unique experience we call our “college years.” But looking back on my undergraduate years, I also distinctly remember too many times where my professors and classes were not sufficiently challenging, mentally stimulating, or were truly educating me. I listened to lectures, took my notes, and simply regurgitated information, and as students, we were no better; we sought the “easy-A” courses, in hopes that we’d churn out good GPA’s for those elusive high-paying jobs. College today, feels more like a training ground for the ideal employee and not a place of true learning and intellectual challenge. What’s more, we rarely seem to question this status quo and collectively groan at the prospect of 8:30 classes or the notoriously demanding professors because who were we kidding, we were here to pick the “right” major and get a degree for that lucrative job – applying oneself and learning, optional.

Call it idyllic, but my idea of a college education is about more than getting 4.0’s, choosing the major with greatest job security, and then finding employment.  I see it as an opportunity for engagement, critical thought, and innovation, yet sometimes it feels as though our universities have forgotten how to provide that kind of creative environment while students  have become complacent in seeking one. There is so much more to an education than what can be taught out of a textbook. There needs to be dialogue and intrigue and even some adventure because amazing things come to fruition when individuals are inspired to communicate and share ideas. Undoubtedly, academia is important. There needs to be some standardized method to gauge how much effort a student has input to learn and retain the appropriate material. The application of the knowledge our degrees provide us is also important. However, I would love to see our universities and students try harder in upholding the integrity of a true education with the reminder that it’s not just about the degree.

Our college years are some of the most uninhibited and wondrously selfish years of our lives, yet many of us are so busy cramming for exams with our eyes glued to powerpoint lectures that we completely forget there exists is an entire world at our fingertips. There are books to be read, exotic foods to try, cities to explore, and interesting people to meet. Such experiences provide character, depth, compassion, and a wealth of cultural knowledge that exists outside our narrow bubbles of thought. A true education equips us with, not only facts and figures, but also the willingness to ask questions and seek answers that can’t be found on a multiple choice exam.

So with my remaining few months as an undergrad, I plan on maximizing my education. I’ll be honest, some days I do wish I could re-do it all. As much as I have no regrets, I would definitely do some things differently. I would have told myself to be more confident, more motivated, and more inquisitive than I have been the last three years. And here’s to hoping that when the time comes to put on my cap and gown and walk side by side with the friends that made college a home, I can truly say I had the best education possible.